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Group picture of 2008 Escalante boys basketball team in red and white uniforms and superman shirts. Coaches stand on either side.

Coach Greg Allen: Recent Inductee to the Coach Hall of Honor

The players huddled, listening to their coach before the 2008 high school basketball state championship game. “I stayed up all night and thought through all the moves, like in chess, of how we would win this game,” said their coach, Greg Allen. “We will win it by 6 points. Now go out there and get it done.” With a minute and twenty seconds left in the fourth quarter, the boys called from the floor for Coach Allen to look at the clock. They were 8 points ahead and held it to win.

This is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of precious memories Coach Allen has about the 38 years he coached at Escalante and Piute high schools in Utah and St. John’s in Arizona. For his tireless efforts, he was recently nominated to be inducted into the Utah Athletics Coaches Association Hall of Honor, previously referred to as the Hall of Fame.

“I was hesitant to accept the nomination, believing that the recognition should be reserved for the team members. However, this is a testament to their achievements, so I am willing to receive it,” Coach Allen modestly shared, once again deflecting praise onto others.

Basketball isn’t the only sport Allen coached. When he was the baseball coach at Piute, they won the state championship. In addition, track coaches throughout southern Utah sent their pole vaulters to Coach Allen for training. In 2001 he was given the Distinguished Service Award. 

He is one of the kindest, biggest-hearted men you will ever meet, full of warmth and dad jokes.

Coach Allen put in the work. When he first started, he felt like he was in the 3rd grade playing against seniors. By the time he retired, his goal was that his boys would feel like they were playing a game against their younger brother.

Coach Allen’s commitment was unwavering. He and Brent Griffin meticulously scheduled tournaments and summer games across Utah and neighboring states, providing their boys invaluable experience. The majority of the 350,000+ miles on his truck’s odometer were accumulated on these journeys. 

And the effort paid off. The boys’ performance improved significantly from playing 40 games a year. Coaches Allen and Griffin also invested time in attending coaching clinics, observing and learning from the best in the field, and studying intricate details like footwork and play strategies.

“The ball gets passed into the baseline. The receiver catches the ball, takes one pivotal step to the left and shoots. I learned that at a clinic,” he said. “I can’t even count how many points we made off that one move.”

In one of their practice games, against 5A Jordan’s Beetdiggers, Escalante was ahead the entire game. In exasperation, South Jordan’s coach, who had expected a fun workout for his team, said during a time-out, “Do you know who these kids are? They are a bunch of hicks from a Podunk town. You can beat them!” 

The Beetdiggers squeaked ahead in the last few minutes to win by 2. The Salt Lake Tribune, when reporting on the game, said, “The Beetdiggers didn’t know where the Escalante Moquis came from, but now they do.”

In preparation for winning Escalante’s first championship game, Coach Allen made the boys commit to playing their role. Adam McInelly could repeatedly swish 3-point baskets from anywhere on the court, but in that game he didn’t shoot once. It wasn’t his role. The boys learned to trust Coach Allen, and it paid off. They won the state title in 2006, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, they lost in the first round at state by four points to the winner of the tournament, a private school that, rumor said, had recruited two players from other states.

After their 2008 win, Coaches Allen, Griffin and Karl Roundy were walking through the SUU Centrum tunnel carrying the trophy. Karl turned and said, “We’re going to win again next year.” And they did.

After Coach Allen won 20 games at state and lost only three, with three championships, he was accused of building a dynasty. “No, I just love these boys,” he said. “I feel like it’s been my calling.”

One of Coach Allen’s former players, Kevin Griffin, now coaches the Escalante High School team. Coach Allen also coached Kevin’s father, Brent, and his two brothers. They all feel like family. This year, when Escalante played against Whitehorse, Kevin’s assistant was out of town, so Kevin had invited his former coach to assist. Coach Allen’s quiet presence, insightful comments and encouraging words brought the boys around when they were upset and discouraged.

Kevin shared recently, “Whenever I am coaching, I refer back to what Greg taught me. The night before we played our first game at the state tournament this year, I went to Greg’s house for advice. His wise words of experience were just what I needed.”

The Utah Sports Heritage Organization recognized Coach Greg Allen on Monday, April 29, at a banquet at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City for “outstanding success in athletics, and influencing the young people under his tutelage, leading by example in promoting dedication, hard work, character development, and positive leadership.”

Congratulations, Coach. You are a true winner. Also thanks, Debbie Allen, for being the wind beneath his wings.

by Karen Munson

Karen M. Munson – Escalante

Karen is an associate editor at The Byway. She is fascinated and fulfilled by all things involved with writing. After graduating from BYU, she taught English at Escalante High School for three years. She pursues opportunities to write and support others in their writing. Karen has published three books with four more scheduled to be released in 2024. She and Reed are the parents of ten children and the grandparents of 35 grandchildren.

Karen is the author of two columns in The Byway, A New Twist on Healthy Mental Habits and Lyle’s Corner.