“I struggled with this one,” he said to producer Jeff McConville, seated at a computer.
The two then proceeded to go over Greenberg’s appearance frame by frame. When the replay came to Greenberg describing Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. as “two O’s, two T’s and spelled the same front and back” on the air, he cringed and explained to McConville that he once used the same moniker on a friend named Otto while growing up on Long Island.
“It was awesomely terrible, which is good. Don’t ever hide your personality,” McConville said.
That, though, didn’t seem to reassure Greenberg.
“My daughters are gonna kill me for that one,” he said to a visitor in the room.
Greenberg, 56, is in the middle of a career reinvention he “sure didn’t expect to happen now.”
Since being fired by Virginia Tech last April, he has become the studio face of ESPN’s college basketball coverage after spending 35 years as a coach. With Selection Sunday less than a week away, he’s in the midst of a three-week stretch in which he’ll appear on one of the network’s platforms every day.
But it’s the manner in which he has approached this new venture, plunging himself full bore into an unfamiliar profession, that has suddenly turned him into a rising star at ESPN.
‘He’s got a gift’
The timing of Greenberg’s dismissal from Virginia Tech could not have been worse for his family.
Greenberg’s youngest daughter, Jackie, was just finishing up her junior year at Blacksburg (Va.) High and middle daughter Ella, a Virginia Tech cheerleader, was one semester away from graduating. He believes the situation may have been hardest on his wife of 26 years, Karen, who “took a lot of pride in being there for players and liked having a team,” he said.
Greenberg declined to rehash the circumstances that led to his firing, although the abruptness and reasoning — Athletic Director Jim Weaver told reporters he wanted a coach who would better cultivate a “family environment” — behind the decision has left some wounds. A clause in Greenberg’s $1.2 million buyout from Virginia Tech also precludes either side from speaking negatively about the other in public, according to two people involved with the negotiations.
“I’m really proud of what I accomplished at all my stops and what I was able to build at places that didn’t have a great pedigree,” said Greenberg, who won two ACC coach of the year awards and finished with the second-most victories in program history during nine seasons at Virginia Tech — but only made one NCAA tournament appearance.
Added Karen Greenberg, who noted that Ella was in attendance at Cassell Coliseum for Virginia Tech’s senior night game against Clemson last week, “We’ve all tried to take an unpleasant situation and move forward positively.”