Courtesy Kevin Price - Sports Editor at the Ledger-Enquirer
Robert Moore applied for the Columbus State men's basketball coaching position when Herbert Greene stepped down in 2006.
Six years later, he is glad he didn't get the job at the time.
"I didn't think the timing was right," Moore said. "It is hard to follow a legend. I thought the guy who followed Coach Greene would have a lot of expectations. I think you want to be the second guy."
Moore became the second guy after the 2009-10 season when Doug Branson was asked to resign following three straight losing seasons.
In just two seasons, Moore has led the Cougars back to the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time since Greene's last season. The Cougars play Anderson (S.C.) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the Southeast Regional, which is being hosted by Montevallo.
The quick turnaround in the program has surprised even Moore, who said this week that before the season he didn't expect to be preparing for the NCAA tournament.
"I think, like some other teams, we got hot at the right time and started playing well together," Moore said. "And we had some things go our way this year that we didn't last year. But, to be honest, I thought we could get to the semifinal of the Peach Belt tournament. But these guys are playing well, and I am happy to be along for the ride."
Moore was an assistant to Greene for six seasons (1994-2000). During that time, CSU went to two NCAA Sweet 16s and won three Peach Belt tournaments. But Moore said his decision to leave CSU at that time was the correct one.
"Coach Greene was a great mentor to me as a coach, great father figure for me," Moore said. "But I felt like I needed to get better as a coach."
Moore took the position as coach at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, a junior college in Tifton, Ga., where in his second season he tied the school record for wins in a season with 21.
From there, he went to Tift County High, where he led the Blue Devils to the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state championship game in his first season. After two seasons at Tift County, he returned to Columbus to coach at Brookstone,
"The ABAC situation gave me my own identity as a coach. I was able to learn from my mistakes," Moore said. "When I left ABAC and went to Tift County, I went to a storied program that had a lot of high expectations, so that added some extra pressure to me as a coach. That was a good situation to be put into because winning was everything there.
"Then I came home and took the Brookstone job, where you don't have extraordinary athletes. I was able to learn from a lot of film work. I was able to find ways to beat teams that were more athletic, like a Taylor County. It made me study the game more."
Moore stayed at Brookstone for five seasons before the CSU job opened a second time in the post-Herbert Greene era.
"I consider Columbus home," said Moore, who is a Macon, Ga., native. "Coach Greene hired me in '94. Around '95 or '96, I started thinking Columbus was my home. I tell my parents that. I tell people from Macon that I am from Columbus.
"Columbus has welcomed me with open arms. There is no place I'd rather be than Columbus, Ga. I have developed great relationships with different people. This is home to me."
Moore's relationships in the community played a major role in his getting the job.
"My first rationale was that he knew Columbus State University because he had been Coach Greene's assistant. I thought that was a very important dynamic in the job," CSU athletic director Jay Sparks said. "Secondly, I thought that we had lost some of our community support for basketball. Obviously, you are going to lose some when you don't win. … But I thought that nobody could get that community support back like Robert Moore could."
Moore thought it might take as many as four years to get the CSU program back into the NCAA tournament. Moore credited his players for the quick turnaround.
"My seniors, they never quit," he said. "They always believed in each other, and the addition of Winford Ivey and Idell Bell just took us to another level -- not so much with their play but with their intensity and leadership."
Moore said the program is close to returning to the glory days.
"I think my main goal is to be constantly good, not just a one-hit wonder," Moore said.
"Those are the kinds of things we are going to emphasize to guys who are returning, like Winford and Idell -- that this is not it for us. We have bigger goals. We want to be consistently going to the NCAA tournament, playing for Peach Belt championships."
Sparks said Moore is a few years away from that consitency.
"That is one of the things you appreciate about Herbert Greene is that they were good every year," said Sparks, who was the women's basketball coach before becoming the athletic director.
"They weren't good just one or two or three years. He wasn't like me. I was good for three years, then I wasn't so good. Then I was good for three years, then I wasn't so good. He maintained a wonderful consistency of winning.
"I am going to say this on behalf of (current women's coach) Jonathan Norton as well, but I think our league is much tougher now than when I was coaching and when Herbert was coaching, and I don't mean that as a slap in my face or Herbert's face. … It is going to take more hard work and patience to see what we all hope is a super-consistent, successful program."