Fast-break approach to becoming a coach


Brett Greenberg has a 4.0 grade point average at the McDonogh School and made a perfect score on the math SAT, so it is easy to envision a future for him in law, medicine, business or any field.

But he wants to be a basketball coach.

"I love the game," said Greenberg, a senior who lives in Owings Mills.

With the help of a cutting-edge digital film system used by some college and pro teams to review games and practices, he already has embarked on his coaching career.

At 18, he is a manager and de facto assistant for the men's team at Villa Julie College, which plays in the NCAA's Division III.

Greenberg said he thought he was "the only high school kid in the country" helping coach a college team, but Kay Hawes, NCAA assistant director of media relations, said she couldn't confirm that.

"I will say it certainly is an unusual situation," Hawes said.

Greenberg's responsibilities include breaking down practice and game tapes using the digital computer system. He uses "hot buttons" to label each play by the offensive and defensive sets being run, as well as the result and other factors such as rebounds and turnovers.

Then instead of wading through the tape to find what he wants to review, Villa Julie coach Brett Adams can just click on the hot button, bringing up every example in chronological order.

Greenberg, who attends most Villa Julie games, including those on the road, also keeps complicated statistics on the bench during games and offers his insights to Adams.

"His knowledge is phenomenal," Adams said. "Brett is a very bright young man who will have a lot of options and opportunities in life, but he is really committed to going down this road."

Greenberg has worked at University of Virginia coach Pete Gillen's summer camp, spent a day with retired UCLA legend John Wooden and lunched with Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy.

In his second year on the Villa Julie sidelines, he keeps notebooks filled with basketball ideas and philosophies.

"I'm always saying, 'When I have my team, these are the [offensive and defensive] things I'm going to run,' " he said.

The NCAA didn't think Greenberg's dream was so cute when he petitioned the organization to be a manager at Villa Julie before last season. The NCAA said he could do it only if he gave up the last two years of his high school playing eligibility and all four years of his college eligibility.

The organization said it couldn't allow other programs to lure top recruits by offering to make them managers while still in high school.

"I could see their point," Greenberg said.

Adams gulped when he heard the NCAA's demands. He is friendly with Greenberg's father, David Greenberg, a real estate developer - they play in the same pickup game - and they came up with the idea of having Brett assist Adams.

"I actually tried to talk Brett out of it when I heard what the NCAA wanted," Adams said. "I know Brett's parents, and I hated to see him give up so soon on the idea of playing."

But Greenberg, who is 6 feet 2, could feel his playing career nearing an end after playing for McDonogh's junior varsity as a sophomore. His talents on the court did not measure up to his passion for the game.

"I probably could have walked on to the varsity, but I'm looking big picture," he said. "This [coaching] is what I want to do, so why not get started? I don't think I could play in college. I'm going to get much more out of this."

He still gets his socks sweaty in a young adult rec league, which he said is "enough."

As a young boy, his love of the game was nurtured by his father, a voracious pickup player with Washington Wizards season tickets; and also by his grandfather, Bill Lewis, a longtime coach and athletic director at Baltimore City high schools, now retired.

David Greenberg, who coached his son in the Pikesville Rec Council, said, "Brett was never a star, but he was always directing the other people on the court."

Once Greenberg decided to work the sidelines rather than the court, a grandmother living in New York arranged a meeting with Van Gundy, ex-coach of the NBA's New York Knicks. The grandmother worked in a store where Van Gundy's wife shopped.

"He was very helpful, and actually, he told me about all this new [digital] technology I could get in on," Greenberg said.

Adams, also interested in the technology, decided to buy the software. The Greenbergs purchased the necessary laptop.

Adams and Greenberg then went to a Charlottesville, Va., tutoring session put on by the head of the software company.

"We're still getting used to it," Adams said, "and we're just at the tip of the iceberg."

Once Greenberg really knows the system, he will be able to burn a DVD for each player covering only his time on the court, Adams said

Greenberg experienced a more old-fashioned, if rare, coaching highlight when he met Wooden in August. Greenberg had read one of the former UCLA coach's books and wrote to say how much it inspired him. Wooden wrote back, inviting him to visit.

Greenberg and his father flew to Los Angeles and spent an afternoon with Wooden.

"I thought we were going to talk X's and O's, but it turned out to be a lot more," Greenberg said. "He talked about life. He read poems some of his former players had written. It was an amazing day."

David Greenberg said he is impressed with the coaching knowledge his son is gathering.

"I'm a pretty sophisticated fan," David Greenberg said, "but Brett is way past me now."

During Villa Julie's practices and games, Greenberg's conversation is filled with advanced terminology such as the "1-4 high set," the "Maryland flex" and "denying the flash pivot."

After practice and games, he uses the laptop to break down the tape. Villa Julie is one of three Division III schools using the system, which is so new some NBA teams don't have it.

"You always hear about young people having dreams," David Greenberg said, "but Brett is really trying to pursue it."

He is debuting as a head coach this season in Pikesville rec's 11-12 league, and wherever he goes to college - Virginia, Penn, Duke and Maryland are his finalists - he hopes to find a place in the basketball program, starting as a video specialist.

"I think I'm going to be prepared when my time comes," Greenberg said. "I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I'm really looking forward to it."

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