Legendary Burns High football coach Ron Greene dies at age 71

·4 min read

Upon returning to his alma mater in 2016, David Devine had a clear image of how the Burns High football program would run under his leadership.

“I wanted to re-establish the 'MadDog' pride my coach Ron Greene established while he was here,” Devine said. “It was all about creating a family atmosphere and playing for one another. That’s the stuff we as a program pride ourselves on. For many, when they think of Burns High football, they think of coach Ron Greene, and all we do as a program is to honor him and make him proud.”

When the 2022 high school football season kicks off next week, the program will be without one of its biggest supporters.

Greene died Thursday at the age of 71.

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“The guys I played for, coached with … he was like a father to all of us,” Devine said. “He was someone who was always there to talk to, someone we could seek out for advice. We wanted to win football games, but family and working together was always at the forefront.”

Greene served as Burns football coach from 1984 through 2007, finishing with a 174-106 record. Most notably, he guided the Bulldogs to a NCHSAA 3A championship in 1994. It remains the only state title in program history.

Ron Greene served as Burns football coach from 1984 through 2007, finishing with a 174-106 record. Most notably, he guided the Bulldogs to a NCHSAA state 3A championship in 1994.
Ron Greene served as Burns football coach from 1984 through 2007, finishing with a 174-106 record. Most notably, he guided the Bulldogs to a NCHSAA state 3A championship in 1994.

“That’s something you don’t realize, just how special it is to experience something like a championship. It doesn’t matter if you’re a player or coach,” said Devine, a member of that team. “I think those guys I played with would say the same. Me and my teammates are forever linked as brothers, and he was a father figure to all of us.”

In recognition of his more than two decades of service, the Burns stadium is named in Greene’s honor.

According to East Rutherford athletic director and Burns alum Phillip Russ, his sound guidance was never more than a phone call away.

“It was never transactional, it was relational,” he said. “As a player, once I left the program he remained an integral part of everything I did. When I got my first head coaching job he called, and he did the same upon my return to East Rutherford. We talked about coaching, but mostly about life.

Legendary Burns football coach Ron Greene with one of the school's beloved canine mascots.
Legendary Burns football coach Ron Greene with one of the school's beloved canine mascots.

“He taught you what it took to be a man as you were moving toward manhood, so once in the real world you’d be prepared. Once no longer one of his players, I could lean on him for career advice or little life nuggets for use at a later time. His most important lesson? You may never stop being a coach, but family comes first.”

Greene’s health had declined in recent years, a significant portion of those concerns linked to an incident more than 20 years ago.

“I saw the start of it — a sprint-out pass to our sideline. The quarterback had to run for his life, but I didn’t see the end,” Greene told The Shelby Star in 2019. “I’d turned around to talk to my linebackers.”

Both the quarterback and pursuing tackler barreled into Greene, making contact with his left knee. Though it didn’t cause immediate harm, he later underwent four knee replacement surgeries and other medical procedures to address the injury.

Unable to stand for long periods, Greene sat in a van located just beyond the south end zone at the stadium bearing his name. Devine said home games will be strange for a while, glancing in that direction and not seeing his beloved coach.

“It’ll be different on Fridays not seeing the van he sat in to watch games,” Devine said. “But if there’s one thing (Greene) taught me, it was to put the kids first, put your nose to the grindstone and do your job. So while we’ll celebrate his life and mourn his life, we’re dedicating this season to him and the Greene family.

“They can rest assured we will do everything possible to make sure this season is a success.”

You can reach Joe Hughes at 704-914-8138, email jhughes@gastongazette.com and follow on Twitter @JoeLHughesII.

This article originally appeared on The Shelby Star: Burns High football coach Ron Greene dies at age 71