Seth Greenberg ripped off his coat and threw it into the first row. Then he looked into the eyes of his Cal State Long Beach players, who had nearly blown a 15-point lead, and screamed: “Where’s your damn character? You have no heart.”
This happened during a timeout with 13:40 left in Wednesday night’s game against Cal State Northridge, Long Beach holding a 56-53 lead.
The 49ers reacted to their coach’s outburst by outscoring Northridge, 20-4, in the next seven minutes and going on to an 88-73 victory before 1,711 in the university gym.
The victory improved the 49ers’ record to 2-4. Northridge, which had been giving up 106 points a game, fell to 1-6.
Greenberg berated his players after the 49ers, who had built a 50-35 lead, stopped fighting for rebounds and loose balls.
“I cannot accept players playing lethargically, that’s just not my personality,” Greenberg said after the game. “This team can’t afford to be lethargic against anyone.”
Guard Lucious Harris, who had a game-high 25 points, explained why Long Beach finally began playing with enthusiasm: “We just didn’t want to see (Greenberg) do it again.”
Greenberg did not apologize for actions. “If it takes that, for me to make an ass of myself, I’ll do it, but this team is going to reflect my personality,” he said. “My wife is probably embarrassed.”
For a change, one consistent thing about the 49ers was their shooting. They shot 50% from the field in the first half and 51% in the second. They had been shooting 37%.
Harris also had seven steals, six rebounds and five assists.
Frankie Edwards added 15 points for Long Beach and Bryon Russell 14.
The 49ers made five turnovers in the first five minutes. With about nine minutes left in the half, they were ahead by only 19-18.
Leading 25-22, they went on a 15-0 run with steals off the full-court press, crisp passing and aggressive rebounding.
Kevin Williams scored two consecutive baskets during the run on passes from Bobby Sears and Russell.
Northridge went five minutes without a basket until Shelton Boykin, who led the Matadors with 16 points, scored at 2:22.
Long Beach led at the half, 46-33.
Northridge shot 40% and made 23 turnovers, many of them forced by the press.
Greenberg said that his personality had best been reflected by Williams, a 6-8 reserve forward, though he had only five points, two rebounds and four turnovers in 13 minutes.
What he had done, the coach said, was play with heart.