Wiedmer: UT's Green working for little green

A couple of days ago, Kentucky freshman big man Daniel Orton explained why he was exploring the NBA draft.

"More than anything, it's money," the seasonlong substitute said. "In this world there's only one color that matters, and that's green."

Too bad Orton never met University of Tennessee basketball video coordinator and information specialist Aaron Green.

If he had, he might have learned that at least a few of those associated with college hoops do it for the love of the game, green or no green. Or at least for very little green.

This isn't to say Green wouldn't like a little more green in his bank account these days. It certainly would help him and wife Paige raise their 6-year-old daughter Kannon and 1-year-old son Kutler.

In fact, it would help if he still earned the salary he used to make as the head basketball coach at Cleveland High, where he guided the Blue Raiders to six 20-win seasons in seven years, averaging 22 victories a season and reaching the state tournament in 2005.

But even all that success never seemed enough for the former Vols 3-point specialist and son of a longtime high school coach.

"In the back of mind," he said, "I've always known I had a burning desire to be a college coach."

So at the close of that state tournament season, the husband and father of one (at the time) climbed into his car a few days after Bruce Pearl became the Vols' coach in the spring of 2005.

"I told him I'd do anything -- and I mean anything -- to become a member of his staff," said Green, who had been a graduate assistant to Jerry Green (no relation) during the 1999-2000 season, the last time UT reached the Sweet 16 before Pearl guided them there in 2007.

"After that I'd follow up with a note or a phone call, just to let him know I was still interested," Green said. "But nothing was open."

Finally, while the couple was in Disney World during the summer of 2007, Pearl called. Green could have a graduate manager position if he wanted it. The pay was around $12,000 a year. Not a lot of green.

"It was not an easy decision at all," Green said. "I'm fortunate to have a wife who's very supportive."

Then again, he isn't the only one in this marriage to know a little bit about college basketball. Before they got married, Paige Green answered to Paige Redman, one of the best players ever produced by Bradley Central High School before she went on to star at Vanderbilt.

Befitting a Commodore, she gave her husband more than a little grief this winter when Vandy swept the Vols. But otherwise, Aaron said, "She couldn't have been better about all this."

He laughs about what all this has covered the past three years. Making coffee for Pearl early in the morning -- "He takes it black." Following certain unnamed players to class. Helping the student managers load and unload the buses during road trips.

"In other words, pretty much the same things you do as a high school coach," Green said, chuckling. "Except back then you also had to wash uniforms and mop the floor."

But come last summer, some of that changed. Green was promoted to his video post, which means, among other things, that he pretty much tapes every college game that appears on any network from November forward.

"When we learned we were playing San Diego State in the first round (of the NCAA tournament)," he said, "I had 22 game tapes of them on Coach's desk within 15 minutes. We had them downloaded onto all the coaches' laptops within 30 minutes."

And after two years of barely making enough to buy food, Green got a raise that left him making almost as much as when he coached the Blue Raiders.

You can say this is crazy. The 32-year-old Green not only has a bachelor's degree in history but two master's degrees.

But all he needs to do for inspiration this week is look to 33-year-old Brad Stevens, who will coach Butler against Michigan State on Saturday in the Final Four.

Stevens was a marketing associate at Eli Lilly in 2000, having graduated from DePauw University in Sewanee's Division III conference 10 months earlier. Still, he couldn't stop thinking about coaching, and he knew then-Butler coach Thad Matta (now at Ohio State) from the summer camp circuit.

For about the same money Green made his first two years at UT, Stevens became coordinator of basketball operations at Butler. Seven years and a few promotions later he became the head coach.

"Oh, he's definitely an inspiration," Green said. "It gives you hope."

Hope to dream about something more than immediate green.