Utah State star Brian Green spent year coaching after returning from Mormon mission
Matt Gade, Deseret News
LOGAN — A little more than two years ago during his senior season, Brian Green became the best 3-point shooter in Utah State basketball history. A few months later, he graduated then all but fell out of contact with everyone he knew in the program.
Green left on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where no one recognized him as the Aggies' shooting legend. Now, Green has returned to USU as a graduate assistant to help coach some of the players he once called teammates.
"It's a little different," said Aggie guard Preston Medlin. "I hadn't seen him in a jersey in a while, but definitely when you see him on the bench and see him in a suit and tie, it's a little weird."
However, wearing a suit and tie — the typical attire of Mormon missionaries — is something Green has become very comfortable with.
Green, who attended Davis High School, came to Utah State via Salt Lake Community College, where he helped the Bruins reach the finals in the NJCAA tournament. During his time with the Aggies, he shot a school-record 50 percent from the 3-point line.
After his career, Green was called to the same mission that his father, Cary Green, served in as a young man — the Peru Cusco Mission.
"He actually got to interact with people who I had interacted with, who I knew, etc.," Cary Green said. "It was really kind of a personal experience for him and myself, for him to do that."
Charla Green said her son's emails showed Brian Green was struggling in the mission field for as long as 10 months, but eventually his outlook changed so much that he even extended his service.
"He was home for one day — one day — and then school started the very next Monday," Charla Green said. "We already had his release date in July, and then he just felt like he needed to stay an extra six weeks."
Utah State associate head coach Tim Duryea said he was happy to learn of Brian Green's interest in returning to USU.
"Obviously (USU head coach Stew Morrill) wanted him back in any role we could get him back in, just because of all the intangibles he brings," Duryea said. "I think that was a mutual decision, and when he wanted to continue with school, I think that was kind of a no-brainer."
Utah State's season came to an end last week with a 73-39 loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas.
In addition to working with the USU scout team, Green often stayed after practice to help team members work on their games.
Most were new faces.
"There were two guys here who actually got to practice with him and see what he's all about," Medlin said. "All the coaches are still here, everybody's still here, just all the players are gone except me and Ben (Clifford)."
"There's a reason why he's back here," said Clifford, who was a junior this past season. "People want him back and he wants to be back. It makes me feel good that he wants to stay a part of the program."
Just as he faced challenges when transitioning from missionary life to returned-missionary life, Green faced challenges transitioning from player to coach.
"It's just hard because I don't compete anymore," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing that I miss, is just being able to go out and compete and bring some energy to the team. I can't really do that anymore. I try to, but I can't."
Green is using his graduate assistant position to apply for USU's one-year Master of Business Administration program next fall.
"I want to be in business; I would love to use my Spanish, but the ultimate goal would be to be able to help people through business and lead. I feel like what I learned through sports as far as teamwork, as far as leadership and helping people achieve their goals, I feel like I can do that in a different type of aspect now."
He spent travel time a little differently in his new role, using bus and airplane rides to mentally prepare for his next academic test rather than the next athletic one.
Charla Green said her son was not a focused student before his mission, doing enough to stay eligible, but not placing a high priority on school work.
That's changed now.
"When things get hard like in his classes, it seems a little bit easier for him to take that on because he did have that mission that was so hard for him," she said. "Now I think it's a little bit easier for him, everything that he's having to do right now, which is really hard, trying to get into a graduate program and having to travel with the team."
Brian Green says serving a mission for the LDS Church is both similar to and different from helping coach a basketball team. He knows he's changed, but not so much in terms of appearance or personality.
"As far as Elder Green and Brian Green," he said, "I'm still the same person, but what I'm focusing on is different."
And yes, he sometimes wore his mission suit during games.
Tavin Stucki is a senior journalism student at Utah State University and editor-in-chief of the Utah Statesman, the Aggie campus newspaper. Twitter: stuckiaggies EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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