Seth Greenberg joined ESPN in 2012 as a college basketball analyst, bringing 35 years of coaching experience to the job. He appears on various platforms, most often as a game or studio analyst, and is a regular on SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and ESPNU. Greenberg posted a record of 383-293 in his 22 years as a head coach at Long Beach State, South Florida and Virginia Tech and secured 11 postseason appearances. He led the Virginia Tech Hokies for nine seasons (2003 – 2012), where he was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year and reached the postseason six times. He is second on the school’s all-time wins list with 170-123 record. Seth was gracious enough to sit down with us and here is his Y1 on 1:
What have you learned from sports that have helped you most in life?
Sports taught me a number of things. How to interact with others and be part of something bigger than yourself. They taught me how to be a teammate and how to work for the good of the group. How to deal with adversity and persevere and that adversity reveals character. Sports helps mold the competitive spirt that helps one be successful in everyday life.
Who helped guide you on your path to become a college athlete? Do you have a mentor that sticks out?
My high school basketball coach and my parents helped guide me throughout my athletics career. They held me accountable and didn't enable me. They were supportive but taught me life’s lessons through sports. My parents instilled the work ethic needed to be successful in sports and in life. They taught me there were no shortcuts and that you get what you earn and how to compete. My high school coach taught me how to lead and be a great teammate. That setting the example was important but also finding a way to connect with others because if no one follows you, how can you lead?
What is the greatest moment(s) in your sports career, and what do you recall most about it?
I have always had the philosophy that the next play or the next game was the most important and any time my team or an individual player responded to adversity was key. This was best exemplified with my Long Beach State team when we got blown out at VCU on the road and then had to turn around and play #1 Kansas two days later. Playing in historic Phog Allen Field House we played our best game of the year and beat a team that eventually made it to the Final Four. The other moments are when you help a player get somewhere he didn't think he could get to. Helping a player see the best in themselves is what coaching is all about.
Were there any pivotal memories from your time as an athlete, that shaped your journey?
Five Star Basketball Camp changed my life. I can vividly recall the first time I heard Hubie Brown speak and thinking, this is what I want to do! The impact of his words and the passion he had to impact others inspired me. Five Star and Howard Garfinkel gave me a platform to learn how to teach and the network to follow my dreams. My college coach, Al LoBalbo, also had an impact in shaping my coaching philosophy. Coach Lo actually coached Hubie Brown and was an assistant to Coach Bob Knight. His attention to detail and his commitment to knowing how he wanted to play no doubt impacted me. Almost everyday his voice impacted my coaching.
Specializing is such a hot topic in youth sports. Would you advise youth athletes to play multiple sports or focus on only one?
Depends on the age. If I were to advise parents I would recommend to expose their children to all sports at a young age and then they will eventually gravitate to their passion. You can't fall in love with a sport if you are not exposed to it. Team sports teaches social skills while individual sports teaches a greater accountability. As a coach I always liked point guards that had played some QB as they understood how to lead. You can't play QB unless people will follow you. I do think it all depends on your level. If you have the potential to be exceptional at a particular sport (be a scholarship athlete), then by your freshman year you should specialize but if you are an all-around athlete that enjoys the total sports experience, why specialize. Summer and AAU is so big in all sports it is hard to be committed to more than one sport.
What specific advice do you have for youth athletes?
Simple as: you get what you earn! It is not as easy as it looks. Every level you move up is significant and there is an adjustment and transition period. Every level you move up playing…hard is redefined. Don't get caught up in the hype and ratings as they don't earn you playing time. What earns you playing time is your play!
You won 383 games over your college basketball coaching career at Long Beach State, South Florida and Virginia Tech, a phenomenal accomplishment! Any special players or games that stand out?
I don’t like to single out any one player because I appreciate them all. They all gave of themselves for me and our team. What we accomplished at Virginia Tech was special though, because we inherited the worst program in the Big East and in our first year made the Big east Tournament. Something the school had never accomplished. The following year we transitioned to the ACC and in our first year, despite being picked for last, we came in 4th and had a run where we finished in the top four and were the third winningest program in the ACC over a five year period. Having taken LBSU to multiple NCAA tournaments was something that resonates with me. The players we had at LBSU helped revive a rich basketball tradition and createed an energy that helped the university raise the money to build a new on-campus facility.
Is there anything on your journey through playing, coaching and now as a lead analyst at ESPN for college basketball that you would have changed or done differently?
I have been very fortunate to have had the journey I’ve had and don't take that for granted. I am very lucky to have had mentors and friends along the way that invested their time and experiences to help me. I have few regrets. I have a great family and a lifetime of memories made possible by great friends, assistant coaches and players that allowed me into their lives. My only regret would be the players I was unable to touch or reach like the coaches that touched and impacted my life.
You've interviewed some of the greatest in the game. Who are the most memorable?
I would not want to single out any one coach but at a time when I would need a mentor, Terry Holland was there for me. I can say there are very few major decisions I have made in my adult life that I didn't consult Coach Holland on.
Outside of sports, what are some of your other interests?
My family. I am fortunate to have an understanding family that supported me in my journey. But I do enjoy golf and the beach…but even those, without family, aren't the same.
Do you take part in any philanthropic endeavors or work with any charities that you would like to share with our readers?
I lost my father to cancer and have been involved with a number of cancer organizations
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