When Sam Greiner went to teach his weightlifting classes at Hickory Ridge School Thursday morning, he said, everything was fine. He was closing out the final days of his first year on the Harrisburg campus, where he also coached the football team.
By the afternoon, things were much different.
When Greiner left the school that day, he was no longer the Ragin’ Bulls’ coach.
Greiner abruptly resigned Thursday after a meeting with Hickory Ridge Principal Shaun Poole and athletics director Phil Furr. Greiner declined to go into detail about what prompted his decision, but he said he was certain this was the right move.
“It’s time for the Hickory Ridge football team to go in a different direction,” Greiner said. “I think it’s best that they have a new leader, and I just decided to resign.
“We had a great spring and everything was going great. I just took a look at the situation and the reality and said, ‘They need some else to lead them.’”
Attempts to reach Furr were unsuccessful.
Greiner finished his only season with a 5-6 record, although the team was forced to forfeit the final two games of the regular season after a fracas broke out on the sidelines during a game at East Mecklenburg. Several players were suspended, and the Bulls effectively were eliminated from playoff contention.
It was a surprising ending for Hickory Ridge, which had reached the Class 4A state semifinals the year before under then-coach Jason Seidel.
Greiner, though, was considered a shining star in the coaching industry when he arrived at Hickory Ridge. He was heavily pursued by many programs after leading Charlotte’s Harding University High to the state title in 2017, but he said he chose Hickory Ridge because it would allow him and his family to remain in its Matthews home and because the Bulls had enormous potential.
On Thursday, though, things clearly had changed.
“It was literally all of a sudden,” Greiner said. “(Thursday morning) I had no ambition to resign or anything. But as of (Thursday afternoon), I couldn’t do anymore. I couldn’t. Out of nowhere, it hit me in the head. It was kind of amazing how it came out of nowhere.
“(Poole and Furr) understood why,” Greiner said when asked of the administrators’ reaction to his resignation. “Ever since last year ending the way it ended – even when I didn’t think that we did anything wrong, rules are rules – I think there was a persona that comes with me that some people don’t get.”
Greiner said he was misunderstood during his stay in Cabarrus County, where he went 2-2 against the local programs.
“They think I’m arrogant, when I’m not,” Greiner said. “I don’t demean the kids, I don’t curse kids. I want them to be great, because I believe they were made to be great, and I want them to be confident in themselves. Sometimes when you do that, people might look at you from afar and think that you’re a bad guy or you’re cocky or something like that. I’m not. I’m nothing like that. I’m only confident in my guys, and I want them to carry themselves knowing that they’re great.
“I’m not the type of coach that just wants to win anywhere from eight to 10 games a year, just have a solid winning record,” he continued. “I’m a guy that wants to win all of it every time, or I’m not going to be in it. If I feel like I can’t help a program win a state championship or a conference championship or the county championship, if I don’t see that I can help (a team), then I don’t need to be there.”
Greiner said he pushed his players to reach heights the might’ve once thought unattainable, adding that he put everything possible into his job.
“I’m not the type of person to have just an easygoing job,” he said. “I’m trying to build treasures that last forever. I want to be able to see kids grow spiritually, physically and emotionally with their brothers. It’s not about wins and losses; it’s an attitude that goes with it. And everybody’s got to be 100 percent on board.
“We’re not breaking rules, we’re not doing anything wrong,” Greiner added. “But it’s an attitude of how you want to play the game, because it needs to be played a certain way. And sometimes I didn’t feel we were going to have that ability to do that – not because of our athletes but because of the situation. So I just wanted to move on and say that it’s best that I resign.”
At the end of the school day, Greiner said, he met with his players. He said he wanted them to get the news directly from him.
It was an emotional setting.
“We all cried together,” Greiner said. “No one really understands why. I really didn’t have an answer for them, either. I just told them that I love them and there was nothing else I can do.”
Greiner said he doesn’t know exactly where he will go from here. He said he still wants to be a head coach, perhaps as early as next season.
“If someone wants me and everything that I bring to the table, and it makes sense, I would definitely do that,” Greiner said. “If not, I’m OK with it as well. If it were the right fit and someone wanted me to be a coordinator for a year, I’d be willing to do that. Or if God doesn’t want me to coach and wants me to enjoy my family, I can do that, too.
“A coach is not what defines me; it’s what lives inside me that defines me. And I want to be able to just do that anywhere I’m at. And I felt like sometimes I couldn’t do that.”