After 25 years as head basketball coach at Columbus State and almost 40 years in coaching, Herbert Greene is hanging up his whistle.
The longtime Cougar icon is stepping away from coaching and will continue as the schools athletic director, CSU President Frank Brown announced Monday.
Because of Herbert Greenes double duty as basketball coach and athletic director, the CSU athletic program has risen to heights that few could have imagined when he first arrived on campus, Brown said. The department and the basketball team both have grown to levels that each really require full-time attention. Fortunately for CSU and the community, Coach Greenes presence will not be going away as we work toward even greater things, administratively and on the basketball court.
I have been [coaching basketball] for about 40 years and have loved every minute of it, said Greene. Our athletic department has grown and gotten so big that it needs more attention from the athletic director and, if I remained in a dual role, someone would get slighted. The time is right for me to make this move and leave the coaching to someone else. I have had so many wonderful things happen to me in coaching this game, but it is time for me to step away.
Greene came to CSU on March 25, 1981, after serving as an assistant at Auburn University under Sonny Smith. His claim to fame prior to CSU was his recruitment and signing of Charles Barkley, a player who went on to what will likely be a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. He took over the dual role as basketball coach and athletic director in 1986 upon the retirement of Frank Sonny Clements and has guided the CSU program through a meteoric rise to one of the finest overall programs in the nation at the Division II level.
Greene is the schools fourth head coach. He replaced interim coach David Noles, who held the position for a year after Clements stepped away from coaching to become athletic director. Greene, a Eufaula native, has amassed 481 wins in his 25-year tenure. That number puts him atop the all-time wins list at CSU. His teams have averaged just over 19 wins per season and have made eight post-season appearances – including the last four years consecutively. CSU has become a dominant team in the Peach Belt Conference, which Greene helped found, and has won four regular-season titles and an unprecedented six PBC Tournament championships.
As athletic director, Greene has been a source of leadership as the CSU program experienced the ups and downs of Division II athletics. He has worked through budget issues while guiding the CSU athletic program to national prominence. CSU added womens basketball in 1990 and womens soccer just two years ago, and both have blossomed into competitive programs. Womens basketball teams made two consecutive Elite Eight appearances in 2000 and 2001, and was the top-ranked team in the nation heading into the 2001 post-season. That squad finished 31-1, losing in the national semifinals.
Womens soccer won a share of the Peach Belt title and earned its first national ranking in 2005 — just the second year of its existence. In addition to these, the CSU golf program has won four of its six national championships (1989, 1992, 1994, 1997) during Greenes tenure, and the Cougar baseball team won its first national title in 2002.
Greene also has seen the CSU facilities undergo a metamorphosis from mediocre to a place among the nations finest at the Division II level. The centerpiece of the facilities is the Frank G. Lumpkin Jr. Center. Greene helped to create the overall design of the facility from its inception, and it is widely known as one of the best basketball facilities in the Southeast, especially at the Division II level. Greene has also been instrumental in getting the newest facility — the CSU Soccer Complex — constructed and playable. The Lady Cougar team christened the field last fall and it, too, is becoming widely known as one of the best facilities around — even while still in various phases of construction. Those facilities join the baseball and softball fields, which have long been recognized as among the best in Division II.
Greene said hes probably most proud, however, of the academic achievements of CSU student-athletes. He was instrumental in forming a fifth-year scholarship program for athletes who had finished their eligibility but were not finished with their degree programs. To date, 97 of 101 student-athletes who have enrolled in the fifth-year program have earned degrees. Under Greenes leadership, more than 90 percent of CSUs student-athletes have earned degrees.
If a student-athlete comes here and wants to get a degree, they will graduate. I am very proud of the fact that so many young people have earned degrees over the years. We have always told recruits that if they wanted a degree, we would do everything we could to help them get one. Fortunately, over 90 percent of the athletes who have come here want to graduate and they have, Greene said.
As for Greenes replacement, Brown announced that Doug Branson would step into the head coaching position on an interim basis for one year. Branson has been at CSU as an assistant coach for seven years, including six as a full-time coach. He came to work for Greene as a graduate assistant in the 1999-2000 year and has earned a reputation as a solid coach on the floor and a relentless recruiter off the floor. There should not be much of a difference in what people see on the floor next season, said Greene. After all, these are all Dougs kids — he recruited them and has formed relationships with them, and I dont think the team will miss a beat.
Coming to Columbus State is the best thing that has ever happened to me, Greene said. I have learned so much and been blessed beyond belief. There have been peaks and there have been valleys over the last 25 years, but through it all this has been the most meaningful thing I have ever done. Today I am ending a coaching career, tomorrow I am starting as a full-time athletic director. I am looking forward to getting into that role more and accomplishing some goals over the next two or three years.
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