2 NCAA title games for Elgin’s Alan Greener
2 NCAA title games for Elgin’s Alan Greener
By Rich Holm
Alan Greener, a 1980 graduate of Valley, was the busiest collegiate pep band instructor in the nation April 8-9 when his Louisville Cardinals won the men’s NCAA basketball title on Monday before the women finished second on Tuesday.
Greener and his musicians celebrated on the floor with men’s coach Rick Pitino after the epic 82-76 victory over Michigan in Atlanta.
The former Tiger then had to help pack up his band and all their instruments for a quick 462-mile bus ride to New Orleans.
Actually, Geener made the trip four times because the Cardinal teams were in the semifinals of the Final Four on Saturday and Sunday.
The Louisville women were the first No. 5 seed to ever make the championship game. Greener and Cardinal fans everywhere were hoping their school could be the only second in history to ever see both the men’s and women’s teams win cage titles the same year.
UConn denied the Cardinals, though, 93-60, as the women’s champs won a record eighth team title.
The loss didn’t dampen the spirits of Greener who said later, “It was an unbelievable experience. It would have been nice to see the girls win, too, but they were the Cinderella of the tourney.
“They had lost three players to injury during the season who collectively averaged 45 points a game. What they accomplished to make the finals will never be forgotten.”
Men’s coach Rick Pitino is worshipped by Louisville fans, and the Hall of Fame head mentor did something earlier in the season Al will never forget.
Greener explained, “We were at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the last-ever Big East Tournament, which we won. During the floor celebration Mr. Pitino motioned to my pep band and told then to come down to the floor because he wanted his picture taken with them. That was first class, and my kids will never forget the moment.”
It was much of the same after this year’s championship game. Ten of Greener’s kids made NCAA history when they became the first pep band members to simultaneously play in both the men’s and women’s title games.
NCAA allows a pep band to have 30 members, come tourney time. Traveling back and forth between Atlanta and New Orleans, 20 band members stayed put at each site while Greener transported the now famous 10 back and forth.
With one ring on his finger from last year’s Final Four appearance, Greener will probably get his championship ring this year as a member of the Louisville contingent.
But Greener isn’t thinking about any more hardware at present, because he also plays organ at all the Louisville baseball and softball games. The two teams have a combined record of 65-13.
He ended, “Louisville has had a phenomenal run in all sports the past two to three years. I have been fortunate to be part of all of it. I always wear red, and once in awhile I recall the red I wore at Valley. Tell everyone back home I thank them for getting me started. It’s been a great ride, and we’re still going.”
The son of Arden and Marlene Greener of Elgin, Alan admits he wasn’t much of an athlete at Valley, but that didn’t deter his love for sports that began at an early age. It was a thrill to even keep the scorebook for Al Seabrooke’s baseball teams.
From the small confines of Valley’s gymnasium, Greener found himself on basketball’s biggest stage last week as people who remembered from him back home tried to get a glimpse of him when the band was shown on national TV.
Greener is as proud of his parents as he is of his profession. An All-State band member, he followed in his father’s footsteps to the University of Iowa. Arden played trombone at the Rose Bowl in 1957, when the Iowa Hawkeyes made their initial appearance in the granddaddy of all bowl games.
Twenty-five years later, Iowa was back in Pasadena when Alan marched.
In 1986 Iowa was back again, and Alan’s sister, Angela, played saxophone for the marching Hawkeyes on New Year’s Day.
Greener said, “My hometown and college gave me a lot of memories, but so did Shenandoah High School, where I taught for eight years.
Six years ago Greener received a phone call from Louisville, where he had done graduate work and was the assistant band director. The university never forgot him in 1992 and asked Alan to compose a second fight song for the college.
Greener sat down and in a few hours composed “All Hail U of L.” It became a hit and is now played on the university’s Web site.
Alan remembered the phone ringing. “It was at semester time, and I had to sit down when the university asked me to return. They wanted me right away to become the school’s new pep band director.”
Greener is so popular with college students that he has 90 members in his pep band. During tournaments the Cardinal Pride Pep Band is limited to 30 members. Greener then becomes a coach, picking his lineup beginning with seniority before turning to his brass section to produce the most volume in a big auditorium.
But Greener’s pep music goes far beyond auditoriums. His band can be found at Louisville swim meets, soccer and cross country events, lacrosse, softball, and baseball games, and wherever a Cardinal athlete is competing.