POCATELLO — Tony Green kept bobbing his head to the left and right during a game earlier this month, as he tried to see the action on the court around his obstructed view from the bench.
In his way was his older brother, Joe Green, the Pocatello High varsity boys basketball head coach, who was giving Tony a view of his backside.
A first-year assistant coach for the Poky boys, Tony’s surroundings are different. But it is all made worthwhile for the former eight-year Highland High head varsity girls coach by being a part of a coaching staff made up almost entirely of Greens.
“Honestly, the hardest part is sitting on the bench when we’re in games,” said Tony, who resigned from his job at Highland in 2018. “I’m a pacer. I like to go up and down. So sitting on the bench and getting blocked out by Joe’s butt is one of the more challenging things.”
Joe’s four-person, Green-centric varsity coaching staff also includes his father, Bill Green, along with valued assistant Jarod Brown, who’s the only one not part of the family.
“I know how much my dad taught me growing up and how much I’ve learned from my brother,” Joe said.
“So for them to be able to help me coach and try to inspire and motivate young men, it’s just kind of been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The biggest potential conflict for the coaching staff is that Joe has to decline the advice provided by his father and brother – potentially multiple times in a game. But Tony and Bill know the territory.
“My job is just to give ideas and suggestions and not worry if they were accepted or not accepted,” Bill said.
Tony said, “It’s easy as an assistant to throw out a bunch of ideas and if they don’t work, they’re not you. It’s not your name in the paper.”
This marks the first year Tony has been on Joe’s staff, but Bill has worked with Joe for his entire seven years as the Indians’ head varsity coach.
Bill, 67, has been a coach sporadically throughout his life, including around seven years on the Highland varsity boys basketball staff mostly in the 2000s, in addition to three years as a Highland varsity football assistant under accomplished former coach Jim Koetter.
For Pocatello’s purposes, Bill is the coach who will pull a player aside and speak to him on a personal level. The conversations entail analogies between basketball and life.
“That’s really what matters,” Joe said. “The game of basketball is fantastic, but if you’re not learning the life lessons, not applying those to different areas of your life, then we’re probably not doing our job as a coaching staff. I think he’s probably the best at that than anyone we’ve got.”
Tony said it has been a pleasure for Bill to watch his two sons together on the same staff, but Bill declined to make too big of a deal of three Greens coaching together and made many self-deprecating quips.
“For better or worse, (coaching) runs in the family. Usually worse,” Bill said. “(Joe) probably would like to fire me now, but he asked me to help out for a while. He probably respects me too much as a father.”
Bill said the competitiveness that emanates from within the family is the biggest culprit for both of his sons being coaches. He has two daughters who also have coaching experience, plus a nephew in Pocatello head varsity football coach Dave Spillett.
While competitiveness is one of many things that connect the brothers, Bill struggles to list traits that differentiate them.
“They both have the same philosophy on how to treat kids and how to respect kids, how they get the most out of the kids,” Bill said. “I really can’t think of anything that distinguishes one from the other.”
The brothers are best friends who share a love of basketball and are close enough outside of it to have been roommates for around five years as adults.
Joe, 40, explained how he and his brother evolved as coaches at around the same time and constantly ran ideas past each other. That led to similar philosophies on the basketball court.
“Our offenses are pretty similar. We’ve always kind of run the dribble-drive offense, we’ve been guard-heavy, we try to get out on the fast break,” Joe said. “And then we kind of just let our players be loose on offense as much as we can and, defensively, attacking as much as we can.”
Both were point guards at Highland under retired three-time state champion coach Chris Frost. Joe was a 1998 high school graduate and Tony graduated in 2002.
“Joe’s demeanor was probably not as feisty as Tony’s was. Joe would get people in his face and he wouldn’t say anything. … and Tony was one of those who was a little more feisty,” Bill said. “As far as playing basketball, they were both extremely competitive and skilled and wanted to win.”
One way they do diverge is their playing careers after high school.
Tony didn’t play college basketball and immediately started coaching at 19 years old, beginning as a Highland freshman boys basketball assistant and eventually becoming the program’s varsity assistant.
Joe continued his basketball success into college. The 1997 Idaho high school basketball player of the year has the first- and second-most steals in a season in College of Idaho history, plus he played the first-, second- and third-most minutes in a season all-time.
“Joe’s played at a college level, at a really high level, so he has a great depth of knowledge when it comes to basketball,” Tony said. “He’s a little more advanced than my dad or I when it comes to those things and Xs and Os because of that experience.”
Joe joined Highland’s boys basketball coaching staff in 2007, serving as a junior varsity assistant before becoming the JV head coach a year later. Then, he became Poky’s head coach in 2013.
When Tony resigned as Highland’s head coach after leading the Rams to the 5A state tournament in all eight seasons, Joe talked about Tony joining his staff.
Tony, 35, coached irregularly at Pocatello practices while focusing on his personal life last season after leaving Highland. Prior to the start of this season, he craved the game and joined Poky’s staff, giving Joe an assistant with varsity head coaching experience for the first time during his tenure.
Tony said he talks too much for an assistant, but his most memorable moment this season was when he gave a talk to the team after a loss, according to Joe.
Because it was such a great note, the postgame meeting ended when Tony was done.
“He said success is earned on a day-to-day basis,” Joe said. “You have to show up every single day and earn wins and every single practice and every single moment and come with a purpose every single day.”
Pocatello’s season hasn’t been perfect, but nearly started that way as the Indians won 10 of their first 12 games of the season. After later weathering a five-game losing streak, the Indians are trying to reassert themselves, winning two of their last three matchups and matching last season’s win total with a 12-8 record.
Joe is hunting for his first state playoff bid as head coach and Poky’s first since 2009.
“Man, that would be a really special moment for all of us. For the kids and all of the coaching staff,” Joe said. “That’s something we’ve been working for, for a really long time, and it’s just another opportunity that we would get to celebrate as a family on the same coaching staff. It really is about the kids getting there. They really do all the hard work. But it would just be a cool moment for us to be able to pull that off.”