Posted 06/08/2010 at 06:12 PM
Orien Greene always seemed to have a lot in common with Vernon Maxwell. Both hailed from Gainesville, both garnered Mr. Basketball honors in the state of Florida and both stayed home to play for the Gators, spurning nearly every other major program in the country.
Maxwell, with the help of fellow M&M Boy Andrew Moten, led UF to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1987. The Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 and if not for Rony Seikaly's best career game, who knows how far the late Stormin' Norman Sloan's Gators would've advanced in the '87 Tourney? (Indiana eventually beat the 'Cuse in the Big Easy on Keith Smart's unforgettable baseline jumper.)
Maxwell would eventually test positive for cocaine on multiple occasions, link up with an agent prematurely and get all of his school records stripped from the annals of UF hoops history. He would also prove to be a deadbeat Dad and, last time I checked, Mad Max was in jail doing time.
Greene's two years at UF ended in NCAA Tourney appearances, but that had become the norm by the time he landed on campus. During his freshman season, Greene showed great size and athleticism and was a solid defender. However, he couldn't buy a bucket, including a missed lay-up at the buzzer that would've beaten Vandy while I was in the stands at the O-Dome.
There were whispers that Greene was still running with some hanger-ons from high school. There were rumors that he was unhappy with his playing time and role on the team. There was a prevailing notion that Greene's lack of offensive numbers had his family and friends pushing him to transfer. No matter what happened against Creighton in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, Greene's days as a Gator might have been numbered anyway.
But by the time the final horn sounded on the Bluejays' stunning upset win over Florida in double overtime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Terrell Taylor, there was ZERO doubt that Greene was a goner.
Florida had the ball and had a two-point lead with 28 seconds remaining in the second extra session. The Gators also had three timeouts remaining, something Billy Donovan made clear to Greene as he was about to inbound the ball on the baseline.
Moments later, Greene elected not to call a timeout or throw the ball in, resulting in an inexplicable five-second call. Alas, Greene had left three timeouts in his pocket for no reason whatsoever.
You know the rest of the story. On the next possession, Creighton won on a memorable shot before the horn, while Donovan was left answering questions afterward.
I'll never forget his quote that had to sting Greene. "That play will baffle me for the rest of my coaching days. You'll have to ask Orien what he was thinking because I have absolutely no idea."
Orien wasn't thinking again recently. He's been banned from playing overseas after getting caught altering a urine sample while playing for a pro team in Amsterdam.
Greene indeed did transfer from UF to UL-Lafayette, where he led the Ragin' Cajuns to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. He went on to play briefly for three NBA teams before going overseas.
Perhaps the comparison to Maxwell is a bit harsh? Maybe Greene's a good guy who just makes poor decisions? I don't know the answers to those questions for sure.
I just know that he's still got those three timeouts in his pocket. And more than eight years later, Billy D and I are still baffled by that mind-boggling factoid.