After serving as an assistant coach for the Princeton University men’s basketball team from 2007-10, Scott Greenman left his alma mater and took on another role in the college hoops world, handling basketball operations at Georgetown.
While Greenman had an eye on getting back into coaching, he gained a lot from the operations post.
“I got to see how other people do things, being at the highest level was a good thing,” said Greenman, a former Tiger hoops star who was a first-team All-Ivy selection as a senior in 2005-06.
“I learned a lot from listening into recruiting calls. I was learning from coach Thompson (former Princeton head coach John Thompson III) and good assistants. It was a very productive four years. Even though I was not in coaching, I was seeing things from a different perspective.”
When one of those Georgetown assistants, Mike Brennan, a former Princeton star guard and assistant coach himself, took the head coaching job at American University, Greenman saw an avenue back into coaching.
“When he was interviewing and going through the job process he said if he got the job would I be interested in coming on as assistant and I said I was,” said Greenman.
“All of the offices at Georgetown were close. It was open and there was a lot of interaction. Having played for coach Brennan, this was a different dynamic; I had a level of comfort with him.”
Greenman joined Brennan’s staff as an assistant coach last May and the two former Tigers worked well together over the winter, helping American go 20-13 and win the Patriot League championship.
As Greenman returned to coaching, his main focus was getting his new players used to the Princeton style that Brennan was installing.
“It was getting the players used to a new system and a new everything; working with them to increase their skill sets and doing stuff to educate them on what to expect,” said Greenman.
While American got off to a slow start, going 3-7 in its first 10 games, Greenman could see the players becoming more familiar with the new approach.
“Even when we lost, coach Brennan was seeing signs of improvement, telling the guys you got better at this and that but need to work on that,” recalled Greenman.
“It is about improving so you are good enough to win the games at the end of the year. From day one, there was no push back whatsoever. It was fun for the team, with forwards getting to dribble, shoot and pass and to get as good as they can be.”
The Eagles started looking good in January, going 9-0 in the month. After enduring a bad stretch in February where it went 1-4, American entered the Patriot League tournament with plenty of confidence.
“We won 10 league games and three or four of those could have gone the other way,” said Greenman.
“In the rough patch, things went the other way. We were stagnant for a week but then we started to get better. We had a sharper focus at practice, we focused on a few things and made more adjustments. On the second time around the league, the other teams know you better. Heading into tournament, we thought we had a good shot if we played to the best of our ability.”
After topping Colgate in the Patriot quarterfinals and Holy Cross in the semis, the Eagles produced their best performance of the season in the championship game as they topped host Boston University 55-36 to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney.
“We zoned in on defense, we did a good job of making their shots difficult,” said Greenman, reflecting on the win over the Terriers.
“The guys were unselfish. We had an issue with turnovers and throwing the ball to the other team earlier in the season but they really handled the ball well. I give credit to the guys; they were so open to things and they improved so much. It was great to see them make that transformation.”
It was a special moment for Greenman as the team enjoyed a raucous celebration after the buzzer sounded.
“It is great, you aren’t able as a coach to get too high or too low,” said Greenman.
“Even when you are winning, you are concentrating on the next game and how you can get better. It is an indescribable feeling. Every team in a one-bid league is shooting for that moment.”
For American, its next game proved to be its last as it fell 75-35 to Wisconsin in the NCAA tourney.
“You know going in that there are no good options when going against a No. 2 seed, you are expecting to play a great team,” said Greenman, noting that Wisconsin ended up advancing to the Final 4.
“We knew it was going to be very difficult; they are a well coached team. Everyone can score. They have a 7-foot center (Frank Kaminsky) who can step out to the perimeter and make shots.We started well and made some shots. Once they got on that run, it snowballed.”
Although the defeat stung, Greenman enjoyed making a fifth trip to March Madness.
“It doesn’t lose its luster, I went three times at Georgetown and going as a player was the best feeling,” said Greenman. “Doing it as a coach is awesome.”
Looking back on the winter, Greenman feels he has become a better coach.
“I think in terms of time management, I grew a lot,” said Greenman.
“At Princeton, I had different responsibilities and then I had different responsibilities at Georgetown. Now I have the most responsibility. I want to try to be as organized and as efficient as I can be administratively and with recruiting. I love being in the gym, coaching and teaching and seeing the guys improve.”