Marion, Ind. — COACH Bill Green may lose his cool with a referee occasionally. But he never yells at his players on the game floor, and never berates them, coating his Marine-style discipline with a mild manner. For the most part, he sits through the Giants' games with arms folded, taking out his frustrations on a wad of Juicy Fruit. ``We didn't get where we are by my being lenient,'' says Mr. Green, who proctors the academic and social life of ``his'' boys with a vigilance of a Victorian schoolmarm. He demands average grades or better, and if the boys slip, they get tutored.
If there's any smoking, drinking, or drugs, ``they're done,'' he says. And in his book, going steady can wait until later.
He even nixes walking with girls in school halls or staying on the phone longer than 10 minutes - although he admits that enforcing these two rules is pretty tough.
When asked if he has a girlfriend, Daric Keys looks down at his shoes - which are a long way off for someone 6 feet, 6 inches - and you guess that he does. But he backs his coach's rule about going steady.
``Well, Coach Green, he tells us about this player that had a steady,'' says the young forward. The couple broke up, and the girl arrived in the stands with another date. That blew the player's game. ``Coach Green, he doesn't want that to happen to us,'' Daric explains.
It's obvious Green is a father figure to these guys. ``He knows everything the boys are doing, and he talks to them when they have a problem,'' says Rosemarie Edwards, a divorc'ee who moved here from Muncie when her son Jay was young. She and three other team mothers are raising their sons alone.
``His [Green's] fundamental strength is his sensitivity to the total needs of the 16- to 18-year-olds. He understands the `inner' teen,'' says Richard Persinger, who has two sons on the team, Kyle and Eric, and who was Marion High's principal for 10 years.
Team members' favorite word for Mr. Green is ``great.'' Says one player: ``I'd say he's one of the best friends I have.''
But Green maintains he isn't buddy-buddy with the guys. Instead, he operates on respect; and that's what he hoped would pull him through in the '70s, when he ``cut'' his own son in final team tryouts. ``There was lots of silence at home that year,'' says the father of four grown children.
Green coached the Giants from 1970 to '76, leading them to two state titles before taking a six-year timeout in business. In his 20 years of high school coaching, he has tallied a 366-122 record, with five state trophies, and he's hoping for a sixth at the finals March 28, before 17,000 Hoosiers in the Indianapolis Market Square Arena.