New Orleans Pelicans head coach and Titan Hall of Famer Willie Green ’03 returned to his native Detroit Feb. 1 ahead of Detroit Mercy Night at Little Caesars Arena. Before coaching the Pelicans to a victory over the Pistons, Green visited Calihan Hall and touched on a variety of topics in an interview with Detroit Mercy men’s basketball play-by-play announcer Jeremy Otto.
What does this first — coaching in Detroit — feel like for you?
Number one, it’s a blessing to have an opportunity to lead a group of young men, to lead an organization and a team like New Orleans, a team that I played for, and to be able to come back home and coach in front of family and friends, it’s an amazing honor. I’m looking forward to it.
What does it feel like to walk into this building now as opposed to when you were a player?
It just brings back a ton of really good memories. Spending time with my teammates, being great here on this floor. Blood, sweat and tears, giving it our all. Our coaching staff — Perry Watson, David Greer, Mike Jackson — just a ton of friends that I’ve had an opportunity to connect with here. Honestly, coming to the University, playing here at Calihan Hall allowed me to pursue dreams, goals and aspirations.
Your uncle was a big inspiration to you coaching. When he told you that you’re going to be a better coach than you were a player as you evolve, what did you think at that point?
I had no idea what he was talking about, to be honest with you. He had the vision, along with my dad, and it’s starting to play out. I’m not necessarily a great coach at this moment, but I’m definitely striving to be. I have a great group of people around me. I still have a great, supporting family, and a great coaching staff that I get an opportunity to work with. I’m enjoying it.
What are some of Perry Watson’s qualities that you’ve brought to your own coaching career?
Number one, just be a good person. Come in every day and treat people how you want to be treated. Work extremely hard at what we want to do. Be fundamentally sound. And every night, you give yourself an opportunity to win games if you can play defense. Coach Perry was great. He’s a mentor, he’s a friend, I’m extremely blessed and grateful to have learned under him.
Any favorite stories?
A lot of stories. My favorite is just having the opportunity to come here and play in front of my family, play for a coaching staff that trusted me and allowed me to grow and blossom into an NBA player. I’m grateful for that.
Your Pelicans team has gone through some adversity this season, and you were able to put the pieces back together. It’s been kind of the same thing for the Titans with COVID cancelations. What would you say to them?
We’re all going to face adversity. It’s a part of life. No matter what you do, no matter how great you’re living your life. But adversity builds character. We have to maintain our responsibilities as we go through it. Make the next best decision and keep trusting in God.