Michelle Greco, a Falcon and Bruin legend, returned home after she retired to end her seven-year, four-time championship career in Italy.

Michelle Greco, a Falcon and Bruin legend, returned home after she retired to end her seven-year, four-time championship career in Italy. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / August 18, 2012)

Already arguably the greatest female basketball player in area lore, Michelle Greco retired with a legacy that spans much more of the globe.

When Greco recently made the call to end a professional playing career that spanned eight years and three continents and came on the heels of prolific stints at Crescenta Valley High and UCLA, she did so wistfully, but with no regrets.

"Just basically that it was time," Greco says of her motivation for retirement. "Physically and mentally I just came to a point in my life where I wanted to be home, I wanted a change and I felt like this past season ending on a championship and with amazing teammates, it was a great way to end my career.

"It was a great last four or five years for me. It was a great experience over there and it certainly wasn't an easy decision for me to retire."

Greco went out a winner — her Cras Basket Taranto squad won the Italian League Serie A championship for the third time in the last four seasons earlier this year — sticking with a theme that permeated the bulk of her days on the court.

After starring at Crescenta Valley, where she still holds the all-time career scoring mark with 2,397 points, Greco, who graduated in 1998, brought a winning touch to every team she joined.

Thrust into UCLA's starting lineup as a freshman, Greco's play at point guard sparked the Bruins to the brink of a Final Four appearance in the NCAA Tournament and she finished her five-year stint there 15th on the all-time school scoring list with 1,158 points and second inPacific-10 Conference history with 288 steals.

Her role as a reserve player for the Seattle Storm in 2004 helped that team capture the WNBA championship in her first and only season in the WNBA and she has thrived as a key starter for one of the premier clubs in Europe for the last seven years.

But those are rarely the first things that come to mind for those who have encountered Greco at various stages along her career odyssey.

"She's just a genuinely great person," Greco's UCLA teammate Marie Philman says. "As a teammate and a friend, she brings out the best in you and I think she's just one of a kind, really."

Greco has made friends and fans everywhere she has gone and the two are often one in the same. And as impressed as they are by the player, they always remember the person.

"There's only one Michelle Greco, but her success wasn't because of her ability, which, obviously, is enormous," says Greco's former tennis coach at Crescenta Valley, Tom Gossard. "Her success was because of who she is and the class that she carries herself with. She understood that her ability had to be made better by working hard."


Tania Adary remembers hearing Michelle Greco's name well before the two clashed in Pacific League battles between Greco's Falcons and Adary's alma mater Glendale, where she is currently the girls' basketball coach.

"I had no idea who she was, my coaches were all telling me, 'Oh my God, Michelle Greco's on this team,' and I remember thinking, 'Who is this kid and why is she so good?'" Adary recalls of the day that her YMCA Panthers were getting ready to play Greco's youth basketball team. "Michelle finished with something like 34 of their 40 points. By the end of the game, I knew who she was."

Greco's reputation as a phenomenal athletic talent preceded her, but Greco never relied on talent alone in developing into a two-sport standout at Crescenta Valley. Tennis may have been Greco's second sport, but she approached it with the same dedication and focus as she did basketball and it resulted in three Pacific League doubles titles and a singles crown as a senior.

"Every practice, every shot meant something to her," Gossard says. "She didn't go out there and play tennis as a second sport just as something to do. She showed up for practice, she showed up on time and she worked hard.

"There wasn't one teammate that did not like her, there wasn't one teammate she treated disrespectfully. She liked everybody and everybody liked her. It comes from her parents, [John and Carmela]. Her mom and dad are two of the greatest people I've ever known. Her parents did a heck of a job."

Greco's high school basketball career was nothing short of spectacular. She was named Pacific League Player of the Year and Cal-Hi Sports state player of the year all four years and earned CIF Player of the Year honors as a senior after averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds. She once scored 54 points in a game. It all attracted plenty of attention from major college programs, including from Kathy Olivier, who coached Greco at UCLA from 1998-2003.

"When we were recruiting her I saw her play in a game for Crescenta Valley, I forget who it was against, and Michelle just lit them up, she had probably 40," says Olivier, who now coaches her alma mater UNLV. "It was unreal, she could not miss a shot."