Greenberg was born on April 18th, 1956, in Queens, but he was raised in Plainview.
He came from a basketball family, so his love of basketball began at an early age, and he ended up playing point guard at Plainview's John F. Kennedy High School, and then went on to a college career at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He started his coaching career as an assistant at Columbia University immediately after his playing days concluded in 1978, and worked his way up the coaching ladder, eventually nabbing his first head coaching job at Long Beach State University in 1990. He compiled a 105-70 record in 7 seasons there, including NCAA tournament appearances in 1993 and 1995. Greenberg moved on to the University of South Florida in 1996, and then to Virginia Tech in 2003. His impact was felt immediately in Blacksburg, as the Hokies improved in each of his first three seasons, reaching the NIT in 2005 and the NCAA tournament in 2007. That same 2006-2007 team was the first Virginia Tech squad to ever spend time atop the ACC standings. This year's team finished 4th in the ACC after being picked 10th by the pre-season pollsters.
Of course, Coach Greenberg’s numerous accomplishments stretch far beyond basketball. He served as chairman of the committee which organized All Coaches Care.com, an online auction which raised money for Habitat for Humanity - money that went towards rebuilding efforts on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. He is also a supporter of numerous other important causes, such as Coaches vs. Cancer, the American Heart Association, and the Boys and Girls club. Greenberg has also been an integral part of the rebuilding effort at Virginia Tech following the shootings that took place there in April of 2007. He has a wife named Karen, and three daughters named Paige, Ella, and Jacqueline. His successes as a person and as a basketball coach should make any Long Islander proud to know that L.I. is where Greenberg got his start.
Coach Greenberg corresponded with Longislandbasketball.com recently about his childhood on L.I. and how that influenced his basketball career:
Longislandbasketball.com: How old were you when you started playing basketball?
Greenberg: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing basketball. I was raised with a ball in my hand. My dad played for the legendary Clair Bee at LIU. My father introduced the game to me. He had great passion for the game. He played at the famed Thomas Jefferson HS in NYC. I was born into the game, going in to Madison Square Garden to watch doubleheaders and Holiday Festivals. There was never a time when I wasn’t around the game. I was born into that environment. My Mom used to hang out the window and shoot shots, out of the second floor window.
LIBB.com: When did you first start playing on an organized team, and what team was it?
Greenberg: As a seventh grader, I played freshman basketball. I also played PAL at a young age. Because I was the youngest of three, I was always the guy that would tag along and get included in and get a game. My basketball education was going to the park. I remember watching my Dad play with all-time greats like Sid Tannenbaum and Sherman White. Also, hanging out with my brothers, trying to get into a game.
LIBB.com: What are your most vivid memories of basketball before your High School
Greenberg: As an eighth grader, we were playing our arch rivals and I knocked down a game winner from about 28-30 feet.
LIBB.com: Were you always the best player on your team, or did that come later?
Greenberg: I have probably never been the best player on my team, because, as a sophomore, I was on a team with my brother, Brad, who was maybe one of the top two or three players on Long Island. I got brought up to the varsity at the end of my freshman year, but I never played. As a sophomore I started in the back court with my brother. My job was to inbound the ball to Brad, who was one of the leading scorers on Long Island. My senior year, I played with a guy named Marc Iavaroni, who ended up a seven or eight year NBA veteran and is now the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. The best player I ever played with was my brother, Brad. The best player I ever saw from Long Island was Julius Erving.
LIBB.com: When did you start practicing daily, and what made you start?
Greenberg: There isn’t a time when I don’t remember working on my game. We had a court on the side of our house. We’d shovel the snow and continue to get up shots. We had lights on it. We played in the daytime, the night time, the afternoon, really, any time. If you drove it right, you’d get knocked into the wall, if you drove it left, you got knocked into the fence. You just kept on playing.
LIBB.com: Do you still keep in touch with any of the players or coaches on any of the youth teams you played on growing up?
Greenberg: I stay in very close contact with a number of my former high school teammates, as well as my high school coaches. They are all a part of my support system. My high school coach, Irwin Stewart, who is now retired, had a great effect on me. Not just in terms of basketball, but helping me grow and mature and develop. He gave me an outlet for my passion, which was obviously playing the game.
LIBB.com: What colleges recruited you and why did you choose the one you ended up attending?
Greenberg: I got recruited by Penn State, Lehigh and some others, but I chose Fairleigh Dickinson because the basketball coach there, Al LoBalbo, was a good guy and a great teacher. I knew I wanted to coach and I knew I wanted to play for a great coach. Some kids wanted to be doctors and lawyers; there wasn’t a time when I did not want to coach. Even though I majored in communications, I really majored in coaching.
[LoBalbo] was a Bobby Knight disciple. My first college practice was unique because Coach LoBalbo was very theatrical. He lined us all up the first day. He came walking down the stairs and kind of walked in front of us, back and forth, with a big, old cigar in his mouth. He said he wanted us to like him, not to love him, because loving leads to screwing and no one screws with Al LoBalbo.
LIBB.com: What coach did you learn the most from?
Greenberg: I learned from them all. Being involved with the Five Star Basketball Camp, I learned from the Hubie Brown’s, the Chuck Daly’s, the Rick Pitino’s. Playing for a great coach like Coach LoBalbo, I learned his philosophies, along with Coach Knight’s. I was a gym rat as a player and a coaching rat as a coach. I’m always asking questions and trying to improve myself.
LIBB.com: What was your first coaching experience?
Greenberg: My first college coaching experience was at Columbia University. Before I graduated college, I was fortunate enough to be a graduate assistant at Fordham for a couple of months under Tom Penders, who is today a very dear friend. After that I got a full-time job at Columbia. That was a great learning experience because when you are dealing with the Ivy Leagues, you really had to work and had to recruit.
LIBB.com: How did your first team do?
Greenberg: My first team at Long Beach State struggled. We were a young basketball team, we were a team in transition. We had a very good team the year before, but the heart and soul of that team graduated. I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to be a head coach. Now, looking back, I could have done a lot of things to make that transition smoother, but that’s all part of the process of learning who you are.
LIBB.com: What’s your favorite coaching memory?
Greenberg: There are so many. Winning at Kansas when they were number-one in the country, defeating Carolina when they were number-one in the country. Winning at Duke, at the Dean Dome. Probably the best was my first NCAA Tournament team at Long Beach State, knocking off UNLV and then New Mexico State to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. They were a group that worked extremely hard and had been through a lot. It was the culmination of learning the how’s and why’s of my trade and then applying them.
LIBB.com: What do you think sets you apart as a coach?
Greenberg: My passion for my players, my passion for the game and my commitment to my players.
LIBB.com: There were over 40 Long Island boys playing D1 college basketball last season. Does that number surprise you?
Greenberg: No. There has always been good basketball on the Island. There have been terrific coaches and teachers. Long Island has a rich basketball tradition. Virginia Tech is a place that would be very attractive to kids from Long Island. We need players that can compete in the ACC. If there is an ACC player out there from Long Island, we’d love to recruit him.
LIBB.com: What’s your favorite place on Long Island?
Greenberg: Jones Beach. I remember, as a kid, going to Jones Beach and just relaxing. My second favorite is the old Prospect Park, where we used to play all the time. That’s where all the best games were. Long Island was a great place to grow up. My Mom lives in Manhattan, so the only time I really get back to Long Island is during the recruiting period. It’s a very special place and a great place to raise a family. [I miss] the friendships that I developed, the people.
LIBB.com: How would you advise someone who wants to get into coaching?
Greenberg: Get a lobotomy. Follow your heart and if you really want to go into it, you have to develop a network. You are going to have to make tremendous amounts of sacrifices. Everyone sees ESPN, CBS and ABC, but it took me 50 years to become an overnight sensation. It’s truly demanding and truly competitive, but if it’s something you truly love, then follow your heart.