New women’s basketball coach brings motivating skills, dazzling court record
By Brian Fitzgerald
Expect the BU women’s basketball team to take a lot of shots this season. While new coach Kelly Greenberg’s philosophy isn’t exactly “bombs away,” she says you’ll rarely see the shot clock run out on the Terriers.
Indeed, her teams at the University of Pennsylvania, where she coached for five years, were never guilty of a shot-clock violation.
“Basketball can be a fun game if all five players on the team love to score,” says Greenberg. “As much as you talk about the importance of defense, you have to put points on the board. And you can’t put points on the board if you don’t put the ball up there.”
Her up-tempo strategy has worked wonders in the past. Greenberg, who succeeds Margaret McKeon at BU, launched a complete turnaround of the women’s basketball program at Penn five years ago. In the 1999-2000 season, her first as head coach, the Quakers posted their first winning record in eight years. And only a year later, the team went a perfect 14-0 in Ivy League play, won a school-record 22 games, captured the league title, and earned the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid. Last year, with 17 victories, she brought the team back to the Big Dance.
Greenberg began her coaching career in 1989 at Northeastern, and went on to serve on the coaching staff at George Washington (1990-1991), the University of Rhode Island (1991-1992), and Holy Cross (1992-1999). During her seven seasons at Holy Cross, the Crusaders made four trips to the NCAA tournament and won six Patriot League championships. “She has a proven track record of success at a number of high-quality institutions and clearly will help to raise the bar for our team,” says Athletics Director Mike Lynch. “We look forward to a bright future for our women’s basketball program under her leadership.”
Greenberg says she took the BU job “because of the positive direction of BU as a whole, and especially the direction of the BU athletic program. The new arena and fitness and recreation center signal a sincere commitment to athletics.” The 6,200-seat Agganis Arena, which is expandable to 7,200, will host its first game — men’s hockey — on January 3. However, this season the men’s and women’s basketball teams will both play there, against Vermont on February 12 and against Northeastern on February 20. “It will be thrilling to play at the arena, but right now I’m just anxious to get started — to get practices going,” says Greenberg. “That can’t come soon enough for me.”
The native of Warminster, Pa., says her competitive urge didn’t come naturally as a child, even though she had to contend with 11 brothers and sisters. “I think it was my parents’ influence,” she says. “They were competitive, but in a good way. They told me that when you compete, you should do it right, and have some fun in the process. That’s what I did in high school and college, and that’s what I do today — every day.”
Greenberg was a walk-on to La Salle University’s basketball team her freshman year and ended up serving as team captain in her final season, when the Explorers won 28 games and earned a national ranking. The point guard was a two-time Second Team All-Big 5 selection at La Salle, which captured three straight Big 5 championships and NCAA berths during her four years there.
Aside from her accomplishments during her playing days, she says that the highlight of her athletics career was coaching Penn to its first NCAA tournament berth in 2001, earning her honors as the Coach of the Year in the Philadelphia Big 5 conference. “That was really an amazing season, especially for the seniors,” she says. “To see them finish off games, and win a couple in overtime — I was almost too emotional to really enjoy it at the time. We really had something to prove. Because of the team’s past, people didn’t think we could make it to the NCAA tournament.”
At BU, Greenberg won’t have the momentous rebuilding task that she faced at Penn. The Terriers, who are returning nine letter-winners, posted a 19-11 record (12-6 in America East) last year, advancing to their second straight America East title game. She sees Maine, the team that eliminated the Terriers in the conference tournament last March, as still the team to beat this season. “A lot of people think that just because they lost a lot of players to graduation, they won’t be nearly as good,” she says. “But they’ve been a dominant program for years, going back to the early ’90s, and I still have to put them at the top.”
Nonetheless, BU has also had some recent successes, including its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance two years ago. But Greenberg isn’t making any predictions or any big changes — yet. “We’re just getting to know each other,” she says. “When we start practicing on a regular basis, that’s when we’ll be able to see where we are as a group — to determine what we can do well, and what we need to work on.”