With her Italian pro career fully in her rear view mirrow, new St. Bernard of Playa del Rey coach Michelle Greco is starting over with a program that is re-setting itself as well.
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It would be a cliché and a bit unfair to say 1998 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year Michelle Greco (Crescenta Valley, La Crescenta) has bounced around the last couple of years, because she has, but it hasn’t been because she’s failed at any endeavor.
After the UCLA star spent a year in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm and won a title in 2004, decided to retire from her Cras Basket Taranto team in 2012 after winning three Italian League Serie A championships in four years, she came back to Los Angeles and became the video coordinator for Michael Cooper at Southern California.
However, even after deciding to give up playing and begin a new life after an eight-year three-continent career, Greco just couldn’t refuse when the Italian League team called and asked her to join the team for the playoffs this past spring.
“I kept my Italian passport so it was easy to say yes,” Greco told Cal-Hi Sports.
The team got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs and it was then that Greco finally realized the end of her playing days had really come.
“I accomplished my goals and my life really wasn’t in Italy any longer.”
She came back to Los Angeles and was texting a friend who is an assistant coach at USC when the question of what Greco was going to do next came up in the cross-texting.
“I texted that I really wanted to get into high school coaching, and she texted back that I had to go for the St. Bernard job.”
Greco contacted the Playa del Rey school about the job and the administration must have liked what it saw. Like a whirling dervish, she was hired lickity-split. In fact, the whole process took just over two weeks.
“After I contacted them and told them a little about myself they gave me an interview the next week. The following week they called me and told me I had the job.”
On April 30, St. Bernard announced the hiring of Greco as head coach, as well as girls athletic director and health and fitness instructor.
Two girls mentioned in a story about key transfers last week had already transferred and it was rumored the other two mentioned were leaving, and eventually did, but Greco was undaunted.
While she may have applied for a job that many wanted because it had an elite squad, it’s now the girls still there that Greco is focusing on developing.
“I don’t mind it this way,” she said in a very sincere tone. “I want to develop kids, teach them my system, and build this program back to where it was.”
What St. Bernard was just before Greco played at Crescenta Valley and the year she was named Ms. Basketball was the CIF Division IV state champion.
Despite the girls that left, Greco still has a nucleus returning some coaches would love to have.
Two seniors that will be the rock of the lineup are point guard Demoria White and 6-foot-2 center Chenelle Pelle. White was the second-leading scorer last year at 11.6 ppg and added three assists a game. The strong and athletic Pelle was next in scoring at 11.3 ppg and led the team in rebounding with 11.1 per game.
“When a team has all gone in different directions it’s good to have a point guard and a center to build around,” Greco remarked.
Plus, she has a shooter in freshman Kaylin Brown, and several other youngsters to develop on a 12-girl roster.
“The thing I like about this group is everyone likes being together, and that’s important in girls sports. They hang out and go to movies together and eat lunch together at school.”
Despite a total lack of coaching experience, Greco had a good mentor in her college coach, former UCLA head coach and current Nevada Las Vegas head coach Kathy Olivier.
“I love KO. We still talk regularly. I bounce ideas off her and I use some of her drills and motivational talks at practice.”
Greco’s overall approach to coaching and developing the girls is refreshing.
“I know most of my girls aren’t going to play at the next level, so if I can teach them discipline and the meaning of hard work, and being a good teammate, I’m doing my job. That’s what it’s all about.”