August 27, 2010 10:01:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Judy Green doesn''t want any pageantry.
The veteran University of Alabama volleyball coach would prefer to see her players bask in the glow of their achievements in her final season at the school.
To do that, the Crimson Tide will have to erase the memory of a disappointing 2009 season. If they can, the players will send Green out in style.
Green will begin her 15th and final season at Alabama at 7 tonight when her team plays Iowa at the Hawkeye Challenge. She announced in January she planned to retire at the end of the season.
"I get a chance to put the finishing touches on having helped Alabama volleyball move on to the national scene," Green said. "My focus is 100 percent on the team and helping them to learn how to compete together, to develop amazing team chemistry, and to do the little things better than anybody else in the country.
"I told them in our initial team meeting that this season could be all about me, but I would prefer it is not. I would prefer it is about them. If they have a great year, that is going to be exactly what my goal is to finish this chapter of coaching in my life."
Green has guided Alabama to three NCAA tournament appearances, including the school''s first in 2005. The team also reached that goal the next two seasons. She has also coached the Crimson Tide to Southeastern Conference Western Division titles in 2000 and 2004 and the championship game of the final SEC tournament in 2005.
Green said the timing was right for her to leave the University of Montevallo after 10 seasons to come to Alabama. It is again the right time for her to step aside as the program transitions to a new phase. The Crimson Tide could play this season in a renovated Foster Auditorium, the old home for the volleyball, gymnastics, and women''s basketball programs.
Green said the volleyball team hopes to play on campus in Foster Auditorium this season, but she isn''t sure if it will happen. If it doesn''t, the Crimson Tide will continue to play at the Coleman Coliseum volleyball annex, affectionately known as "The Cave."
The volleyball program moved from Foster Auditorium in 1996 when the coliseum annex was completed.
The restoration of Foster Auditorium brings the volleyball program full circle in Green''s eyes. The program was dropped and brought back and then had to climb back to a full level of scholarships before it moved from Foster to Coleman."I think we''re finally coming to where we can tie it all together and the volleyball family can all come back together," Green said. "I think once they see the facility that is being built for volleyball, they will be ecstatic."
As much as Green doesn''t want this season to be about her, she feels good about what she has helped Alabama accomplish. She hopes she can lead the program back to the NCAA tournament and set it up to reach even higher in years to come.
"I think I have facilitated the healing process," said Green, who followed Dorothy Franco-Reed (seven seasons) and Stephanie Schleuder (eight seasons) as coach at Alabama. "Making it holistic and making it about the program and having somebody who wanted to tie all of the loose ends up and put it back together, I truly believe at the end this is going to be one of the best jobs in the country and there is going to be another great coach who is going to come here."
Green hopes to get the most out of a young lineup that gained plenty of experience last season in an 8-22 finish (6-14 SEC). She admits the team didn''t live up to its potential for a number of reasons.
"We had some people on our team a year ago who didn''t want to be here, for whatever reason," Green said. "Once those people were removed I think we were able to start moving forward immediately."
Green said the younger players had the core competitive energy that fueled the team. She feels so much was placed on those players that they felt that weight and weren''t ready to lead the team, which resulted in the disappointing finish.
This season, senior Calli Johnson, junior Stephanie Riley, and senior right side Alyssa Meuth will try to help the Crimson Tide improve on their projected sixth-place finish in the SEC preseason voting.
Johnson and Riley will be captains this season, while Meuth was named preseason All-SEC.
Green said the players have a "burning desire to do something significant." She said a year of maturity has helped transform the team''s demeanor, attitude, and intensity.
That will be refreshing for Green, who said the Crimson Tide have leadership and "people who truly want to be here" this season.
"What I have seen is people who are willing to accept a teammate asking them to do something at a higher level and not taking it personally," Green said. "That is a respect thing. The freshmen have shown a lot of respect for our upperclassmen."
Green said she saw little of that last year because she thought none of the players wanted to hurt another teammate''s feelings.
Regardless of how the team finishes, Green is excited about her final season and her future. She said she would like to continue coaching but isn''t sure where she will land.
For now, she is focused on helping her players have a season to remember and making sure they remain in the spotlight.
"I couldn''t be prouder," Green said. "It has been an incredible 15 years for me, and 13 of the 15 years have been absolutely spectacular. But I think if you stay at a place long enough you go through the cycles of everything. Even though I never played here and I never went to school here, Alabama will always be a special place to me."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.