Thursday, July 5, 2018
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
BAHAMIAN track and field coach Rolando Lonnie Greene has accepted a new post at another elite Division I programme.
Greene was introduced as the new track and field/cross country head coach at the University of Kentucky by Wildcats athletic director Mitch Barnhart earlier this week.
Greene joins the Wildcats in the SEC after a successful six-year stint with the Purdue Boilermakers in the Big 10.
At his introductory press conference, Greene - a graduate of Murray State in Murray, Kentucky - said his return to the Commonwealth would be a welcome opportunity for the next stop of his coaching career.
"I became a man in the state of Kentucky, this place has a special place in my heart, I'm excited about this opportunity to lead this programme. I think we can continue to do some great things."
"I came to the state of Kentucky in the fall of 1984 as a freshman attending Murray State University. Just to give you a quick bit of how I got there, I was at the Junior Pan-Am Games in The Bahamas.
"Jay Flanagan at the time, I had just gotten done running the 400m hurdles, he walked up to me and he said, 'hey young man, where are you going to college?'
"About three weeks later, I was on a plane headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend school," he said.
Greene immediately noted that his ultimate goal is to bring a national championship to the programme.
"I like to win, I'm very competitive. I try to remain as humble as I can, but for me, humility is just strength under control. I believe in being aggressive and trying to win at this level.
"My ultimate goal is to win the National Championship. That's one of my career goals. As long as I'll be here, that is going to be the objective of this programme." He said: "We're going to do it the right way, we're going to graduate young men and women. They're going to have the complete college experience. I believe you can do both. You know, sometimes you have the experience where a young man or woman is a great student and then you have those great athletes, and they struggle with the balance in between. I believe you can do both."
At Purdue he recruited several Bahamian standouts during his tenure including reigning Big 10 Track athlete of the year Deyvnne Charlton, Carmeisha Cox, Keannu Pennerman and Kinard Rolle.
The Wildcats will already have Bahamian talent on the track this fall with incoming freshman sprinter Devine Parker on the roster. "I think in the Southeastern Conference, it's got to be an international team. You've got to find the best kids in the United States, and then you got to go find the best kids around the world if you want to be competitive. The NCAA is the international NCAA.
"The NCAA of today is not the NCAA of old in the 1980s when I was competing in college. So if you want to be competitive, you have to spread your wings a little bit. I have those connections. I have those connections around the world, the Caribbean, where you can go out and find the best kids," Green said.
"My objective is to go out and find the best student-athlete who can handle the rigours academically here at Kentucky and who can handle it athletically in the SEC at the national level. That's my objective. But yes, recruiting will be all-encompassing."
Greene's tenure at Purdue was marked by some of the best seasons in programme history, culminating in an eighth-place finish by the women's track and field team at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last month.
Under Greene's leadership, the women's team also won the team title at the 2017 Big Ten Outdoor Championships for the first time since 1999 and finished 14th at each of the last two NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The men's team is just two years removed from a 2016 season in which the Boilermakers finished 15th at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships - best since 1972 - and 13th at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships - second best in school history. "I had an opportunity to watch the team from Purdue and their coaching staff, and specifically Lonnie and the way he interacted with his team," Barnhart said.
"It was maybe the best interview I've ever done without ever talking to anybody. To watch how he - the energy coming from their tent and the camaraderie in their team. Just the enjoyment of participating in a National Championship from his student athletes, the coaching staff, and the way they interacted was incredible. I walked away from the meet not knowing if that would be something we need to look at later on down the road."
"He was the first one we talked to, he took the lead and never gave it up," Barnhart said.
Greene has coached standouts across the board, with 21 different Boilermakers earning 60 First-Team All-America honours across 24 events in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field over his six seasons. Greene's Purdue teams have also been named USTFCCCA Academic All-America.
Greene came to Purdue from the University of Arkansas where he worked with the women's programme for 16 seasons. Most recently, he was the associate head coach in charge of sprints, hurdles, horizontal jumps and multi-events. He was named the USTFCCCA South Central Region assistant coach of the year in 2011 and 2012.
Prior to his stint at Arkansas, Greene was an assistant coach with the University of Minnesota women's programme in 1995-96. He was a men's and women's assistant, at what is now Missouri State University, from 1991 to 1995. Born in Nassau, Greene is married to former Razorback LaTayna Stewart. The couple have a daughter, Charisse, three sons - Cameron, Isaiah and Jacob - and two grandchildren, Tylan and Caleb.