In Their Own Words: Seth Greenberg
The V Foundation for Cancer Research is successful thanks to the contributions of many – donors, corporate partners, our incredible Board and Scientific Advisory Committee and the amazing researchers to whom we award grants. With “In Their Own Words,” we sit down with key members of our team to learn more about their commitment to the V Foundation and their personal desire to put an end to cancer. In this edition, we chat with ESPN college basketball commentator Seth Greenberg.
The V Foundation: How has cancer personally affected you?
Seth Greenberg: I lost my dad to cancer. We all think about our fathers as larger than life. He introduced me to the game of basketball. He helped develop my passion for what I’m doing today. I was the head coach at Long Beach State when he was going through all this, and every other Saturday night, I’d take the red eye back home when he was really sick just to be with him, and then take another red eye back on Sunday night. He was so brave in dealing with it, but to see him go through that and see how debilitating that fight was, was really hard. I watched him wither away. My daughter’s nephew was also diagnosed with cancer when he was just three or four years old, and he passed away a few years later. To see his parents deal with that and see my son-in-law have to go through that with his family was really difficult.
TVF: How have you gotten involved with supporting cancer research?
SG: We started an event in Hartford, Conn., that I host each year at the Golf Club of Avon with all the Division 1 coaches in the state called the Connecticut Basketball Tip-Off Breakfast. We host about 300 people, and thanks to our sponsors, Hoffman Automotive Group and Hartford Health Care, all the money raised goes to the John Saunders Grant for Pediatric Cancer at the V Foundation. I just felt like I wanted to do something to help others, so I started calling all the coaches, and they all were in. It proves that coaches are willing to give up their time, and just as importantly, wherever you go, the community understands that this is something we have to continue to fight and be passionate about. They’ve been tremendously supportive, and we had a record year raising money this year.
TVF: After so many years as a coach, how did coming to ESPN shape your view of the V Foundation?
SG: I’m so proud to be part of the team. The one thing I say about ESPN is that every day you go to work, everyone is pulling in the same direction. Everyone genuinely cares about what you’re doing and wants you to have the best show humanly possible, but they also care about others. Seeing the mission of ESPN’s support of the V Foundation and seeing their passion from the top down really reinforced that I’m working at a special place – a place that understands service and leadership and making a difference. It has a mission that is more than just being the voice of athletics, but having a chance to impact the world we live in. Jimmy [Valvano] was a close friend; Bob [Valvano] is a close friend. ESPN’s commitment to the V Foundation, as Jimmy would say, with their money and their support, with their ownership of making this thing something that not only allows us to continue Jimmy’s legacy but more importantly continue his mission. And that’s to find a cure for cancer. As Jimmy would say, “It might not save my life, it may save my children’s lives. It may save someone you love.” In essence, that is exactly what’s happened.
TVF: If you speak to someone who has a loved one going through a cancer diagnosis, what advice would you give to them?
SG: The most important thing is be there. Listen. Hear. Love. Support. Be in it with them, so that they know they aren’t fighting alone. The time you spend with someone, especially in this fight against cancer, those are the memories that are etched in your brain. I still remember sitting at the end of my dad’s bed in the hospital. Those conversations that we had, in those days and nights, are the last memories I had of my dad. Like Jimmy would say, don’t be afraid to give a hug. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Don’t be afraid to spend time and let people know how much you care and how much you love them. I think that’s really important. The support element is so vital, because going through something like cancer is so, so difficult if you’re going alone.
TVF: What would Victory Over Cancer® look like to you?
SG: Life without cancer, let’s face it, it’s a better life for all. Mothers and fathers having longer lives together. Husbands and wives and children living life without that fear. It would be much more joyous and peaceful. Families would be complete. You think about the number of families that have been tortured by that disease, and you think about all the memories that have been lost because of that disease. Think about how many happy experiences that would occur because cancer no longer existed.