At his “real” job, Donta Green is executive director of the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, where he oversees a nonprofit trade school that provides life skills and training to individuals with barriers to employment.
In his spare time, Green is the head coach of the Westinghouse Bulldogs football team, which he recently helped lead on a miraculous run all the way to the state championship game — becoming the first City League school in 25 years to make it that far.
If he ever needs even more work, Green could always find himself a third job as a preacher or motivational speaker. After all, his pregame and postgame speeches have rapidly become the stuff of legend, from his masterful way with words to the magnetic nature in which he commands the undivided attention of everyone within earshot.
But as great as he is as a speaker, Green’s actions speak far louder than his words, and those actions led to a once-in-a-lifetime season for Westinghouse that may never be replicated. The Bulldogs won each of their first 14 games by no less than 19 points before falling to six-time defending champion Southern Columbia in the PIAA Class 2A finals, 37-22. They knocked off four district champions along the way, including eventual PIAA Class 1A champion Steelton-Highspire. And they did it all while playing a disciplined, team-oriented brand of football — a direct reflection of the no-nonsense culture instilled by Green from the moment he took over at his alma mater in 2019.
For all of these reasons, Green is our Coach of the Year for the 2022 season, as voted on by the Pittsburgh Union Progress sports staff. The PUP recently caught up with Green for one final conversation to reflect on Westinghouse’s remarkable run:
Q: What was your favorite memory from the season?
A: [Senior running back] Khalil Taylor has been a kid who we’ve been trying to get on track academically. I get the grades first before all the kids get them. The smile on his face when I told him he had made Honor Roll was priceless.
Q: At what point did you realize the team had a chance to do something special?
A: I got suspended for two games this year. The game that I got suspended, they were taking me off the field, and Taymir O’Neal and Roderick Jeter turned around, and they were like, “Don’t worry about it coach. We’ve got you.” We had played horrible until that point. When I was sitting in the back of the stadium watching my guys play, it was like they turned it up a notch. At that point I knew this was a special group.
Q: Can you take me back through the incident that caused you to be suspended? I know you didn’t agree with the punishment.
A: I actually never talked about this, but anybody who knows me knows I don’t curse. The referee said I cursed him out and made contact with a referee. After seeing the film, the referee, as I was walking to the [referee with the] white hat, another referee jumped in front of me and put his hand on my chest, and I kind of slid past him. And they told me that was grounds for kicking me out for two games. And I wasn’t allowed to appeal it, even though we had it on film.
Q: For those who don’t know, how long have you had this no-cursing policy, and why did you choose to apply it to the team?
A: About 11 years ago is when I started my spiritual journey. There were a few things that I vowed not to do and make changes in my life. My language was one of the worst attributes that I had at that time, so I knew I needed to make that change and change how I communicated with others. I knew the way I communicated with others affected other people. Once I realized how impactful words are, that moved me to change the way that I communicate now for my kids.
It doesn’t start off as cursing. It just starts off as hood slang and terminology. My kids weren’t able to turn it on and off. For me, I don’t want to hear it, and I wanted them to practice not using those words. … Especially for them after leaving high school and leaving their neighborhoods, that language isn’t even recognizable anywhere else. I just really wanted better for my guys.
Q: Who was an unsung hero of the team? Someone who didn’t get the credit they deserved.
A: Two people — Mike Richardson and Ty Abram. First of all, those kids never miss practice. They’re the most coachable kids. You never have to tell them to go harder. They’re really tough kids who always do their job. They’re the most consistent kids we’ve had.
Q: Most exciting game of the season?
A: Steel Valley. Just the atmosphere was crazy.
Q: Favorite chant?
A: “There’s a house, on the hill, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”
Q: Turning point of the season?
A: It was the third day of camp when everyone was sore and everyone was tired. We had the worst practice, and I actually brought them out on the field at like 11 p.m. at night. There were no lights, and we just worked out the whole night. I saw the guys really bond and really jell, and I think that was the turning point.
Q: Most memorable play of the season?
A: When Taymir O’Neal tackled [Steel Valley quarterback] Cruce Brookins as he was rolling out for a pass when Taymir blitzed. It was this great tackle for a loss of like 15 yards. I think at that point, I knew we had the game.
Q: Best part about the trip to states?
A: I think having dinner the night before the game. Just being able to spend all that time with our guys. We were together from 9 a.m. Thursday all the way to the end of the game Friday. That final dinner before lights out the night before the game.
Q: Where did you eat?
A: We ate in the hotel. My college roommate’s mom is from Harrisburg, and she made us this lasagna. It was amazing. It was becoming real that this was the last pregame, night-before meal that we were going to have together. Knowing this was our last game together with the seniors.
Q: What surprised you the most about this team?
A: Their resilience. They just never quit, man. Even throughout the season, there were so many different distractions and so many different barriers that we faced, but they never blinked, and they stayed committed, and they finished strong. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
Q: What will you miss the most about this team?
A: The personalities that we’re losing. I think the personalities made the journey enjoyable, especially over the last few years. Especially how silly those guys are — I’m going to miss seeing them being kids. They’re going to be adults. It’s just the different personalities and different characters. I think I’ll miss that the most.
Q: What do you think people will say when they talk about this Westinghouse team 50 years from now?
A: That was the Westinghouse team who kicked down the door and started the Westinghouse state championship run.