By Bob Castello
Two weeks into Greg Porter’s latest assignment as the head of Greenville High’s football program, he was already in full-speed-ahead mode.
“We want Greenville High School to be special,” he said. “It’s the epicenter of this city. Why shouldn’t this be the best program in the Upstate?
“Let’s not be afraid to say what we want to accomplish. It sets us on our destiny.”
Porter, 50, has never been afraid of failure. If that were the case, he never would have taken the job as football coach at Southside High School, and he never would have followed that by taking over the program at Hillcrest High School.
“He took two programs that when he inherited them were not very good programs, and he took one all the way to the state championship and won it,” Greenville athletic director Steve Scolamiero said.
In 2008, Porter’s first season at Southside, he led the Tigers to a 7-5 record — their best in 21 years — and the second round of the playoffs.
But that was an appetizer for what he did at Hillcrest, a school that had one playoff victory before he arrived in 2010.
In nine seasons, during which Porter became Hillcrest’s winningest football coach, he led the Rams to a 65-45 record, three region titles, and one state title. This past season, they were 5-5, yet still very competitive in the state’s toughest Class AAAAA region.
“The school had been open for 52 years, and we had won just over 200 games,” Hillcrest athletic director Tommy Bell said. “That’s about 3.8 wins a year for the first  years of existence. That’s where we were as a football program. We’re going through a stretch here where the kids that are in our program now, they think the worst Hillcrest team that there’s ever been was 5-5.
“Everything on our end was really, really positive with him.”
And yet, Porter said there was frustration on his end.
“I was a finalist for eight different jobs, from Summerville to Wilson,” Porter said. “I just said, ‘I’m going to stop, because it looks like I’m unhappy at Hillcrest.’ I just thought that when you win a state championship, there are opportunities to grow and develop. It was never about gaining money. That’s a byproduct of it, but I just thought there were some things that come with winning it.
“I had to refocus. I had to step back and say, ‘Why do I coach?’ It’s not to chase championships. I love working with kids and developing them. And when I got at peace with that, when I started working on that for the next two or three years, then the opportunity finally came.”
It’s a return to Greenville High for Porter, who teaches science and was chosen as the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2006-07. (He forfeited the honor when he accepted a position at Byrnes High School.). He also was Teacher of the Year at Sevier Middle School, his first stop in the Upstate.
Porter said he wasn’t looking for another job when Greenville contacted him. David Crane, the offensive coordinator under Jim Sosebee during Porter’s previous season at Greenville, had accepted the head coaching position at his alma mater, Seneca, after a successful five-year run.
Porter said he has great memories from Hillcrest — the players, the “brotherhood,” the pep rallies, principals (Bryan Skipper and the late Steve Chamness) who “understand football coaches.”
But he’s just as appreciative of his new opportunity, his latest challenge.
“I’m just going to build off of what David Crane built,” Porter said. “He’s passing me the baton. It’s my time to run. ‘What’s unique about my type of leadership, guys? I’ve been where you want to go, and that’s the state championship.'”