A longtime NCAA Division I basketball recruiter, Greg Grensing spent the last 36 years enduring the rigors of traveling throughout the nation and staying in motels.
It simply goes with the territory in trying to find the best players in the land.
Grensing accumulated 27 years of experience recruiting for Lon Kruger at Kansas State and UNLV, and Dana Altman at K-State and Creighton.
“This business and the opportunity to work under two guys that are going to be Hall of Fame coaches (is amazing),” Grensing said. “They are two guys who have their priorities in order. They are great people, and great friends of mine.
“They are totally opposite in their demeanor. You couldn’t tell if Lon’s team won or lost that day because he always had the same mind-et. Dana is just the opposite. He always wears every loss on his sleeve, and he always took the blame when his team lost.”
The previous eight seasons, Grensing, 61, was an assistant coach and top recruiter at Middle Tennessee State for head coach Kermit Davis. Grensing opted to retire rather than join Davis, who accepted the Ole Miss head coaching position after the 2018-19 season.
“I just didn’t feel the need to continue to do that,” Grensing said of stepping away from coaching. “At some point in time, you have to make a choice. I felt like for me, it was my family first. It’s not like I was being drug away from it, kicking and screaming.”
A native Kansan, Grensing is from nearby Alta Vista, only a 24-mile drive from Manhattan. Grensing landed his first high-profile job under Kruger at Kansas State, prior to the 1986-87 season, with Kruger coming from Pan American.
Grensing coached under Kruger for four seasons at K-State, and was reunited with Kruger as his recruiter at UNLV from 2004 to 2011 before Kruger became Oklahoma’s head coach.
Grensing opted to join Davis at Middle Tennessee State.
During his tenure at Kansas State, Grensing was retained by Dana Altman, who was named as the Wildcats’ head coach after Kruger left for Florida.
Altman, who was an assistant to Kruger at K-State (1986-1990), was the head coach at Marshall for one season (1989-1990). He returned to Manhattan as K-State’s head coach for the next four seasons (1990-1994) after Kruger left, securing an NCAA tourney berth in 1993.
Altogether, Grensing spent 15 years as Altman’s assistant/recruiter at Kansas State and Creighton. Altman left Creighton for Oregon in 2010.
Kruger, who has accumulated more than 600 wins, was hired to replace his mentor, the legendary Jack Hartman, prior to the 1986-87 season.
Inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984 while he still was coaching, Hartman posted 589 wins, had a .679 winning percentage and made seven NCAA tourney appearances, including advancing to the Sweet 16 six times.
Suffering a heart attack during the 1985-86 season, Hartman had to step down. He died in 1998 after suffering a second heart attack. Hartman was 73.
Kruger was Hartman’s first recruit in his 1970 recruiting class, out of Silver Lake High School. He became an extension of Hartman as a point guard, a coach on the floor, if you will.
A two-time Big Eight Player of the Year in 1973 and 1974, Kruger was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 1974. Ironically, Kruger took an NCAA coaching hiatus when he coached in the NBA, for none other than the Hawks, from 2001 to 2003. He also was an assistant coach for the New York Knicks for one season.
The Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2014 at Oklahoma, Kruger is the first Division I coach to guide five different schools to the NCAA tournament, and the only coach to win an NCAA tourney game with five different programs.
In 2015, Kruger became the first and only coach since the NCAA tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to take four teams to the Sweet 16 or beyond. He also is one of only three head coaches to lead four schools to multiple NCAA tourney victories.
Grensing enjoyed great success in 12 seasons as Kruger’s recruiter, with the two enjoying trips to the NCAA tourney at both Kansas State and UNLV.
In 1986, a chiseled 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mitch Richmond, out of Moberly Junior College in Moberly, Missouri, was on everyone’s radar as one of the best junior-college players in the nation.
Richmond would become a six-time NBA All-Star during a storied 14-year NBA career as a shooting guard. Nicknamed “The Rock,” Richmond averaged 21.0 points per game.
He was viewed by Kruger and Grensing as the type of player who could help Kansas State contend for a Big 12 championship and make it to the NCAA tourney.
“I went out recruiting in January and early February,” Grensing recalled. “(Kruger) basically just kind of said, ‘Hey, while you’re at it, let’s just stay out there a while and see what might be good for us at Kansas State.’
“So I drove up to Burlington, Iowa, and watched Mitch play against Southeast Burlington one night. I came away with the impression, ‘There’s not many guys who look like him, coach.’”
The recruitment of Richmond was successful. It also branched out to a teammate, 6-foot-7 forward Charles Bledsoe, and even their coach, Altman, who had a growing family and an appetite to move up the coaching ladder.
“Dana was in his third year at Moberly and they were expecting their third child,” Grensing said. “At a JUCO, he was probably making $15,000 or $20,000 per year, at the most.
“(Kruger) could offer him twice that much (at Kansas State as an assistant coach). His instincts kind of said that Kruger would be a good fit for him. Leonard Hamilton, who had accepted the Oklahoma State job, also tried to hire Altman, but he was more comfortable with Kruger.”
Kansas State would advance to the NCAA tourney in both of Richmond’s seasons. In 1986-87, the Wildcats finished 20-11, including an 8-6 record for fourth place in the Big 8 standings.
They advanced to the second round, falling to UNLV.
K-State featured a starting lineup with three future NBA players, including guard Richmond, forward Norris Coleman and guard Steve Henson. Bledsoe, a forward, and shooting guard Will Scott filled the other starting roles.
Coleman, a 6-foot-8 former gun sergeant in the U.S, Army, was a scoring machine for the Wildcats. He was the nation’s leading scorer as a freshman in 1985-86 at 21.8 points per game.
“Coleman was suspended for the first 10 games of his sophomore year, because of a deficient grade-point average in high school,” Grensing recalled.
Coleman led the Wildcats in scoring (20.7 points per game) and rebounding (8.4 per-game average).
Richmond averaged 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in establishing himself as one of the conference’s top players in one season.
It set the stage for the 1987-88 season, the final season at storied Ahearn Field House before the Wildcats moved into Bramlage Coliseum.
Coleman declared for the NBA Draft, but Richmond, Henson, Bledsoe and Scott were returning starters. Ron Meyer was K-State’s post player, and it also had power forward Fred McCoy and guards Buster Glover and Carlos Diggins coming off the bench.
Henson, by the way, another one of Grensing’s first recruits, from McPherson, had an abbreviated NBA career and later was an assistant for Kruger at UNLV with Grensing there, too.
Henson left for Oklahoma with Kruger as an assistant. He now is the head coach at Texas-San Antonio.
The Wildcats went 25-9 in 1987-88, including 11-3 for second place behind Big Eight champion Oklahoma (12-2).
Kansas State made a memorable run in the NCAA tourney, including knocking off Purdue, a No. 1 seed, to advance to the Elite Eight.
Kansas State had its season end at the hands of Kansas, which beat Oklahoma in an All-Big 8 national championship game played at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.
Grensing was an integral part of its success, helping bringing in the right personnel that molded well together.
A native of Alta Vista, Grensing was a 1975 basketball standout and graduate of Council Grove High School. The 6-foot-4 guard signed to play for Independence (Kansas) Community College, where he became a super sub, the sixth man, on Independence’s 1977 NJCAA national championship team.
When Dan Wall, Independence’s head coach, accepted the head job at Southwest Texas State, Grensing played for two seasons there and became a graduate assistant coach for Wall.