The list of those who claim they’ve met a famous celebrity is relatively short, the list of those who claim they’ve taught a famous celebrity is shorter still.
Britton Middle School’s Coach Jim Green is on that short list—he coached a 9-year-old Barry Bonds.
Green is now himself a celebrity, with his selection as the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year for 2018. The award pays tribute to his four decades of dedication and contributions to Morgan Hill youth.
Late last year during a routine basketball practice Green was interrupted by Supt. Steve Bentado, along with two dozen Chamber members, including Mayor Steve Tate.
“Mr. Bentado goes, ‘Hey coach, take a time out.’ So, I came over and they engulfed me and gave me the award,” Green says adding that he was 100-percent shocked.
“You know, it’s really hard to turn down an award when 24 people give it to you,” Green says with a chuckle. “They take the pictures and the photo op, and I go, ‘Thank you, I’m grateful, and now I’m going back to practice.’ And then I ran away from them.”
As appreciative as he is of the award, he believes there are others more deserving.
“We have some tremendous teachers at Britton,” Green says. “I’m in awe of how they can put on 900 performances a year in a classroom, 180 days, five days a week. If there are unsung heroes in education, public-school classroom teacher are worth their weight in gold.”
Those who work day in and day out with Green feel he is a hero in his own right and most deserving of the award.
“I think it’s an understatement to say he’s passionate about his job and about schools here in Morgan Hill and athletics in Morgan Hill,” Tony Debenedetti, Britton Middle School’s physical education teacher, says of Green: “He’s wonderful. In fact, he really had created and developed a blueprint for being an athletic director at a school. You could show up, look at what he created, and know how to run athletics at a school. I think he cares about the community he lives in. I think that he cares about the people in this community.”
Green’s story began 68 years ago in Glendale, California. His parents and his four siblings soon moved to Los Angeles, and 10 years later they moved again, to the Bay area.
The family resided in Redwood City, which at the time was the home of the San Francisco 49ers training camp. For a self-proclaimed “little sport’s nut,” living near that camp was a dream come true.
“So all these athletes were my neighbors—it was like a three-dimensional card show,” Green says. “Famous San Francisco Giants like Jimmy Davenport, and Gaylord Perry—I was their paper boy. I would coach Davenport’s kids, and then I would babysit them in the clubhouse at Candlestick Park. There was Willie Mays and all these greats and I’m the babysitter inside the stadium.”
By the time Green was in his early 20s the family moved again, to San Carlos, where Green began working at the Circle Star Theatre, originally owned by super stars Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.
Green also worked for the San Carlos Parks and Recreation Department where his coaching career began.
He credits his time there with developing the coaching style he still uses today: “age appropriate.”
“When you coach an 8-year-old, you communicate differently than you do an 18-year-old,” Green says. “I came down with kind of forced values. I got my point across and I was tactful enough not to alienate the parents. I thought it was kind of tough love, I thought it was very good.”
In 1977, Green moved again, this time without his family, to Morgan Hill. He still recalls the exact date he interviewed for the Morgan Hill School District, August 16, 1977. The day Elvis Presley died.
“All the women were red-eyed and sniffling through the interview and I’m mentally going, ‘I have to nail this interview. I have a sad audience, I have to be really good today,” Green says.
He was really good that day, and was hired as a PE teacher, and for the past 41 years he’s continued to be a staple of the school district.
In 1980 Green became the activities director of Martin Murphy School when it first opened. In 1986, he moved to Live Oak High as the activities director, varsity basketball coach and PE teacher. He remained at Live Oak until 1995.
“In ’95 I was transferred to Britton,” Green says, adding that plans are in the works to build a new Britton Middle School.
“We were supposed to break ground in August but we haven’t done it yet. And the sign says, New Britton: Fall of 2018. I suggested they get some white out,” Green says with a grin.
In 2013 Green officially retired, but his dedication and love of coaching and his role as ASB, (Associated Student Body) director have kept him with the school in a part-time capacity.
“I’m a huge proponent of extracurricular activities. It’s a tremendous laboratory for people skills, closure skills, leadership skills,” Green says. “ASB experiences helps kids network with others and grow. If you have an inclusive student body where everybody has an identity, they will feel more valued and they’re going to feel safer and more productive.”
It’s this belief that inspired Green to found the South County Basketball Academy, (SCBA), in 1999, a year-round basketball program and summer camp.
“I am the last championship varsity basketball coach from Live Oak,” Green says. “And when I got out of varsity basketball I developed a feeder, a developmental system that would prepare the young people for high school ball.”
Nineteen years ago the SCBA began with 140 players. Today that number has grown to 1,000. Green believes the popularity of the program is due to its mission statement.
“To have fair and balanced teams,” Green says, adding that this strategy of coaching develops a productive environment for kids.
Elizabeth Williams, 21, personally knows the value of the program.
“When I was in middle school and younger too, I was on the SCBA team for a while,” Williams says. “Being a part of that team instilled a lot of confidence in us at a young age. Being a part of a team, it’s just a really good feeling and it’s something I will always cherish and remember.”
Green will always remember two standout coaching moments in his career.
“I was coaching Live Oak and we beat North Salinas at North Salinas’s homecoming to an oversold gym,” Green says smiling. “And then my Britton team went 47-1 over two years.”
For Green, the most rewarding aspects of his career are the friendships he’s built with the kids he’s coached over the past 41 years. At the heart of those friendships is his love for what he does.
“I need kids in front of me—I need sports to coach,” Green says. “I feel like I just got here, because it was never work.”