Former Miner Player Gets Degree, Chance to Coach
By Joe Velarde
Former UTEP basketball star Greg Foster spent several seasons in the NBA and tasted success, but his latest victory in the Don Haskins Center came with a cap and gown.
Foster was among the estimated 2,600 spring 2011 graduates who participated in the May 14 commencement ceremonies at the Haskins Center, where his teams earned plenty of wins and were responsible for several of the banners in the rafters.
He decided after a 15-year professional career that included a 2001 world championship with the Los Angeles Lakers and dabbling in real estate that he should return to school to earn his degree.
“Being back in the classroom was fun,” the Oakland, Calif.-native said. “I was so happy to be back in that environment. I had become the old guy that kept asking questions when everyone else wanted to go home.”
The 6-foot-11-inch Foster earned his degree in multidisciplinary studies, but he also volunteered as an undergraduate coaching assistant during this past season. He wanted to share what he learned from the likes of Phil Jackson at Los Angeles, Jerry Sloan with the Utah Jazz, and Don Haskins, the legendary Hall of Fame coach of the Miners.
Upon his return to UTEP, he requested a volunteer opportunity to help head coach Tim Floyd, who tried to recruit him to the Miners some 25 years ago.
According to Foster, he has considered coaching for years.
“There’s so much I could offer these kids,” he said. “It’s a chance to reinvent myself as a coach, and contribute to the University and to the development of these young and talented athletes.”
Foster earned praise from many of the young Miners players for the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the team. Senior guard/forward Gabriel McCulley said that Foster coaches with a “team first” mentality.
“Greg is always looking for us in the gym, telling us that we won’t get better overnight” said McCulley, a criminal justice major. “I picked up from him that (success) takes work and dedication.”
Foster showed great humility as a volunteer, but the same professionalism and work ethic as the paid coaches on Floyd’s staff, according to Kenny DeWeese, director of UTEP basketball operations.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I’ve heard stories about those NBA guys coming in with super huge egos. Foster surprised me though. His dedication to the team surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
DeWeese was confident that Foster could develop into an NCAA Division 1 coaching prospect, and hoped the former basketball star would keep that talent at UTEP.
“But that’s his decision,” the director said.