As coordinator of basketball operations for Penn's men’s and women’s teams, Julie Greger says her main job is to “make the head coach’s job easier—so he can just concentrate on coaching.”
While men’s coach Glen Miller and women’s coach Mike McLaughlin focus on Xs and Os, Greger assists with recruiting, scheduling, coordinating practice schedules, preparing game film and other important daily functions.
A former center-forward for the Philadelphia University Rams, Greger started her career at Penn as a volunteer assistant for the women’s basketball team. She worked in sales after graduating from PhilaU but says she missed being around basketball and the team aspect of the game. “I missed being a part of something bigger than just myself,” she says.
When former men’s coach Fran Dunphy left to take over as head coach at Temple University in 2006, Greger moved into her current position. This upcoming season will mark her fourth.
The Current sat down with Greger recently to discuss Penn basketball, recruiting in the Ivy League and how she sells Penn to young student-athletes.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your myriad job responsibilities?
A. I do a bunch of things. Depending on the time of the year, it changes. Right now we’re into camps and recruiting. In July we can go out recruiting. I stay home the whole time in July but I’m [there] if they need help on something or if someone’s flight got cancelled and they need me to look up another flight. We do have a travel agent that helps us with that but sometimes you want to do your research before you call them.
In August, it’s pretty much very light where we just have unofficial visits come in. I don’t really do the tours or anything but we greet the people, we make sure they’re good. It’s also data entry with the recruiting, getting all the people who we saw into our database so we can email them and write them letters throughout the school year. When September starts, we start having official visits and I help organize that, which is like hotels and meals, travel for recruits we want to bring on campus. I also do film exchange for both men’s and women’s basketball, which can be a very tedious process. It starts in September and doesn’t end until March, so it’s just an ongoing [process], making sure you have film on the teams we’re playing. It’s a process and you have to be very organized. A lot of people have assistants that just do that. But I’ll tell you the one thing that has saved my life is the DVR. We just got one this year and I love it. I was like, ‘How did we live so long without this?’ But then I had to figure out how to tape off the DVR. That only took about half an hour so it wasn’t too bad. That has really saved a lot. We’re also planning our schedules now as well, so coordinating both schedules and then when September comes and the students come back, we’ll start coordinating our practice schedules. Obviously we have to split our time between The Palestra and Weightman, depending on what time everything is, so I help in that. And just the day-to-day stuff. Obviously expense reports. And then October/November comes around and practice starts and we start games, which is always fun.
Q. Do most colleges and universities have one person who handles coordinating for both women’s and men’s basketball?
A. Most schools have a person who does men’s and a person who does women’s and it’s a little more specific. You might have different responsibilities. It’s different working with both, which I like because you get to see both sides of it.
Q. Is recruiting a challenge because Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships?
A. Yes, but a lot of people who are interested in the Ivy League, they know that it doesn’t offer [athletic] scholarships and that we have high academic standards and they want that. That makes it a lot easier. And having this beautiful campus and the new renovations isn’t hurting us either. And having The Palestra, that doesn’t hurt either. We definitely have the best gym in the Ivy League, and I would say in the city.
Q. Does Penn attempt to recruit some of the more big-name recruits in Philadelphia and beyond even though you can’t offer them an athletic scholarship?
A. Absolutely. We’re trying to get local recruits all the time. When we first talk to people, we make sure they know that: We’re Ivy League, we don’t give athletic scholarships, financially based only, and then we kind of proceed from there. A lot of people don’t know and a lot of people get us confused with Penn State. I get stuff from Penn State all the time. I can’t believe it sometimes, I’m like, ‘Seriously?’ But it happens.
Q. Does Penn’s past success in the Ivy League make it easier to recruit?
A. Oh yes, that’s definitely made it easier, the tradition of Penn basketball, winning Ivy League championships seven out of the last 10 years.
Q. Although they operate under the same rules, do you see differences in men’s and women’s basketball?
A. Well the game’s completely different. I feel like the men’s game is more fast-break. The women’s game is a little bit more about working your offense. Even though the men’s game, don’t get me wrong, they work the offense as well, but you just see the dunks all the time. And also the men’s game is definitely more in the spotlight.
Q. Can you talk about the basketball summer camps you offer?
A. We had [the Quaker Elite Camp from June 19-21], which was for high school boys, and then we had a day camp [from June 29-July 2], which is all ages. We usually have a girls’ high school one but this year we didn’t have it because we got a brand-new coach and he just wasn’t hired in time to get everything together, so we’ll definitely have one next year and we’ll probably pull in a lot of people. It’s a great recruiting aspect, to bring people on campus to talk to them. It’s more than just a three-hour tour. You can interact with them and they can sleep in the dorm and eat at the cafeteria, so they kind of get a feel for what college life is like. And they also get to learn our system as well.
Q. Do you have a main pitch about Penn that you give to potential recruits?
A. The tradition. The tradition and The Palestra and Wharton.
Q. You started your career by volunteering. Do you think that’s a good way for those interested in administrative athletics to get their foot in the door or would you recommend other ways?
A. I think it’s a great way. I think volunteering is a nice way, especially if you’re not under financial constraints. And just being around. Being around basketball, being at the gym, coming to the games, meeting people, networking, it all works. Everyone always told me [networking works] when I was in college and I really didn’t get it and then you come out and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that really does work.’
Q. Do you know where you want your career to take you one day?
A. I would love to be an athletic director someday or a Division II or III head coach. But for right now I’m happy here and I’m learning so much.
Q. Division I doesn’t interest you?
A. I went to a Division II school and I liked it. Division I is a little bit different than Division II. But if they called me, I would go in for an interview.
Q. Were you surprised when the Cleveland Cavaliers lost in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals?
A. I was because they swept everyone else and they were blowing people away, so I was very surprised. I didn’t watch that closely but obviously I followed it as a sports fan. I like college basketball more than the NBA but I saw that the Cavs were killing people and they swept everybody and the Magic were having trouble [in the earlier rounds]. They had trouble with the Sixers. [The Magic] were having trouble with people so I was surprised that they pulled it out. But I was happy Jameer Nelson came back and played. That was awesome.
Originally published on July 2, 2009