Lee Green is happy to be back on the prep hoops scene.
Green was announced as the new girls’ basketball coach at Marquette Catholic High during a short ceremony at the school on April 26.
Green comes to the Explorers with tons of experience, including working at SIUE as an assistant coach and recruiter for Wendy Hedberg from 2002-08 and an assistant coach under Jonathan Denney at Civic Memorial High from ‘09-11. Prior to his tenure at SIUE, Green worked as an assistant and head coach at Hope International University in Fullerton, Calif., from 1999-2002. He has also been involved in AAU programs for both boys and girls for several years.
“We really feel good about this gentleman we picked to be our coach,” Marquette director of athletics Jack Holmes said. “It’s hard to read the girls after one visit, but I think there’s some excitement.
“We had seven candidates and everybody on that list were quality candidates. You never want to interview the whole group because you know you’re only going to hire one, so we narrowed it down to three finalists and they were all great coaches, but there’s always something that tells you who rises to the top and it wasn’t a one-man show; we had a committee. As the committee did the interviewing we all picked up different things, saw different angles, but he really sold us pretty much from the get-go.”
His experience speaks for itself and Green admitted he’s constantly learning and evolving as a coach.
“I think it’s my game planning, my strategy, understanding the game and the years of experience — each year I get better — you gotta get better today, you gotta get better tomorrow,” Green said. “I taught big-time AAU basketball and we go play in these huge tournaments with the boys. Last week I was in a gym where (Kansas head coach) Bill Self was sitting there. We’re not winning all these games, but I’m coaching against that and it’s continued to make me better as a coach each and every day.”
Green inherits a program that compiled a 13-15 mark during the 2015-16 season and bowed out in the second round of the Class 2A Dupo Regional. That record was improved from the 7-20 one the Explorers had in ‘14-15.
They will return seven varsity players from the past season and members of a solid JV squad, which turned in a winning record. Green wants to build on that, too.
“I haven’t seen Marquette play a girls’ basketball game since I was at CM and we played them here,” Green said. “I look at building a program and the style of play we want to play that I think will attract kids. I understand you’ve got to have horses to run the race and I think we will get to that point once kids and families in the area see what we’re going to do here.”
He spoke with the girls about his plan to institute a man defense. Most high school programs play zone defense, but Green prefers playing man-to-man, an up-tempo style that utilizes a lot of physical endurance.
“That’s what the summer is going to be used on (man defense),” Green said. “I didn’t really want to get into it with the girls, but they’re up for a rude awakening once we start practice. (Man defense) is what we’re going to focus on. My philosophy is we’re going to get our defense set first and then we’ll work on offense as it goes on. You want to be playing your best basketball by the end of the season. If you play defense the way it’s supposed to be played, it’s just like a zone only with ball pressure. You rotate the right way, your help defense is the right way so you’ve always got somebody on the ball and pressuring it and that’s what we’re going to teach.”
He admitted he’s flexible if the pieces don’t fit for what he’s wanting to do right out of the gate.
“I’m definitely not a system coach. I want to implement my system,” Green said. “If I get to a point halfway through the summer and reevaluate with my staff and we may have to adapt a little bit, I hope we can still do 60 to 70 percent of what we want to do, but we’re going to have to figure it out. As of right now we might not have the personnel to play this.”
He’s no stranger to success, even on the local front. He helped CM to its first Mississippi Valley Conference title in 2011 and coached in the NCAA Division II Tournament under Hedberg at SIUE.
He recruited players like Whitney Sykes (Granite City), Amber Shelton (Edwardsville), Lindsey Rujawitz (Edwardsville) and Kara Frandsen (Edwardsville).
He thinks his time with the Cougars can help him adapt on the fly with the Explorers.
“My time in college has taught me how to adapt to any situation,” Green said. “In high school I know there are a lot more junk defenses running around because there is no shot clock, or you play another team that’s not as good as you and you’ve got a pretty good player that they run a box-and-one or triangle-and-two, you really don’t see that in college. But through all my years coaching, I’ve learned and then my couple years at CM I even learned more on how to handle those junk defenses better.”
We’ll have to wait until the winter to see Green at work, but he’s ready get started long before that.
“I’m ready. I’m fired up. Back in the saddle,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do, trust me I know, but it’s part of it.”
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