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Tom Archdeacon: Flyers, family focus for associate coach Ricardo Greer

Mar. 21—SALT LAKE CITY — The Dayton Flyers had just gotten into their Delta Center locker room Wednesday afternoon.

As the players finished putting on their practice gear and readied for a session with the national media in their locker room — followed by a 40-minute workout on the court in preparation for this afternoon's NCAA Tournament opener with Nevada — Ricardo Greer slipped into a darkened hall nearby and soon was pacing back and forth as he had one animated phone conversation after another.

These are busy times for the Flyers' associate head coach.

The transfer portal opened Monday — it's the college basketball equivalent of a blue light special — and Greer is UD's ace shopper of talent.

He's also the right-hand man of head coach Anthony Grant, whose team is now playing in its highest profile game in the past seven seasons.

It's UD's first NCAA Tournament in Grant's tenure, although that point deserves a huge asterisk since the 2019-20 Flyers were 29-2 and a likely No 1 seed until the COVID pandemic cancelled March Madness.

This is Greer's first NCAA Tournament game ever in a span that includes four years of stardom at Pitt in the late 1990s, two seasons on the University of Central Florida staff and his seven years at Dayton.

At the same time all this is happening in Salt Lake City, back home, Greer's son R.J. and his Alter Knights teammates will be playing in the Division II state semifinal game against Youngstown Ursuline at UD Arena Saturday morning.

And Greer's daughter, Maddison, an Alter freshman, is playing in a club volleyball tournament on Saturday, as well.

"It's actually pretty surreal," Greer said during a few moments of respite. "Everything is happening at once, but I've got to put it all in perspective and deal with what's in front of me first.

"I've got to lock into our games here and hopefully we'll take care of business (and win two games) and I can get back home Sunday and watch R.J. play for the championship.

"I'm just so proud of him.

"And while that's going on, we're making phone calls, inquiring about different (transfer) players, trying to see what's what and who's who. You're trying to look at your roster and see who you need to come in and if they would be a good fit. Everything's moving so quickly, and it changes day to day."

While the Flyers' NCAA Tournament game and their future roster makeup are of paramount concern, Greer knows what's most important to him, just as it would be to any engaged parent:

"I've always said, 'Family's got to come first.'

"Any opportunity I've had to be with my son, my wife (Misty) and my daughter at games, I was going to be there. And Coach Grant and the rest of the staff have done an amazing job allowing me to be there for my son.

"With me here, we'll FaceTime tonight and tomorrow and before Saturday's game. He called me from the First Four last night and told me everything that was going on. Other times, he's telling me how he's going out to eat with his friends or whatever else is going on with him."

Although he' s a college coach and his son is the star of the Alter team — and one of Ohio's top 2025 recruits — Greer said their relationship isn't eclipsed by their roles as coach and player:

"It's grown to the point where it's about being a father and a son.

"That's something special. And most importantly, it's something that's needed."

'The ultimate Mama Bear'

Although Greer didn't say it, that surely goes back to his own upbringing in a tough Washington Heights neighborhood, north of Harlem in Manhattan.

"I have no relationship with my dad," he said quietly. "He was around when I was really young, but he got into an altercation with my mom and got deported (to the Dominican Republic.)"

His mother, Josephine, was everything to him and his siblings until she died suddenly from a heart attack when Ricardo was a 13-year-old eighth grader.

"She was the ultimate Mama Bear," Greer said as his eyes started to glisten. "She was one tough woman. Just all grit and perseverance.

"It was tough for us. My mom was a single mom. There was government assistance, food stamps. And back then the streets were infested with drugs and homelessness, but she kept us safe. She kept us focused."

When his mom died, he made a graveyard vow as he and the rest of the family tossed roses atop her coffin as it was being lowered into the ground in a Fairlawn, New Jersey, cemetery:

"I said: 'I promise you; I'll do something with my life, I'll make a difference. I'll make you proud.'"

He said he'd been able to do that, thanks to the initial efforts of his sister Jessenia, who was a 17-year-old single mom with a 1-year-old child of her own and two jobs.

She raised Ricardo and his younger brother Jeff. An older half-brother, Nigel, who later joined the Army, introduced the two boys to sports.

"My sister did an amazing job raising us," Greer said. "I'll be honest with you, I don't know where I'd be today if it wasn't for her."

Both Greer and his brother Jeff, who played at Rutgers, had successful pro careers overseas.

"I look up every day because I know my mom is looking down and she's smiling and happy," Greer said. "She sees she raised good boys."

And that's why the Flyers short stay at the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn last week — UD lost its first game to Duquesne 65-57 — was doubly disconcerting for him.

"Every time I go back home for recruiting or a tournament like that, I make sure I visit my mom's grave," he said. "It's just 15 to 20 minutes from Washington Heights and I go buy some flowers and give her her 30 minutes.

"But this time, I wasn't able to do that.

"The trip went too fast."

From player to coach

Greer's 14-year pro career included stops in the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Croatia, Great Britain and especially France, where he played for five teams and was a five-time French Pro League All Star, three-time All Pro, was the league's MVP and in 2017 was inducted into the French Basketball Hall of Fame.

He also played with the Dominican National Team for a decade.

After that, he began his coaching career as the director of player development on Donnie Jones' staff at the University of Central Florida.

Jones was fired after Greer's second season. With his whole staff suddenly out of a job, Jones contacted Grant — they had coached together at Marshall and Florida — and told him Greer would be a good addition in Dayton.

"I didn't know G," Greer said of Grant "But when I got off the plane for my interview, I just gave him a big hug. That's who I am.

"We're different personalities. Coach is strong. He's to himself and doesn't say a lot of words. But because of who he is, you feel his presence when he walks into a room.

"Me, I'm more talkative and outgoing, It's the yin and the yang. We're just perfect for each other."

In May of 2021, Grant elevated Greer to his associate head coach.

Greer often serves as a more approachable confidante of the Dayton players, and he's made a name for himself with his ability to recruit.

At UD games, he also serves as a guardian angel on the rare occasions Grant gets especially stoked after a referee's call and inches too far out of the coach's box or gets too intense in his critique of the officiating.

Greer will come up behind him, place a hand on his shoulder and say something as he tries to guide Grant back to safer grounds.

"When I first got here, we had Coach Solomon (veteran coach Anthony Solomon) for that. But when he left, I was just trying to figure out what I should do.

"Finally, I realized I just have to talk to him. I love it when he gets fired up, but I might tell him: 'Next play...Next play.'

"And sometimes I add something he taught me: 'The juice ain't worth the squeeze.'"

Over the years, the 46-year-old Greer has never forgotten his Dominican roots and he has special pride this season in the smooth-shooting Koby Brea, who's also of Dominican heritage and from Washington Heights.

At some of the Flyers' East Coast road games this season — and again at the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn — a big contingent of Brea's family and friends were there and some waved red, blue and white Dominican flags, a sight that struck a chord with Greer:

"That made me feel so good."

Misty — whom he met in London — is from Australia.

And last summer R.J. showed he was bonded to his mom, as well.

"Yeah, as much as I have so much Dominican pride, my son became an Australian citizen last summer so he can play for the Australian national team," Greer said.

And how does Dad feel about that?

"It's his journey," Greer said with a smile. "He made his decision.

"I'm proud of him for that."