May 30, 2010
Marty Gitlin, Special to NCAA.com
OBERLIN, Ohio – The City of Brotherly Love is Philadelphia. But the personification of brotherly love could be found this week in the little college town of Oberlin, Ohio.
They could be found in the hearts of Dan and Michael Greenberg.
Dan Greenberg is the men’s tennis coach at Williams College in Massachusetts, his alma mater. Michael Greenberg is a senior player at Kenyon College in Ohio. But they’re only two years apart in age.
Both played prep tennis at East Chapel Hill High School in the North Carolina city that bears its name. Both helped their team to a state championship and qualified for the individual state tournament. Michael won the crown in both his junior and senior seasons.
He could thank not only the young man he saw in the mirror for that success, but his brother Dan as well. The two spent much time on the neighborhood courts. Dan worked tirelessly to improve his brother’s game. Rather than succumb to his competitive nature and yearn only to beat Michael, he strove to maximize his talent.
“I was always aware of how much he wanted me to get better,” said Michael, who reached the Round of 16 in the singles draw and the quarterfinals in doubles of this week’s NCAA Division III Men’s championships. “There was a lot of practice time when he focused on what I needed to do to get better.
“A lot of times he got frustrated when I played. But once I realized that he was doing it all for me, we grew so, so close. It was an amazing feeling for me to acknowledge that.”
Dan qualified for the Division III Championships as both a sophomore and senior at Williams. Upon the completion of his college career, he landed a coaching job at the University of North Carolina. When a head coaching position opened up at Williams, he jumped all over it and was hired.
He fondly recalled working with Michael in their younger days. Teaching tennis to his younger brother whet Dan’s appetite for coaching the sport at a higher level. But he also admitted that it brought the two closer together.
“I always found it easy working with him,” said Dan, who coached former Williams teammate Nick Lebedoff into the Round of 16 of the singles draw this week. “Michael and I grew up playing tennis together and it was always more than just about me. It was about working him out. Obviously you’re going to push each other, but in the end I always enjoyed it. I felt like it’s important to have an older brother to play with and look up to and to develop a competitive spirit with.”
The possibility of Michael playing for his brother at Williams was raised, but Dan is quite satisfied with how it turned out.
“I would have loved to have had him play here and gotten a chance to coach him at Williams,” Dan said, “but given the kind of career he’s had at Kenyon, it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
The Greenberg brothers don’t deny that they have had their competitive moments. But their difference in ages precluded any possibility that they were on the same level in the sport throughout their lives. It wasn’t until Michael reached high school that he began challenging Dan.
“Michael was always an extremely hard worker,” Dan said. “And after a while we developed a competition. He had that hunger and he took it to me.”
Brotherly love does have its limits. Sometimes that limit can be the lines on a tennis court. But when it comes to Dan and Michael Greenberg, the love always eclipsed the desire to win.