The Pasco County’s boys basketball coaching landscape will undoubtedly take on a differently look this coming season, and beyond.
First, it was venerable Land O’ Lakes High head coach Dave Puhalski who announced his retirement after collecting 479 wins in 31 years at the school.
Now, it’s longtime Wesley Chapel High head coach Doug Greseth who’s hanging up the whistle and walking away from the sidelines for good.
Greseth, 63, quietly retired at the end of the 2019-2020 season, which saw the Wildcats post a 16-10 mark and earn a playoff berth.
Winning was commonplace wherever Greseth went.
He won 300 games in 17 years at Wesley Chapel. Over his 34-year prep coaching career, he registered 533 wins — collecting another 163 wins in 13 seasons at Okeechobee High School and 70 wins in four seasons at Jefferson (Tampa) High School, respectively.
The coach also racked up multiple state playoff appearances and coach of the year awards, all while developing countless All-Conference players and college-level athletes.
After so many years, Greseth is ready to step aside.
“I’ve been teaching for over 36 years, coaching for over 34 years, and I just thought this was a good time to end my career,” Greseth said, in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News. “You just get a gut feeling when it’s time to move on and do other things, so that’s basically it.”
A signal of how long Greseth’s been in the game — he recently coached the son of a former player from his early days at Okeechobee High in the mid 1980s.
The circumstance happened when Greseth coached Chaz Neal during the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Wesley Chapel. He also coached Neal’s father, Roger, more than 30 years before that at the southeast Florida-based school. “You know you’ve been doing it for a long time when the sons start coming through,” Greseth joked.
As he’s just settling into retirement, there’s plenty Greseth will miss about coaching high school hoops.
The competition. The preparation. All the players and fellow coaches.
“I’ve really been fortunate,” Greseth said. “I’ve had a lot of really good assistant coaches. I’ve had a lot of good support. It’s been one of those things, there’s a lot of hardship with coaching, but there’s a lot of satisfaction, as well.”
Some of his favorite teams were those that didn’t have a cast of superstars, but rather a group of team players forced to come together and work hard to discover success. It happened in his second season at Wesley Chapel in 2005, when the team spent the first half of the season under .500, but wound up winning a district title and finishing 17-10.
“It’s easy to coach an all-star team, it’s easy to coach when you’ve got a lot of great players, but when you’ve really got to work to build a team and to get a team to be successful when you maybe have less talent than you have other years, that’s probably the most satisfying thing for me,” he said.
Throughout the local hoops community, Greseth is regarded for an intense, passionate style centered around hard and unselfish play, with an emphasis on sturdy man-to-man defense.
The coach pointed out, “I’ve been called ‘old-school’ by more than one person.
“I wasn’t afraid to be demanding of players. Maybe that’s why we had the success that we had.”
Respected by peers, players
Greseth’s long-lasting career is much appreciated by Wiregrass Ranch High boys basketball coach Jeremy Calzone, whose teams have rivaled Wesley Chapel’s the past 14 years.
Calzone described Greseth as “by far one of the best ever to be on the sidelines, just what he teaches those kids over there and their defense.”
Calzone added: “He’s lasted this long because he gets kids to really buy into his defensive philosophy, and they play hard for him.
“It’s the hardest game of the year for us, not just because it’s a rivalry, but because I know they’re going to give it to us defensively, and get in our face and be physical.”
Off the court, Calzone considers Greseth a mentor and close friend.
The younger coach was just 26 years old when he landed the Wiregrass Ranch job, when the school opened 2006.
That first semester his team was forced to practice at Wesley Chapel’s gymnasium, as the new school’s gym wouldn’t be ready until January 2007.
Calzone will always remember how generous Greseth was in sharing his space and resources. There were times when Calzone’s hoops team was practicing on one end of the floor, while Greseth’s physical education class was on the other side.
Calzone recalled Greseth’s hospitality: “He welcomed me in with open arms even though he knew we were going to be rivals. He made sure that I got whatever I needed, like as far as basketballs if I needed them or extra gym space, he just was very accommodating from the very beginning, and he couldn’t have helped me any more than he did.
“He’d just give me advice, and he’d make sure if I needed anything, like there’s just so much that he did that he didn’t have to do. He could’ve been mad and said, ‘Oh, these guys are using our gym,’ and he did not do that, which I’ll never forget that.”
In game action, Greseth’s aggressive on-court demeanor may have been a turnoff for some watching from the stands.
Calzone acknowledged if someone were to catch a Wesley Chapel game, they might come away thinking Greseth “was a pretty bad guy.” But, that’s far from the case, Calzone insists.
“Even though he’s intense and he yells a lot, the love he has for the game and for people in the game and his players, I don’t think people really appreciate that, and I’m going to miss that, and I know the players that he leaves behind are certainly going to miss that, as well,” Calzone said.
Greseth’s consideration and having others’ best interests at heart isn’t lost on former players, including Greg Jenkins, who graduated from Wesley Chapel in 2008.
Jenkins is best known for his work on the gridiron, where he became was a star quarterback at Alabama State University, and spent three seasons in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.
He also played varsity hoops for three years for Greseth, developing into an All-Conference player, leading scorer and hard-nosed defensive player.
“He’s definitely going to push you, not only as a basketball player, but as a young man,” Jenkins recalled of Greseth. “If you weren’t a team player, you wouldn’t really like his coaching style. “Like, he was a team-oriented style coach, and he loved to win,” Jenkins said.
The former pro athlete’s connection with Greseth transcends sports.
When Jenkins was a middle-schooler, Greseth would pick him up from his Dade City home and drive him to and from summer league basketball games in Wesley Chapel. The experience isn’t lost on Jenkins. He acknowledged he had a rough upbringing and was raised in a single-parent household and didn’t always have a ride to athletics events.
“He’s like a father-figure,” Jenkins said of Greseth. So much so, Jenkins makes a point to text Greseth a positive message every Father’s Day.
The coach was there for important moments in Jenkins’ life, too. Greseth attended his mother’s funeral in 2016 and his wedding in 2017.
“Anything I have going on, he’s definitely there,” said Jenkins, now an Atlanta-based fitness and athletic trainer. “We have a real friendship. It’s bigger than sports.”
Jenkins also underscored Greseth’s humble nature.
When Jenkins recently made a trip to his old stomping grounds to catch up with Greseth, he said his former coach never mentioned he had eclipsed the 500-career win mark.
Jenkins didn’t know about the achievement until he noticed a celebratory plaque hanging on the school’s gymnasium wall.
“He just loves the work, the work behind the scenes. He’s doesn’t like accolades, he just works,” Jenkins said.
Erik Thomas is the most decorated hoops player Greseth coached at Wesley Chapel.
He is the program’s all-time scorer and rebounder who won the Florida Class 4A Player of the Year in 2013. He’s gone on to have a notable college career at NCAA Division I University of New Orleans and will be playing in the Mexican professional basketball league this year, after spending the past three seasons playing in Argentina.
Thomas detailed how Greseth improved his game throughout his four years of high school, helping him fine-tune fundamentals and better understand the sport’s nuances.
“He brings you back to what basketball is about, and knowing the game and becoming a student of the game,” Thomas said. “He helped me get to where I wanted to go.”
Thomas said Greseth’s coaching style resembled a “Bob Knight type,” referring to the legendary Indiana University men’s basketball coach who won three national championships and was known for instilling a disciplined approach and for his fiery on-court presence.
“I had to work my butt off,” Thomas said of playing for Greseth. “He tried to enforce working hard and having a hard work ethic, and I think his character and his demeanor and energy rubbed off on all the players, allowing them to get better on the court.”
Like others have found, beyond Greseth’s sometimes gruff exterior is a coach who really cared.
One of Thomas’ favorite memories was when his prep coach showed up to his senior night game in New Orleans in 2017. Greseth made the nine-hour drive to New Orleans to support Thomas, then drove back home later that night.
“Him being there meant a lot, and it just shows we have a relationship after I had graduated and after I had went into college,” Thomas said. “He always was hoping that I would go out and do big things, and I was able to achieve them. I was just glad I was able to come to Wesley Chapel and play under him, and do what I did there in those four years I was there.”
Road to 533 career victories
• 163 wins in 13 seasons at Okeechobee High School (1983-1986)
• 70 wins in four seasons at Jefferson (Tampa) High School (1999-2002)
• 300 wins in 17 seasons at Wesley Chapel High School (2003-2020)
Wesley Chapel boys basketball under coach Doug Greseth
2003-2004: 22-6 (state playoffs; region semifinals)
2004-2005: 17-10 (district champions; state playoffs)
2005-2006: 23-6 (conference champions; district champions; state playoffs)
2006-2007: 15-12 (district runner-up; state playoffs)
2009-2010: 13-12 (conference runner-up)
2010-2011: 13-16 (district runner-up; state playoffs)
2011-2012: 24-5 (conference champions; state playoffs)
2012-2013: 24-5 (conference champions; district champions; state playoffs)
2013-2014: 21-6 (conference runner-up)
2014-2015: 17-10 (conference runner-up)
2015-2016: 21-8 (conference runner-up; district runner-up; state playoffs)
2019-2020: 16-10 (state playoffs)
Published July 15, 2020