Bucks Back When ... Lynn Greer, Part 1

Lynn Greer is making the most
of the minutes he gets in his,
rookie season with the
Bucks. (Getty Images)

March 20, 2007
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

In this day and age, you don't see many of college basketball's high-profile head coaches making a lot of appearances at high school games anymore.

Most of them delegate the lion's share of their programs' scouting and recruiting to their assistants. And much of that scouting and recruiting is done during the spring and summer, when the country's most prized prospects are showcased under one roof at all-star games and camps.

So you can imagine the buzz that surrounded Lynn Greer during his heyday at Philadelphia's Engineering & Science High School when one of college hoops' foremost coaching icons came to see not one, but several of his games during his recruiting process.

It is doubtful that any other coach -- not even Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski nor Bobby Knight -- could have created the buzz that John Chaney did, considering his regal status in Philadelphia basketball circles.

Let Greer, a native Philadelphian, put the matter in perspective.

“Coach Chaney is Temple basketball," Greer said. "He is Philadelphia basketball, as far as coaching is concerned. When you think of coaching in that area, you think of John Chaney."

Chaney was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame five years before he retired from coaching last spring. He posted a 741-311 career record in 34 years as a head coach, and was 516-252 during his 24 seasons at Temple.

He began his coaching career as a middle-school and high-school coach in Philadelphia, and logged a 63-23 record at one of the city's perennial powerhouses, Simon Gratz High.

Chaney entered collegiate coaching at Cheyney State, where he guided his team to the NCAA Division II championship in 1978 and went 225-59 before taking the Temple position.

During his 24 years at Temple, Chaney piloted the Owls to 17 NCAA tournament apperances, and was named Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1988 after his team finished 32-2. In 2003, he became the 19th Division-I head coach to coach 1,000 games.

Chaney is listed at a modest 5-feet-10-inches and 170 pounds in his biographical profile. But his presence at Lynn Greer's high school games was a very big deal, and the sharp-shooting teenage backcourt phenom realized exactly that.

So, too, did most of the other folks in the gymnasium.

“Yeah, it was big," Greer said. "In high school, I got college letters from small schools. But to have John Chaney show up at one of my high school games was awesome. In my senior year, he came to maybe three or four games. He had his assistants come to a lot of other games.

"All the kids at my school were running around saying, ‘Man, Lynn’s going to Temple. We saw Coach Chaney at the game.’ This was even before I decided to go there. There was a huge crowd when he walked in the gym.”

Greer was named Philadelphia Daily News City Player of the Year following his senior campaign. In one game, he collected 50 points -- including all 29 of his team's points in the first quarter -- 11 rebounds, seven assists and nine steals. He finished his prep career with 1,991 points to rank third in city annals behind Wilt Chamberlain and Jonathan Haynes.

Greer made quite a name for himself in Pennsylvania basketball circles, but Chaney did not exactly have to engage in a fierce recruiting war to convince him to join the Temple program. He was on the trail of a lifelong Temple fan.

"My father used to take me to Temple games when Mark Macon, Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones were playing there," Greer said. "Actually, when I came out of high school, I didn’t even take any college visits. I knew where I wanted to go. I pretty much had my mind made up.”

Greer could not wait to enter the collegiate ranks and begin playing for one of America's coaching legends ... or so he thought, until he arrived at his first week of fall practices.

“I’d been the high school player of the year in Philadelphia," Greer said. "I remembered the way Coach Chaney recruited me, the way he showed me so much love before I got there.

"And then when I got there, he starts cursing me out and treating me like he didn’t even want me there, and it was a rude awakening. It was a shock for me. I started second-guessing myself and thinking, ‘Man, should I really have come here? Does this guy really like me? What happened to the guy I knew three months ago?’"

Reality set in for Greer very early -- literally.

“There were those 5:30 a.m. practices," Greer recalled, "And Coach Chaney screaming up and down the sideline. It was definitely a change of pace for me.”

Four years of those 5:30 a.m. practices taught Lynn Greer some valuable lessons, though. Besides learning a great deal about basketball, he learned about dedication, discipline, perseverance and toughness.

“Looking back, man, that was the best basketball I ever played, as far as learning, as far as team camaraderie, as far as everybody trying to accomplish one thing – making it to the NCAA Tournament," Greer said. "That was great basketball. And I learned a lot.”

Greer averaged 7.9 points in 30 games as a freshman. He was scoring at a 10.2-points-per-game clip six games into his sophomore campaign when he sustained a broken orbital bone. He received a medical redshirt, and upped his output to 12.2 points a game when he returned to action during in 1999-2000.

Then his career took a quantum leap. He averaged team highs of 18.2 points, 5.5 assists and 2 steals as a junior and led the Owls into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

This was a tough act to follow, but Greer put together a senior season that cemented him a spot among the very best to play in Temple's tradition-rich program. His average of 23.2 points a game ranked him first in the Atlantic 10 Conference and sixth in the nation. The best game of his college career arguably came in Madison, Wis., when he torched the University of Wisconsin for 47 points.

Greer was named all-Atlantic 10 for the second consecutive season, was a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and a Naismith Player of the Year candidate. He received honorable mention in the Associated Press All-American voting, and left Temple as the Owls' second all-time scorer with 2,099 points and the all-time leaders in 3-pointers made with 305.

There would be more trials waiting for Greer when he entered the next phase of life and basketball career, but when he looks back on his Temple days now, he treasures them.

“Looking back, man, that was the best basketball I ever played, as far as learning, as far as team camaraderie, as far as everybody trying to accomplish one thing – making it to the NCAA Tournament," he said. "That was great basketball. And I learned a lot.”

And Greer is grateful, too, that he had a supportive family and coach.

"I was fortunate to have two parents in my life, first of all," he said. "A lot of the guys on my team were from single-parent homes.

"Coach Chaney was like a father figure to those guys, and he treated me the same way, too ... everybody.

"He was always there for everybody, whether they needed to just talk, or whatever. Anything. It was very cool.”

Continue reading Greer's story in "Bucks Back When ... Lynn Greer, Part II"