Sports

Greg Lee dies; UCLA basketball player under John Wooden who became a beach volleyball star

Greg Lee once described the dominance of his UCLA basketball teams by saying that if he had a perfect game, they would win by 50 points instead of 40.

It wasn’t an exaggeration. These Bruins won national championships under coach John Wooden in 1972 and 1973 while amassing the bulk of a record 88-game winning streak that would end the following season.

Lee, a cerebral 6-foot-5 guard known for throwing lobs at big man Bill Walton, was mostly an addition while he was surrounded by seven future NBA players. He began his first two seasons on the varsity team before coming off the bench as a senior.

But his greatest professional success has come on the sand, not the hardwood, while dividing his time between basketball and volleyball careers. Lee, along with partner Jim Menges, another former bruin, won a record 13 consecutive professional beach volleyball titles from 1975-76. Lee said that one of the things that drew him to volleyball was having a bigger impact on his team’s performance.

“If I played badly in volleyball, I was out,” Lee once told The Times. “If you made mistakes, you were history.”

After years of poor health, Lee died Wednesday at a San Diego hospital from an infection linked to an immune disorder, his older brother Jon said. He was 70.

Greg Lee struggled with many health issues in his later years, including neuropathy and a heart valve that needed replacement.

“He had very glorious front nines,” Jon Lee said of his brother’s life, “but the back nine were riddled with problems.”

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee (left) during a time out against Iowa January 17, 1974 in Chicago.

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee (left) during a time out against Iowa January 17, 1974 in Chicago.

(Associated Press)

Greg Lee grew up in the San Fernando Valley and played at Reseda High for his father Marvin, a former UCLA center under coach Wilbur Johns. Greg Lee was a high school senior and a two-time Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year, making him a natural recruit for the Bruins. Last month he was selected for induction into the City Section Hall of Fame.

Unlike Menges, his later pro volleyball partner who won two national championships at UCLA, Lee did not play the sport while in college. The duo met in 1972 while playing beach volleyball with friends, and they teamed up occasionally before playing full-time together after their respective college careers ended.

Her 13-tournament winning streak was later surpassed by two other former Bruins: Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes.

Lee’s professional basketball career included brief stints with the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, where he was reunited with Walton. Lee also played four seasons in West Germany.

He later taught accelerated math and coached basketball for many years at Clairemont High in San Diego, the school that inspired the Cameron Crowe film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Lee is survived by his brother, his wife Lisa, their son Ethan, and their daughter Jessamyn Feves. They’ve all been by his hospital bed this week, Lisa holding his hand while Ethan played Neil Young’s ‘Thrasher’ on his guitar, Greg singing along in a haze of medication until he passed out for the last time.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-09-22/greg-lee-dies-former-ucla-basketball-player-under-john-wooden-then-a-beach-volleyball-star Greg Lee dies; UCLA basketball player under John Wooden who became a beach volleyball star

Emma Bowman

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