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Cal Football

Greatwood Reflects on Time at Cal and Future of the Program

December 29, 2019

After nearly 40 years of coaching, most of it in his long and tremendously successful run at Oregon, Cal offensive line coach Steve Greatwood announced to the team after practice Friday that his long and storied career would be coming to a close following Cal’s bowl game Monday, leading to a long and heartfelt round of applause from the players and fellow staff.

“It was a hard decision,” said Greatwood. “It really was, because I’ve enjoyed everything about being down here. Justin (Wilcox), the group of guys I get to coach. They’re just a great group. But after 39 straight years, it’s just time to maybe find something else to do in life.

“I don’t know if there’s ever a right time to do it but it just kind of felt like now’s the time. I think whoever takes this group over, I’ve left them a pretty good nucleus of guys to work with. I feel pretty good about that, too.”

Though the line was paper thin after as many as four starters fell to injury, forcing Greatwood to plug in inexperienced walk-ons and undersized freshmen at times, the line rallied with the return of injured players Mike Saffell and Valentino Daltoso in the home stretch, helping propell the team to seven wins and Monday’s Redbox Bowl appearance.

Coaching in the Bay Area was a different and sometimes refreshing experience for the laid-back Greatwood after three plus decades of being under the microscope in his hometown of Eugene, where he was born, raised, played and coached.

“It was different being in a pro sports town in the Bay Area, not having the attention you get in a college town like Eugene,” said Greatwood. “It was kind of nice being able to go to a restaurant or walk in a store without 10 people coming up to you either congratulating you or critiquing you if things didn’t go well. The anonymity was kind of nice. I was always surprised when someone in Safeway in Moraga would recognize me and say, “Go Bears!”’

The Greatwood family did leave their mark on Moraga, however -literally- with Greatwood’s wife and friend painting the massive Moraga Rocks blue and gold for last year’s bowl game.

Bear Insider
Moraga Rocks before 2018 bowl game

“I don’t know how she did it,” said Greatwood, with a laugh. “It was really steep and slippery.”

Greatwood’s Moraga neighbors would also be treated to the annual sight of a dozen or more of his offensive line players combing the neighborhood on their annual Easter egg hunt -one of the many team bonding activities that Greatwood encouraged and enjoyed.

The veteran coach could’ve taken the opportunity to retire three seasons ago after a staff change at Oregon with new head coach Willie Taggert brought a whole new staff to Eugene to replace the veteran Ducks staff.

“I wasn’t ready then,” said Greatwood. “There were a couple guys on our staff who did (retire) but I just felt like I didn’t want it to end that way. But I wasn’t just going to take any job, either. So when Justin got this this job and the opportunity arose, it just felt like the perfect fit. I wasn’t going to move across the country or anything. It just seemed like it was fate to come here when this job was available for me.”

What made it the perfect opportunity?

“Obviously the familiarity with Justin was important,” said Greatwood. “At this stage of my career, you want to be particular about who you’re working with and where you’re at. I knew I wanted to be around a head coach who I knew was going to do things the right way and treat people the right way. I’m past the point where I need to tolerate some type of tyrant. It just seems like it’s getting more and more that way and I didn’t need any of that.

“He’s a great football mind and treats people the right way. I think the program is refecting that.”

Greatwood sees a bright future and strong foundation laid in the three years he’s coached with Wilcox.

“I honestly believe that this football team next year, if everyone stays the course and stays healthy -I told the team after the UCLA game this year to not be surprised if they see this team play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st next year,” said Greatwood. “I really believe that this team has the makings to make some noise, win the North and go to the Rose Bowl. There’s a great nucleus of kids that with another year can get it done.

“A lot will depend on this bowl game. If we can go out and play well, continuing to improve like we have the last couple weeks and just carry that confidence over into the offseason, I really think that next year’s team could be poised to make a serious run.”

“I honestly believe that this football team next year, if everyone stays the course and stays healthy -I told the team after the UCLA game this year to not be surprised if they see this team play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st next year.”
- Steve Greatwood

Wilcox acknowledged what they’ll be missing after Greatwood’s passing of the torch.

"Steve Greatwood is one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of our game and an even better person," said Wilcox with yesterday’s public announcement of the retirement. "I have the utmost respect for coach Wood and the work he has done over the last four decades.

“He was the first person I hired at Cal three years ago. The impact he made both on and off the field in the lives of our young men and his fellow coaches during his three seasons with our program will have a positive influence on our program for many years to come. I wish we could keep him around longer because he will be very difficult to replace, but he has built a tremendous foundation for our offensive line unit to build upon in the years ahead. If anyone has earned the right to enjoy his retirement and enjoy life, it's coach Wood."

The fact that the program is on strong footing has lent a sense of comfort to Greatwood as he decides to hang up his coaching whistle and move on to the next phase of life.

“I’m excited with the direction the program’s heading,” said Greatwood. “This was not an easy decision for me. I know I’m going to miss the heck out of the cameraderie that goes with coaching and being around the players and your fellow coaches. I don’t think you can ever duplicate or replace that. It’s just time for me to try and discover another passage in my life and see what’s out there.”

And what’s next?

“We’ll probably head back to Oregon. All our kids are there and now our grandchild. It will be nice and a bit less expensive to live up there,” concluded Greatwood, with a laugh.

Discussion from...

Greatwood Reflects on Time at Cal and Future of the Program

5,329 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by 510 Bear
79 Bear
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Thanks very much coach! Enjoy retirement. You certainly deserve to. Go Bears!
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This team should play in the Rose Bowl next year yet you're retiring? Hmmmm....
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Seems like a great guy. We are similar in age. I hope he enjoys retirement. I know I do.
510 Bear
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I really like this dude.
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