Buddy Green formally announced his retirement as a college coach in late December, ending a 37-year coaching career that started in 1979 when he was hired as a grad assistant at his alma mater, NC State. The Wolfpack won the program's last ACC title that season, and Green remembers it fondly as the start of his professional career.
"First of all, I was very blessed," said Green. "I was given a chance to get into college coaching by the late Bo Rein. He gave me my first job as a grad assistant back in 1979. I'll say this, we lost a great one when he went to LSU and died in the plane crash before he was ever able to coach there.
"Bo gave me my first opportunity as a GA, and it went on from there. I moved to a lot of different places when I was young."
Green headed to LSU with Rein after spending one season as a GA at NC State, and he stayed at LSU for one year before being hired as a defensive coordinator at Southern University. Green also had stints at VMI and Auburn, and even coached in high school for a season (he was head coach at Rocky Mount (NC) Northern Nash High School) before heading back to his alma mater in 1986 to coach defensive backs under new head coach Dick Sheridan.
Sheridan was hired by the Wolfpack after a successful stint at Furman, where he coached the Paladins to a 69–23–2 record and six Southern Conference titles in eight seasons. Sheridan replaced Tom Reed in Raleigh after Reed posted a 9-24 record in three years that consisted of a trio of 3-8 seasons.
Under Sheridan, NC State played in six bowl games in seven years, including five in a row. Green coached defensive backs all seven seasons and spent the final three also serving as the Wolfpack's defensive coordinator.
"I was with coach Sheridan for seven years," said Green. "We took over the program when it was down, and under coach Sheridan we turned it around. We were a losing program at the time, and we got it to a point where we were going to bowl games every year.
"Going to a bowl game every year, that was something that hadn't been done before at NC State."
Green was the Wolfpack's defensive coordinator in 1993 under Mike O'Cain, and he was hired away to be the head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1994, where he coached for six seasons and was also the Director of Athletics for two years. In 1997, Green led Chattanooga to a I-AA national ranking and its first winning record in six years. He also helped develop one of the top wide receivers in the NFL history, Terrell Owens.
In 2000, he made his way back to Raleigh, where he would coach the Wolfpack for a third time.
"When Chuck [Amato] got the job at NC State I was asked to come back as defensive coordinator," said Green. "I was there for the first two years, and we went to two straight bowl games and won seven or more those two years. It was the start of getting the program going back in the right direction.
"Actually three diferent times I was at NC State as a coach. I also went there as a student. It's dear to my heart... a great place."
The remainder of Green's coaching career was spent at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He coached 14 seasons at the school, 13 as defensive coordinator/secondary coach before assuming a role as a defensive consultant in 2015. He played an integral role in the Midshipmen posting a 110-56 (.663) record over the last 13 years, that includes 12 bowl games, 10 Commander-In-Chief's Trophies and a 14-0 mark against Army.
"It's so special," Green said of the Navy. "The respect that the guys you're coaching have... you're a small part of what the goal of the Naval Academy is. That goal is to protect our country and give us our freedom. It's so neat that those guys come back and are leaders in the military or government, the success they have. To see them serve and do great things for our country... it's a special part of coaching.
"It's a unique place where they know what they are doing and their mission is to develop young men to lead our country. To be a part of that was pretty neat."
Navy has won at least nine games six times in the last 12 years. Before the current streak, Navy had won nine or more games just five times in the previous 77 seasons. That success came with players who are never fully committed to football like players at other college programs.
"A lot of our guys, no one else wanted them, but we did win some recruiting battles," said Green. "If we suffer a tough loss on Saturday, you come back on the field Monday, and they were hungry to go. They always lift you up. I can't remember a Monday where they dragged... they were always ready for the next one, and that kept you going.
"We had a limited amount of time with our guys and you had to be here to understand. Their schedule is incredible. They are up at 6:30, and it doesn't stop until late at night. They love playing the game and that's probably one of the best things about being here 14 years."
"I have so much respect for the men and women who come to the Naval Academy," Green added. "Up here, they know their goal is to graduate as an officer and serve our country. We have so many young men and women who move on and do whatever it takes. I try to keep up with them all over the world. You worry and pray for them, but you know they made a commitment for us. It's a big deal."
Buddy Green started coaching in 1979, and he retired following the 2015 season. 37 years in the profession.
"I was blessed to be a college coach," he said. "I was at NC State as long as anywhere, and then I came to Navy and was here 14 years. I'll never forget the opportunity Bo [Rein] first gave me to get in the college game. I'll never forget it."