Lonnie Greene had some big shoes to fill when he took over the Kentucky track and field program in May 2018 after a successful stint as Purdue’s head coach. Edrick Floreal, who left Kentucky to take the Texas job, had transformed the Cats into a national contenders over the course of his six years.
When Greene arrived, he promised he would maintain the high standard for success.
“I think Coach Flo did a great job of coming out of the gate and doing some great things,” Greene said in his introductory press conference. “I believe that I can pick up where he left off and continue to grow this. I believe that you can win here.”
Greene has done just that as he now leads his teams into the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, which are Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas. UK will have 22 entrants in the meet, with 11 from each from the men’s and women’s squads.
Greene came to Lexington with his own set of catchphrases, including “Make it do what it do,” which went on the team’s T-shirts for the SEC outdoor championships. He said the saying comes from a scene from the biopic “Ray,” where Ray Charles is negotiating with a music executive for the rights to his master recordings.
“That just stuck with me,” Greene said. “And so, usually when I’m trying to motivate young people I try to do it in a serious way, but in a very jovial way, as well. And so I thought, over the years I’ve just used that term, ‘make it do what it do.’ I might say (other) things like ‘peanut butter and corn flakes,’ or I might say ‘jingle bells.’ Those are just terms I use. … It’s about motivating young people.”
Junior Ellen Ekholm, who is the Southeastern Conference’s high jump champion and was named to the league’s community service team, borrowed Greene’s signature phrase when describing the coach’s message to the team on what needs to happen for UK to be successful in Austin.
“Make it do what it do,” Ekholm said. “Like we put on a T-shirt. Just go out and do what we need to do and what we’re capable of doing and just that he believes that we can do it. And as long as we believe it, too, we’ll be good.”
Ekholm also discussed how much Greene tries to instill confidence in the group.
“I think every meeting that we have he tries to make sure that we all really understand that the entire team, we all support each other,” she said, “and he supports us and he really just wants all of us to succeed.”
Where: Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas