Herbert Greene leaves behind legacy at Columbus State

Herbert Greene leaves legacy at Columbus State

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - On Monday night, longtime Columbus State University basketball coach Herbert Greene suffered a fatal heart attack.

It may have been 11 years since he prowled the sidelines, leading the Cougars to win after win, but his legacy will forever be felt at CSU.

The Eufaula native was an assistant coach at Auburn under Sonny Smith when he got the call from Columbus State to take over the Cougar basketball program in 1981.

They wanted Greene to take the Cougars to the next level - and that's exactly what he did, racking up a record of 481-240, becoming the winningest coach in school history.

In those 25 years, Greene led the Cougars to four Peach Belt Conference regular season titles and six tournament championships.

Hardaway High's Matt Bell is one of three current or former high school principals that played for Greene. He said it wasn't about x's and o's.

"Coach Greene hung in there with a lot of guys and because of that, the love that he showed them and stuck by them, they were able to go on and do some great things," Bell said. "Not just in basketball, but with their careers, with their families. It was certainly something special."

Nine NCAA tournament appearances -- that's impressive. But being a mentor to fellow coaches is even bigger.                

Jay Sparks started the women's basketball program at CSU on Greene's watch. Sparks calls his father, Joe Sparks, a legendary coach in his own right, and Herbert Greene as mentors. He says he's not alone in that assessment.

"I would be shocked if you didn't have a line of people wanting to say the same thing about Herbert Greene," said Sparks. "That he has done so much for people in and around this town, that there's no way we could ever repay him in words."

First in that line is current CSU men's basketball coach Robert Moore, who spent six years as an assistant under Greene, and is getting ready for his sixth year as Cougars head coach.

"He left a legacy here at Columbus State University so every day that I come through those doors I know that I'm going to work hard and keep the success of this program going," Moore said. "This guy laid a foundation that's unbelievable. He's done so much for this city, for Columbus, and the university."

In 2004, Greene retired as basketball coach, and a couple of years after that stepped down as athletic director. In 2008, he was inducted into the CSU Sports Hall of Fame, with a plaque in the atrium.

Then in January, the ultimate honor. The court at the Lumpkin Center was dedicated in his honor, much to the delight of long-time CSU play by play man and Greene confidante, Scott Miller.

"Thank God that took place. Thank God that happened while he was still alive," said an emotional Miller. "Let me tell you something else about Herbert Greene and how humble he truly was. He said to me numerous times as the buildup happened, as the day came, 'I don't know if anybody will be here. I'm scared that people won't show up.' When the former athletes and coaches from all over the country showed up, it was the biggest gathering of former athletes and coaches we ever had." "It was astounding, and you could see his smile to Montgomery from here probably because of that. I really hope that he knew what he meant to them and everybody. I think that maybe in the end he did."

Visitation will be Thursday night from 5 until 8 Eastern at McMullen Funeral Home, with the funeral scheduled for Friday at 11 am ET at the Lumpkin Center, and on the basketball court named for him.

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