Debbie Hoskins Green is coming back to Harlan County as the new leader of the Harlan County Lady Bears.
Green was named the interim coach for the girls basketball team on Friday by Harlan County High School Principal Edna Burkhart.
“We’ve hired Debbie Green as the interim coach and her husband, Elgie, as an assistant until the position can be posted,” Burkhart said. “She will run the summer program so we can keep the girls on track.”
“It’s exciting because it’s home to me,” said Green before her first official practice session on Monday. “Even though I’m a Harlan city girl, I’m a a Harlan County girl, too. There have been so many great players come through Cumberland and Evarts and Cawood and now Harlan County. I hope I can carry on that tradition. There is something different about Harlan County girls.”
“She has roots in Harlan County,” Burkhart said. “Her parents still live here, and her daughter, Blair, will be here at Harlan County High School.”
Green was an all-state forward at Harlan as a senior in 1987, leading the Lady Dragons to their first 13th Region Tournament title. She played for the Kentucky All Stars that summer in the series against Indiana after signing with the University of Kentucky.
After leaving UK midway through her freshman year, Green went on to Lincoln Memorial University and starred with the Lady Railsplitters, earning NAIA All-American honors three times. She is still the school’s all-time leading scorer and spent two seasons as an assistant coach under Roger Vannoy.
She spent nine years as girls coach at Middlesboro High School and led the Lady Jackets to five 51st District titles. Green stepped down as head coach after nine years to be an assistant as her husband, Elgie, took over the program. She spent 10 years as an assistant. The Lady Jackets won three All “A” Classic regional titles under the Greens. Green coached the middle school team at Middlesboro for the past 22 years.
Green moves into one of the region’s top programs at Harlan County. The Lady Bears were the 13th Region runner up three times in the first six years of the program under the direction of Anthony Nolan, whose status is uncertain, according to Burkhart, who declined to elaborate because it is a personnel issue.
Even though Green wasn’t ready to discuss plans for her starting lineup during summer basketball, it would appear that four spots are solid.
Bella Noe, who started at wing last year but also played the point quite a bit, is the likely starter at point guard after a strong junior season. Lindsay Branson, a junior who was the sixth man last season, will likely start at guard or forward. Freshman Kaylea Gross, who saw extensive action last year backing up Shannon Shackleford, will probably take over at center after strong junior varsity and freshman campaigns.
“There is so much potential at each spot,” Green said. “You have size, speed and length. You have good guard play and good shooters. You have a lot of combinations. We just want them to come together. The sky is the limit for this team.”
Another lock for the lineup is 6-1 freshman Blair Green, who can play guard or forward. Green started the past two years for the Middlesboro varsity squad and is among the state’s top-ranked freshman and a Division I recruit.
There are numerous other candidates for starting jobs, including senior guards Lauren Smith and Bridgette Bennett, sophomore center Kaitlin Evans, freshman guards Rebecca Middleton and Noah Canady, sophomore guard Hannah Gaw and eighth-grade forward Breann Turner.
“We’ll try to get everyone on the same page over the summer,” Green said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they deserve the best. I’m sure they have high expectations for me and I do for them.”
“Even though we lost some good seniors we have some very good players coming back, and we’re looking for a good season this year,” Burkhart said.
Green said it was also too early for her to determine the style the Lady Bears would play.
“They’ve been a patient team that likes to run sets,” Green said. “I think we’ll be able to get up and down the floor a little more. Our style has always been up-tempo with a lot of pressing. I hope we can do that because our big kids can run, and you don’t always have that with big kids. We’ll see what works best this summer. We have to fill some gaps and get a rotation going. I’ve been impressed with the dedication I’ve seen.”