An Emotional Week for 49ers’ Greenberg


The week began with the phone call he dreaded. He expected it for almost a year, but he would never be ready.

Monday at 5:30 a.m., Long Beach State Coach Seth Greenberg learned his father, Ralph, had died in upstate New York after a lengthy battle against cancer. That moment triggered the most traumatic week in Greenberg’s life.

Also this week, Greenberg suspended a key member of the team on the eve of an important Big West Conference trip. And Nevada defeated Long Beach, 79-75, Saturday night in a conference game before 4,267 at the Pyramid.


Tears come daily to Greenberg as his father’s memory dominates his thoughts. But with the encouragement of his family and friends at Long Beach, Greenberg overcame his grief enough to continue coaching the 49ers in two games this week.

Greenberg always believed he surrounded himself with good people. Now he has proof.

“I have a great support system,” said Greenberg, whose team dropped to 8-6 overall and 3-2 in the Big West.

“My wife [Karen] has just been incredible. I couldn’t have gotten through it without her. But everyone has just been very supportive, and that’s meant so much. Being [at Long Beach] now has helped me a lot.”

Reserve guard Eric Brown led Long Beach with 16 points. Guard Brian Green scored a game-high 23 points for Nevada (11-5, 4-2), which ended a losing streak at seven against Long Beach.

Long Beach President Robert Maxson and Athletic Director Dave O’Brien have talked with Greenberg throughout week. O’Brien is impressed by Greenberg’s focus during an obviously trying time.

“Seth is a street fighter,” O’Brien said. “When things get tough, no one fights back better than Seth.”


Ralph Greenberg died Sunday evening at a nursing home in Liberty, N.Y. He was 71.

A retired furrier who worked in New York City’s garment district, he was diagnosed with lung cancer Feb. 24, 1995. That same day Seth and Karen’s third child, Jacqueline, was born. The cancer metastasized rapidly throughout his back and brain.

Brad Greenberg, a former NBA executive, phoned with the news of their father’s death. They also have another brother, Dean.

Seth and Karen attended the funeral service Thursday morning in Queens, N.Y. They returned in time for Greenberg to lead Long Beach to an 80-73 victory Thursday night over Utah State at the Pyramid.

“Every time the phone rang I wondered if that would be the call,” Greenberg said. “The hardest thing was not being able to say goodbye. My dad introduced me to the life I’m living now.”

Ralph played basketball at Long Island University and ignited a passion for the game in Brad and Seth. Basketball is helping Greenberg through his pain, Karen said.

“In a way, it was good therapy for him,” she said. “Seth is probably the most sensitive of the brothers, but he doesn’t do well sitting around and grieving with the family.


“It really helped that he had something to direct his energy into. He’s been holding up pretty well.”

Greenberg suspended forward/center Marcus Johnson indefinitely on Friday for an unspecified violation of team policy. Johnson is the 49ers’ best defensive center and his absence might hurt the team. Long Beach plays New Mexico State at Las Cruces, N.M., on Monday.

Understandably, Greenberg is eager to move on.

“It’s been hard, but I know my dad would want me to keep going,” Greenberg said. “I know my dad would want me to do what I’m doing.”