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Mother Doesn’t Always Know Best : Basketball: Annette Smith Greene, UC Irvine women’s assistant coach, often skipped her chores to spend time on the court.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There was a time when you could find most any of the six children of Dorothy and Jim Smith playing basketball after school on the neighborhood court in Bay City, Tex.

All the while, they’d be keeping an eye out for their mother’s car on its way home.

“My mom was kind of strict, and she would tell us we could not leave the house until the house was clean and we’d done our homework,” said Annette Smith Greene. “But if we didn’t sneak out to play basketball, then maybe four of the six of us wouldn’t have gotten scholarships.”

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They can laugh about the housework that went undone now.

Greene, recently named an assistant to UC Irvine’s new women’s coach, Colleen Matsuhara, was an All-American at the University of Texas in 1984, twice a member of the U.S. national team and a starter on the 1986 team that won the NCAA championship with a 34-0 record.

An older brother, Roderick Smith, earned a scholarship to Angelo State in San Angelo, Tex. A younger sister, Audrey Smith, followed Annette to Texas.

But the sibling who stands to reap the greatest rewards for skirting mother’s orders is the youngest, LaBradford Smith, who finished a standout career at Louisville this season, and is a probable first-round choice in the NBA draft, which will be held Wednesday at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“We were all thinking about maybe going up there,” Greene said. “He’s worked very hard to be where he’s at.”

LaBradford finished his career at Louisville as the school’s all-time leader in assists (133), free-throw percentage (86.6) and three-point goals (131), and was four steals short of passing Darrell Griffith as the career leader. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, he averaged 16.6 points and 4.9assists this season, and had 26 points and 11 assists in a January game against Nevada Las Vegas. He was also named the most outstanding player of the Metro Conference tournament each of the past two years.

LaBradford might have worked hard to get where he is, but being the youngest of the Smith family, he had to.

“When he was a lot younger, we were tough on him,” Greene said. “He would cry and cry and run in the house and tell our parents. My father would say, you can’t come crying to us. Get back out there and play.”

Time passed by, and soon enough, he began to beat his older sisters.

“I think it (being able to beat his sisters) was when he got to junior high, because he was dunking in junior high,” Greene said. “It might have been my freshman or sophomore year in college.”

Irvine’s women’s games, which often have drawn no more than 50 fans in recent years, will be a far cry from what Greene experienced at Texas, along with Matsuhara, who was an assistant at the school in 1986, the year Texas won the NCAA title.

In those days, the women’s team outdrew the men, sometimes playing in front of 6,000 to 7,000 fans.

“That was really exciting for me coming from a small town,” Greene said. “Bay City’s just a little ol’ small country town. I think it’s about 30,000 now, because there’s a nuclear plant that brought a lot of people in. It used to be 17,000 or 18,000.”

The first time she saw Austin, she had traveled there for a track meet.

“Even the track looked bigger,” she said.

As a basketball player at Texas in those days, Greene was a celebrity.

“When we played, it was really exciting. The fans were great. I would walk around and people would say ‘Hi’ to me, and I had no idea who they were.”

Greene says she has never envied the opportunities her brother has had, even though her own have been meager in comparison. Any thoughts she entertained of playing professionally in Japan or Europe disappeared when she injured her knee before her senior year.

“I had total reconstructive surgery and the doctors told me I couldn’t play anymore,” said Greene, a 5-11 center. “I had to give it a try. It was a scary thing. I had to ice it before games and ice it after games to keep the swelling down. I hardly ever practiced.”

Her first three seasons, Greene--then Annette Smith--had started every game. Her junior year, she was Southwest Conference player of the year for the second year in a row, averaging 24.9 points and 7.6 rebounds, along with three steals.

She sat out a year after the injury to rehabilitate her knee, and even though she started every game her senior year and Texas won the NCAA title, Greene never felt healed. She averaged 9.1 points that year--10 points a game fewer than her freshman season--but still finished her career as Texas’ all-time leading women’s scorer, with 2,523 points.

“I couldn’t move like I could before,” she said. “It was pretty difficult. I wanted to do the things I was used to doing, but I couldn’t. I think that’s why I didn’t pursue going overseas.”

Instead, she worked in the computer field for several years before getting into coaching.

Because she had never counted on a pro career, she wasn’t lost without one, Greene said.

“Sometimes I think (the lack of profession basketball opportunities for women) has its advantages, and sometimes I see the disadvantages,” she said. “I look at some men’s teams, and a lot of guys go through college just doing enough to get by because they think they’ll go pro. Not all do that, but some do.”

But after doing some volunteer coaching in the Texas program, she was hired to work with former USC Coach Linda Sharp at Southwest Texas State. Then, after Matsuhara got the Irvine job, Greene was asked to join her former coach in California, moving out of Texas for the first time in her life.

Her husband, Vincent Greene, offered to move to help her career. “When I got into coaching, he was very supportive,” she said. He said if I was to find something I liked, even if it was somewhere else, ‘Don’t hesitate. Go for it.’ He had a major in business and a minor in accounting, and he has a lot of experience. I don’t think he’ll have a hard time.”

Greene says her knee no longer limits her as it did her final year in college, and that she expects she will sometimes scrimmage with the Irvine players.

“If I was to train as hard as I did in college, I’d probably be better than I was then,” she said. “I’m a lot smarter and wiser about the game. I see why coaches used to say the things they’d say to me. Sometimes, I find myself saying the same things.”

Her brother has a professional playing career ahead of him. Annette Greene has a profession.

“My goal right now is to pursue a career in coaching, and maybe one day be a head coach,” she said. “I want to work at least maybe four or five more years before I look for a head job. I want to be sure I’m ready before I step in.”


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