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Some Memories of Seth Greenberg

The Bulls former men's basketball coach left an impression at USF that remains to this day. Mike Stuben shares some of his favorite "Greenie" moments.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Seth Greenberg was hired by USF right around the same time I started working for USF Athletics. I've seen Coach Greenberg a few times since he left USF, and had a chance to say hello again this past weekend at the Sun Dome as he came to town to support the fundraisers for B.B. Waldon, and figured this would be a good opportunity to share some of my favorite memories of Coach Greenberg and his time in Tampa.

To give a little historical perspective to the Seth Greenberg Era, remember his 108 wins are second most all-time behind only Bobby Paschal. He is one of only three coaches in Bulls history to have a winning career record (108-100), and USF made two postseason trips to the NIT during his tenure. Here's the most amazing thing to consider: he is the only USF MBB head coach to ever be a head coach for another game after leaving USF. Every other coach that's sat on the bench for USF saw their head coaching careers (at either NCAA Division I or NBA) die on Fowler Avenue. 

He certainly started out with a bang. The Bulls won the Greenberg opener over Ohio State and three of the first four. I remember so much optimism. Seth's kids made cute a banner that said USF = University of Seth Florida. That year I helped on press row and was given the job to hand the stats to Coach Greenberg at halftime. I learned quickly that you never make eye contact, head down. Coach was always intense. That first season would be the only losing record at USF under Greenberg.

Against Marquette that season USF set a standard of futility that we all embrace and smile about now. It wasn't a fun night as it happened, but Seth made it memorable. Mike Deane lead Marquette into the Sun Dome and the Bulls were on the wrong end of a 71-36 beat down. Deane called a time out in the closing moments of the game (breaking an unwritten rule about how to win with class). Seth spent most of the time out yelling at Deane for his classless move. After the game, the postgame presser was a classic: "Sometimes you're the dog. Sometimes you're the tree,'' Greenberg said. "Tonight, we were the tree. But believe me, we will be the dog some day and we will remember this night." From that moment on, all bad games USF has ever played have been compared to the "Dog and Tree Game."

Seth was a masterful recruiter. He had two monster classes early in his time at USF, and got many of the nation's top recruits to include USF in their final list of 3 or 4 schools. He was also a great interview and had a great media presence. It's no surprise to me that he's such a natural on TV. I remember we had a team that was horrible at shooting free throws and a reporter asked Seth about what he was doing to improve his team's free throw percentage since they were the worst in Conference USA. Seth looked at the camera and said, "Worst in Conference USA? Heck, we are worst in America! Next question."

Coach was often critical of the crowds we drew at USF. Even though I worked in ticket sales, I never took it as an attack on me, since I always believed that he knew I always wanted the best for USF and that I worked hard for the common goal. Coach decided he wanted more students at the games, so he asked Jason Loughren who was in charge of student attendance to find out what bar all the students went to on Thursday night. Jason came back with Good Fella's (currently the Casa Ramos restaurant in New Tampa). So Seth told Jason to meet him there at 9 p.m. to get students interested in going to basketball games. Jason was my roommate and quite frankly, I wasn't going to miss this spectacle, so I tagged along.

We're sitting at the bar and the place is dead. Maybe a dozen people there, a few might have been students. We didn't have the wrong bar, we were just there too early. Since Thursday was the first weekend night for students who never seemed to have Friday classes, the kids didn't get to the bar until 11 or later. Seth used to call me Savage, which came from a term former AD Paul Griffin coined for the sales staff, and he called Jason Dough Boy, which I can only assume he made up himself. So Coach rubbed the top of his forehead, looked at me and Jason and dropped this all-time classic: "Savage, Dough Boy, do you think Bobby Knight has to do this shit?" It took everything I had to not fall off my bar stool laughing. That was Coach, always intense.

Seth Greenberg never took USF to the promised land of the NCAA's, but he certainly raised the national profile of the basketball program, and he did it during the transitional period in USF history as we became a football school. Seth helped build USF up, and we can certainly say that the school is better off because he coached here. At the B.B. Waldon fundraiser you can see he clearly cared about his former players. I'm not sure if he will choose to coach again, but if he does, some school will be lucky to have him.