By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
James Green, the Jacksonville State basketball coach who played for Ole Miss in the early 80s, laughs when asked if Santa brought him any tips for beating the 16th-ranked Rebels tonight.
“He did tell me what to do, but the question is whether we can do it,” Green said Monday. “That’s the best team that we’re going to play all season.”
Green, a former Ingomar standout, is 5-5 in his second season with the Alabama team – his third head coaching job. Last season, the Gamecocks finished 11-17 on a six-game losing streak.
The team’s losses this season include an 87-62 homecourt loss to the new No. 24 team, UAB, and a 67-64 loss at Georgia after squandering an eight-point halftime lead.
“It’s still going to take us some time, and some more recruiting, to get where we want to be,” Green said. “We are competing hard, even if we haven’t won as many games as we’d like.”
Part of the challenge is dealing with scholarship limits imposed due to previous underachieving on the academic side.
“We have made great strides in that area,” he said.
Still, Green is trying to get a handle on this year’s team, which features just one senior on an 11-man roster.
“We don’t quite know who we are right now,” he said. “We have our sights set on who we want to be, but we’re probably two or three weeks away from finding some answers. Certainly we should be better than we were a year ago.”
By contrast, he has a pretty good idea of the kind of opposition his team will run into tonight.
“They’re really good, skills and tenacious on both ends of the court,” Green said of the Rebels. “We’re going to have to make sure we get back on transition, stay in front of the ball and try to keep them out of the paint. The challenge will be to do all of those things.”
Green is 0-2 in trips back to his alma mater, with losses as the head coach at Mississippi Valley in 2006 (72-49) and 2007 (97-63). Before his stint at Valley, he was 123-109 in eight seasons at Southern Miss.