Josh Greene Tribute
By Bob Vazquez
Special to Gomatadors.com
Paramount, Ca. – Sometime this week, former CSUN basketball star Josh Greene will board a jetliner that will take him from Los Angeles to Matera, Italy, a distance of 6,525 miles.
Greene will be leaving family and friends for a new and exciting journey in his young life. Greene has signed a contract to play professional basketball for the Bawer Matera team in the Euroleague in Italy.
Greene will be one of two Americans on the Italian roster. The other American is Jordan Richard, who played collegiately at Cal State Los Angeles.
The Bawer Matera season opener is Oct. 4 against Placentina.
Last weekend, an overflow crowd of family, friends, and well-wishers filled the Alliance Bible Church to celebrate the athletic and academic success of Josh Greene during a reception, church service and dinner.
The enthusiastic audience included CSUN head coach Reggie Theus, former CSUN women's basketball player Haley White, former CSUN basketball player Jordan Mitchell, Matadors announcer Alan Zinsmeister, and many of Greene's youth coaches including Les Bean, his high school coach at Community Charter School.
"Matera plays in a very competitive professional league, and they are excited for me to join their team," said Greene, who graduated from CSUN on 2014 with a degree in Recreation, Tourism and Management. "I have already talked with the coach several times. I told him I want to help the team win many games and help them to a championship. There have been several articles that have already been written, but don't ask me to explain what they wrote. The articles were written in Italian."
Although the journey will take him nearly 6,600 thousand miles from his Southern California roots to Matera, Greene says "Wherever I go I will always be a Matador. Because of the internet (gomatadors.com), I will also have the opportunity to keep track of the team. The team is on the rise. I'm excited for CSUN basketball in 2014-15. Let's continue to put CSUN on the map.
Reggie Theus was one of many speakers to address the large crowd to honor Greene.
"You never really know your players until you come into their backyard (neighborhood)," Theus said. "Obviously, Josh comes from good stock. Josh's background will carry him a long way. Josh, it's an honor to be here and to share good times tonight with your family and friends."
Theus was hired as the new basketball coach at CSUN back in early April, 2013. Shortly after the announcement, Theus received a phone call.
"From day one when I got the basketball coaching position at CSUN, Josh Greene was the first person to call me" Theus remembers. "I thought that was pretty special. It made me feel good. I have been a lot of places but that phone call from Josh was special to me."
Greene was an unheralded freshman recruit when he enrolled at CSUN in 2010. There were more than a few doubters who thought Greene couldn't play at the NCAA Division I level. Greene proved them wrong. Greene was usually the first player to show up for practice and the last one to leave to refine his game. The same story prevailed in the weight room.
The hard work paid off.
"Work hard, work smart, and work consistently," Greene said, who gained three All-Big West Conference honors. "If you do those three things plus be coachable and always believe in yourself, you'll be fine."
Greene ended his four-year career with an incredible nine school records. Greene's name appears in the CSUN record book 26 TIMES.
"I was really blessed that I was able to coach Josh even though it was only for one year," remarked Theus. "We were able to give Josh a platform to show people what he could do. They call Jerry West 'Mr. Clutch.' I call Josh … 'Big Shot Josh.' Every game we needed Josh because he always hit the big shot. Josh is my first player to go pro from CSUN. I am so proud of Josh Greene and his accomplishments on the court as a player and off the court as a person."
Theus played one season (1991-92) in Italy following a highly successful 13-year career in the NBA. Theus reminded Greene that in Europe, American players are held to a higher, tougher standard.
"Josh is going to need all the encouragement and prayers that we can give him," said Theus. "This won't be easy. The fans make you responsible for the win. If you score 30 points, but don't win, the fans will be all over you. I know that because I played in that environment in Italy. I played 13 years in the NBA but I played even harder in Europe. Josh's faith is going to be more important than it has ever been. Everything you have learned in your young life, carry it with you."
Josh Greene' aggressive style of play earned him high praise from his coaches, his opponents and Matador fans. As crowds continued to grow larger during the 2013-14 season, the loudest applauses were for Greene. His humble nature proved to be a valuable characteristic with the young-and-old fans that filled the Matadome to cheer on CSUN.
"I am thankful, blessed and happy that I was able to touch so many people's lives," said Greene. "Life is more than just playing basketball. It's an opportunity to meet and be friends with everyone off the court. And this is just the beginning. I'm looking forward to enter another chapter in my life."
Basketball at CSUN started during the 1958-59 season. The school's first star was Mark Cooley, who gained All-America honors during the early 1960's that led to a spot in the prestigious Matador Hall of Fame. Cooley and his wife, Diana, have been regulars at CSUN basketball games and have watched Greene grow from a young kid as a freshman to a mature young man as a senior. Cooley recently wrote a one page, single-spaced letter that detailed Greene's ability on the court, but more importantly, his persona as an ambassador for CSUN basketball.
The letter read, in part "in terms of talent, I believe Josh Greene had the shooting, ball-handling and defensive skills to rank among the best of them, but this is not the main reason for which I enjoyed so much watching his basketball career unfold and develop. From the very start, there seemed to be a "light shining from within" that set Josh apart from most of the other past Matador players. Congratulations on a great career and the opportunity for many more outstanding accomplishments in Italy. Further congratulations on your academic achievements at CSUN, and on fulfilling your dream of achieving a university degree. You have given my wife (Diana) and I so many exciting moments that made us proud to be Matadors. We know your special "light from within" will continue to shine for you as you continue your journey through your basketball career and beyond … Buona Fortuna."
As the 2013-14 campaign entered its final stages, it was apparent Josh Greene was going to break the school record for single season and career free throw percentage. Chuck Malouf, who played with Mark Cooley during the early 1960's and who still lives in Burbank, had held both of those free throws records for the past 50 years. Following an early March game in which CSUN scored an 92-83 overtime win over Cal State Fullerton, Malouf met Greene in a post-game press conference. The friendly, respectful exchange of words between the 21-year-old Greene and the 72-year old Malouf were beyond description.
Generation Gap? … None here !!!
"I couldn't ask for a better person than Josh Greene to break my school records," admitted Malouf. "It was a great honor to meet Josh. I am so impressed with the young man and all the records he accomplished as a Matador. Congratulations, Josh."
Greene broke the single season free throw mark (.914, fifth-best in the country) and a career free throw percentage (.871). His other school records included career games (125) and career three-pointers (228).
Celeste Williams is Josh Greene's mom and #1 fan. She never missed a home game at the Matadome during her son's four years. She was also present at all the league games.
"My mom is one of the biggest reasons why I play basketball," said Greene. "She has given me a better life. I will be far from home in Italy but my mom will be with me in spirit. Her words and her wisdom will always be in my heart."
Celeste says she will miss Josh, but she laughs knowing that her cell phone bill and the electric bill at home will be a lot less now that Josh is heading to Italy.
"Josh is a man of character but he does have his moments where I sometimes I have to read him the riot act," Celeste said with a smile. "I always remind to have an attitude of gratitude. When people do something for you, appreciate the good deed that has been bestowed upon you. He has always been taught to be humble. The fact that all these people are here tonight shows they care.
"I will miss him, but this is something Josh wants to do. He is being given the opportunity and has traveled a lot during his CSUN career and has played in China and Korea. There are thousands of players who would love to have this opportunity. He will be in my prayers and the Good Lord will be looking over him."
Buona Fortuna !!!
Italian Incidentals …
The complete transcript of Mark Cooley's letter to Josh Greene is listed atop the start of the this story … Josh Greene's new professional team in Italy, Bawer Matera, has enjoyed success on the court in recent years … The team has chalked up a 50-23 record in league play the last four seasons, including a 14-8 mark last season, and a 13-2 record two years ago … Matera, Italy is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy … Because of the ancient and primitive scenery in and around the center of Matera, it has been used by film makers as the setting for ancient Jerusalem … The movie list includes Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (1994), Giuseppe Tornatore's The Star Maker (1995) and John Moore's The Omen (2006).