No. 300 too momentous for even Greenberg to overlook Longtime coach has a model program

January 29, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Dave Greenberg hates distractions. One of the reasons his Mount Hebron girls basketball teams have won so often is that the Vikings long ago bought into Greenberg's preachings about focus and dedication and teamwork.

What sets Mount Hebron apart from most high school programs is how the Vikings have breathed life into those cliches over the years. Take a walk into their drab, dimly lighted, yet cozy gymnasium, and count the banners. Twelve county championships. Seven regional crowns. Six state titles.

Tonight, Greenberg will have no choice but to deal with a distraction. Sometime around 9 p.m., unless Glenelg pulls off the upset of the decade, Hebron will dispose of the Gladiators and provide Greenberg with his 300th career victory.

"He [Greenberg] hasn't said a word about it [No. 300], but you know that he knows. He's trying to be sly about it," said senior point guard Erica McCauley. "He's humble. He's the type of person who won't announce it."

He doesn't need to. The numbers say it all.

Going into tonight's game, Greenberg's record is 299-58, a winning percentage of .838. His record against the county is 188-13, a .935 mark. Under him, the Vikings have gone undefeated against the county nine times. They've won at least 20games in nine seasons. They've never had a losing season. There are two county teams -- Atholton and Howard -- who never have beaten the Vikings.

Howard coach Craig O'Connell, one of the county's brighter talents, has been trying to solve Hebron for five years. O'Connell talks about the Vikings with a sense of awe.

"When you play Hebron, it's special," O'Connell said. "And it all starts with Greenberg and his system."

Greenberg's system is remarkably simple and has remained remarkably consistent. The team that takes the floor tonight will run the same motion offense and play the same man-to-man defense the Vikings employed 15 years ago. Modeled after Indiana coach Bobby Knight's, the system stresses patience and unselfishness at the offensive end, positioning and help at the defensive end.

Teams don't rack up 299 wins for one coach without talent, and Hebron has had its share. Doreatha Beck, a 1982 graduate who still holds the school scoring record, played on the first state championship team. Amy Mallon and Justine Chaverini, the best pair of players the Vikings have had at one time, played on the only unbeaten team in 1988. McCauley, the best point guard Greenberg has coached, is going for her third state title.

But the Vikings' success goes beyond raw talent. Greenberg's teams represent the sum of many parts, especially the subtle ones.

The Vikings don't make lazy passes. They set screens and box out the right way. They revel in creating the smart shot. Those vicious half-court traps that have become their trademark are executed with perfect timing. When someone occasionally finds herself out of position on defense, someone else invariably steps in to help. No one works harder for points than a Hebron opponent. No one makes a defense pay for a mistake like the Vikings.

More than most teams, the Vikings appreciate the value of role players. Two years ago, when they won their sixth state crown, McCauley saluted Lori Pasquantonio, a bench player who rarely saw more than five minutes a game. The reason? No one pushed McCauley in practice like Pasquantonio. Last week, after the Vikings trounced Howard, 64-25, the first player Greenberg praised was Kathy Doyle, a sophomore second-stringer who didn't even score.

"She did everything right defensively," he said, with excitement. "Did you see those five steals and the way she boxed out on the boards? It's the little things."

The Vikings play with a combination of toughness and smarts that long has been the envy of the county. Why does the whole league now play man-to-man. Why has the county become arguably the best girls basketball area in the state. It all goes back to Greenberg.

"Maybe I'll appreciate it more after the season, but I'm more concerned with how we do in our last game this year," Greenberg said. "It's not like they're my 300 wins. It speaks highly of all the great help I've had, and of the quality kids we've had."

Quality indeed. Twenty-two of Greenberg's players have been awarded about $600,000 in scholarships. Nine of them have been or are captains of their college teams. Academics are stressed heavily by Greenberg, a guidance counselor who has been known to call a player into his office to inquire why her GPA has fallen to 3.5. That's about the average of this year's team.

And the Vikings annually are a team that is impossible not to like. Despite winning with a frequency that tends to breed arrogance, the Vikings aren't a trash-talking bunch. They win as graciously as they lose. They play hard and they play fair.

They win because of Greenberg. He makes up their brutal December schedule every year, which prepares them for the league and the playoffs. He demands that they perfect their skills during the off-season. He rules with the stern hand of a disciplinarian and the hug of a father figure. He drives home those lessons about teamwork and dedication that his players take to college and beyond.

In Greenberg's eyes, tonight is simply a new challenge. Can the Vikings improve on last week's sterling show against Howard? Can they take another step toward a state-record seventh state crown? Will they do enough of the little things?

Maybe Greenberg will pause and savor his accomplishment. He's earned this distraction.

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