Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast Conference and an occasional contributor.
In the pressure packed world of college coaching a 25-year career is a rarity these days. Twenty five years at one school ? You can almost forget it, except in the case of Tom Green. The Fairleigh Dickinson mentor, who won his 400th game late last season, is entering his 26th year at the Northeast Conference school. Green is the winningest coach in NEC history. It’s not even close.
Tom Green – Longtime Coach of FDU (photo credit: FDUKnights.com)
His conference record stands at 257-177, a distant lead over second place Ron Ganulin, who won 129 conference games at St.Francis (NY) from 1991 through 2005. Green is also the NEC pacesetter with 26 conference tournament wins. All told, FDU has reached the NEC semis in 16 of his 25 years and captured four conference post season titles and ensuing NCAA Tournament bids (1985, 1988, 1998 and 2005).
A legacy of success which includes seven 20-win seasons has brought opportunities at other schools. In the past, Green has flirted with other institutions. Each time he felt the Northern New Jersey school was his best fit.
What is his secret of the program’s excellent track record ? For one thing , flexibility. He is able to adjust to the talents of his players. He will push the ball if he has to and play at a slower pace if need be. Last season an injury decimated squad finished up an uncharacteristic 8-20. The coach and staff went over tape and spent hours coming up with combination and ‘junk’ defenses to try to remain competitive. Another factor is discipline, but not the yelling and screaming type. Green doesn’t need that, and still his players know who is in charge. Discipline is evident as FDU rarely beats themselves. They are well drilled in their system.
FDU has made the NCAA Tournament in each of those aforementioned NEC title years. Each time the top or #2 seed has never rested easy against the bottom seed Knights. Green’s teams are extremely well prepared and play hard. Most recently, in 2005, FDU gave top-seeded (and eventual national runner-up) all it wanted in its first round game before losing 67-55 (see highlight below).
Tom Green will not win a national championship at FDU. Regardless, the former Syracuse guard can take solace in knowing he probably assisted on one. In 1985 his FDU team took top seeded Michigan to the wire, eventually losing 59-55. Villanova coaches were scouting that game and noticed the Knights exposed a few weaknesses in their Big Ten opponents. Two days later Villanova upset Michigan in the second round of their championship run.
Interestingly, Jim Boeheim and Green shared an apartment when they began as Syracuse assistants. Boeheim has been at Syracuse over three decades, Green a quarter of a century at FDU. Neither seems in a hurry to leave, which is good news to their respective schools and fans.