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Gig with ex-rival works for Greif

Former Lincoln star part of powerful Stanford program


by: COURTESY OF CAL ATHLETICS - Lauren Greif went from Lincoln High to the Cal Bears, where she had numerous basketball battles against perennial power Stanford. Now she works for the Cardinal.Sometimes you’ve got to work with the best to be the best ... even if the best is your alma mater’s biggest rival.

Lauren Greif, former California Golden Bear basketball player and Lincoln High star, just finished her third season as video coordinator for the Stanford women’s basketball program.

Greif switched Bay Area schools, colors and loyalties for the sake of hopefully one day becoming a coach.

Greif, 26, acknowledges that the market for a Stanford coaching position is super-competitive and she doesn’t foresee many positions opening up in the near future.

But she would jump at the opportunity to become an assistant coach for the Cardinal, the No. 2 seed and Pac-12 regular-season champion that fell Sunday to defending NCAA champion Connecticut 75-56 in the women’s Final Four.

“I would love to move up in the Stanford program,” Greif says. “Working there has been a fantastic experience.”

Even while playing for California, Greif had the utmost respect for the Bears’ more accomplished rival. Cal gave the Cardinal some battles in going 2-8 against Stanford during Greif’s four years (2006-10).

“The Stanford games were our biggest of the season,” she says. “When we beat them, we knew we beat a really, really good team.”

On Feb. 2, 2007, Greif did just that as the lone freshman in the Bears’ starting five. Cal marched into Maples Pavilion and chopped down the No. 8-ranked Cardinals 72-57. The Bears missed their first eight shots, but then a 12-foot jumper by Greif got them going, and they went on to snap Stanford’s 52-game home conference win streak.

Greif, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, ran to the phone after the game, expecting her dad to congratulate her on the victory.

“Dad, did you watch the game?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “I thought you guys were going to lose by a lot.”

Greif, a four-time Portland Tribune All-City selection, used her intelligence and cutthroat competitiveness to become an elite player. At California, she was academic all-Pac-10 in her junior and senior years. Later, on her Facebook page, she wrote, “Just lost my graduate school 4.0 to a B+. Oh the horror.”

Greif’s mother, Elaine, is a clinical psychologist in Portland. Growing up, Lauren took the same memory tests that her mom gave to her patients. “She would show you a house for a second, and then you would have to draw it the same way as on the card,” Lauren recalls.

Nowadays, memory is a reliable ally for Greif in basketball. She says she can vividly replay possessions in her head and see what’s going to unfold on the court before it happens.

“I’m a student of the game,” she says.

At Cal, Greif was co-captain for three years. She helped the Bears make three NCAA tourneys and win the WNIT. She also majored in psychology, learning applicable skills such as team building and shooting imagery.

“I learned that if you miss your first shot, you always have to tell yourself you’re going to make the next one,” she says.

She received a masters in kinesiology at San Jose State, and she has learned how to build team chemistry and find confidence against a powerhouse opponent, a skill she put to use last week.

Before Sunday’s NCAA semifinal, Greif had talked about how the Cardinal had to be “excited to be a party crasher. Everyone wants to see UConn and Notre Dame play in an undefeated (finals) match-up. But we’re here, and we will put up a hell of a fight.”

The Cardinal did that, leading much of the first half and trailing by only four points at intermission before the Huskies caught fire.

Stanford finished with a 33-4 record.

After college, Greif told Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer that she was interested in coaching as a profession. VanDerveer signed her on to work at a summer camp. Greif did so well, Stanford chose her for an internship, and that led to the video coordinator job.

When Greif joined the Stanford staff, she didn’t know how others would react.

“I was always worried people would think I was a traitor,” she says. “But my teammates who knew me well were excited for me, because they knew I want to be a coach.”

Greif breaks down Stanford’s games, tracking the spots on the floor where players get their baskets and assists, along with other information.

“I knew nothing about the video software, and it’s very time-consuming, but I lived at the gym, and you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out,” Greif says.

She also often mediates between coaches and players, letting the coaches know how the players are feeling.

She says if coaching doesn’t work out she would be happy in a number of professions, such as sports administration, sports business and sports psychology.

But she would like to be an assistant coach somewhere in five years.

“I want to work with really good people with great integrity,” she says. “Too many people are doing it the wrong way, cutting corners, not following NCAA rules. The people and the place are most important.”