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Middle States

Remembering Tribit E. Green, Jr.

February 01, 2021

When Gertrude Green thinks about her late husband, Tribit, tennis often comes to mind.


“The sport was one of his greatest passions,” she said. “It was a challenge for him, but he loved that challenge. There were times that, outside of him, he really made it his life.”


Tribit E. Green, Jr. of Philadelphia passed away on September 27, 2020. The local coach, volunteer and community advocate was 78.


Described by friends as a great athlete since his youngest days, Green played quarterback for the Central State University football team in Ohio. His interest in competition and staying active eventually brought him to the tennis court, where he began to excel in his 20s. It led to many connections through local parks, facilities and the USTA’s National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network.


Gertrude said Tribit loved the lessons that tennis taught kids, and how the sport took people to new, unique places.


“He used to run tournaments in the city, and would have people coming from all areas to play,” she remembers. “When he ran camps in the city, they’d have hundreds of kids. He found ways to combine tennis with swimming, football, and arts and crafts. He always tried to make it free for anyone who needed the help.”

Tribit eventually became a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, which led him to become the head coach of the Rolling Owls wheelchair basketball team at Temple University. He also taught wheelchair tennis at Temple and the Awbury Park & Recreation Center.


“That’s one of the things he loved most: teaching wheelchair athletes,” said Gertrude, who married Tribit in 1989. “He considered them his family on the tennis court.”


Tribit’s time as a wheelchair basketball coach introduced him to Eddie Diggs, a successful basketball coach from Maryland. The two quickly became close friends, sharing experiences on the basketball court and in their personal lives. Diggs and Tribit stayed in touch, weekly, for two decades.

Diggs remembers Tribit as a great friend and motivator. 


“Whether it was basketball or tennis, he put all of himself into it,” said Diggs, who is well known as one of the most successful wheelchair basketball coaches in the sport. “He didn’t make it just about the game. It was about guiding his players in whatever they needed to be better in life. Many individuals were coming from broken situations, and he helped a lot of individuals find purpose and energy in their lives."


Tribit also met a long list of friends through tennis. Jerry Colston, a friend of Green’s who is also involved with tennis in Philadelphia, said he especially remembers Tribit’s impact on wheelchair athletes, kids, and many others with special needs.


“I’ll always remember how much it meant to him to help people,” Colston said. “He used tennis as a way to do that. He would always be on the courts, looking for people who could learn the sport and take joy in it. He brought a lot of positivity to our area.”


Another close friend, Edward Blackburn, echoed that thought. Blackburn was 18 and at a crossroads when he met Tribit on the tennis courts in North Philadelphia. He said Tribit helped him figure out a path to his professional career transitioning into adulthood.


The list of friendships goes on and on. One of Gertrude’s favorite stories is how Green met late Temple basketball coach John Chaney.


“Tribit taught him to play tennis,” she said with a laugh. “And that helped him get connected to a job down at Temple.”


Tribit’s name won’t be known on a national scale, but in the Philadelphia area, he was part of a community looking to make the city — and the sport of tennis — better.


“He was a giving person who had a big heart,” Gertrude said. “He would help anyone who needed it.”


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