Green's Garden performance an instant family treasure
NEW YORK -- The cameras were off, Florida was celebrating its tournament title on the Madison Square Garden court and off in the corner, a gentle giant, Sidney Green, was crying, embracing Florida assistants Larry Shyatt and Anthony Grant.
This was a moment that will be remembered for those of us who document the college basketball season.
Green, the former Florida Atlantic head coach and newly named Indiana University assistant, had always dreamed of his mother, Lucretia Green, watching his son, Taurean, play at MSG. Sidney Green, the former UNLV forward, grew up in Brooklyn and even though his mother lived in Pittsburgh, she wanted to see her grandson play in the Garden. She died last January.
"He was dedicating this to her," Sidney Green said. "She's proud, very, very proud. Her spirit is in this house."
The forces that put this night together couldn't have come together any more succinctly. Green was given a leave from Indiana to watch Taurean play. When he signed on with the Hoosiers he made it clear that he had to get to the Garden to watch Taurean. So, there he was, with Taurean's mother, in the stands, clad in Gator blue.
"It's great that [Indiana head coach] Mike Davis let my dad come watch me play," said Taurean Green. "My dad always wanted me to play in the Garden. My grandmother always dreamed of watching me play in the Garden."
On the court, Taurean completed his coming out party on basketball's hallowed ground at the Garden. Green scored 23 points for the second straight night to earn MVP honors in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. First, his sudden offensive output led the Gators to a five-point win over Wake Forest Thursday. Then, his production, which included 6 of 9 3s, led the unranked but no more unknown Gators to a 75-70 win over Syracuse Friday.
Taurean said he was thinking about his dad throughout the game, knowing that he would be emotional as the game progressed. He checked him throughout the game, seeing his dad motion to his head to remain focused.
"I knew he was thinking about my grandmother," Taurean Green said.
Sidney Green's emotions caught the Florida staff off guard. They knew all about the death last January. Sidney didn't want Taurean to miss a game so he implored him to stay with the team and he did.
"I didn't realize how much it meant to Sidney until I saw it in his face and voice," Grant said. "It can't be any better to see a parent go through that with their child."
Green epitomizes this new breed of Gators. He was tucked away as a freshman last season, kept behind Anthony Roberson at the point. Sidney is saying all the right things, adding that Green was playing behind a great player. So, there was no reason to push him ahead.
But the reality is Green was a big-time scorer in high school and it was only a matter of time before his overall skills were on display. The Gators didn't need him to be aggressive a year ago and they weren't exactly pushing him before they got to New York. Green was dishing the ball in Gainesville but scored 15 points in the first two games of the tournament. He scored 46 in two in the Garden.
He also had six assists against the Orange, to give him 21 assists to nine turnovers in four games, not too shabby for a scoring playmaker.
But the Gators are hardly a one-man band. They actually might be as deep as they've been under Billy Donovan, assuming this squad continues to mature.
Green is starting to emerge as the player with the most moxie, but he's got plenty of company. The Gators start four sophomores and one junior (Lee Humphrey) with the lanky Corey Brewer able to bust out with double figures on a regular basis. If, as Grant says, Al Horford and Joakim Noah can finish in the post, then the Gators have the goods to be a factor this season.
Throughout the past two days in New York, the Donovan family mentioned how at ease Billy is coaching this squad. He doesn't have to deal with any peripheral garbage of players worrying about the league. The major issue is playing time. And it's obvious with each passing day that Florida's lack of hype in the preseason was probably the best thing for this squad. Now that they're on display for the nation to see, the surprise is gone.
Florida is here to stay in the SEC and, likely, in the top 25. Sometimes players, and teams, find themselves at times they least expect. For Florida, it happened in New York, which couldn't have worked out any better for the Green family that so desperately wanted this week in New York to be memorable.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.