Over the last 20 years, the Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball team has been a dominant program in Division II basketball. The team has won a national championship, multiple conference titles and a handful of other impressive accolades. It was not until Greg Kamansky took over the reins as head coach that the program became a force to be reckoned with.
Born in Los Angeles, Kamansky grew up bouncing around from state to state. From living on the East Coast in Maryland, to moving to Texas then Oklahoma, Kamansky finished up his high school career back in Southern California at Arcadia High School. After graduating, he played basketball for the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), landing himself among the top five leading scorers and being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
“At the time, UCSD wasn’t the greatest basketball program, but we started winning toward the end of my junior and senior years,” Kamansky said.
Kamansky said he loved college, had a lot of fun and had great teammates. He draws on those experiences for the program he wants at CPP.
After graduating from UCSD with a degree in economics, Kamansky initially wanted a career as a director of athletics, prompting him to get his master’s degree in business from San Diego State University. While pursuing his master’s, he interned right around the corner at University of San Diego (USD), wearing many different hats.
“I got all the experience that I thought I would need to find a job,” Kamansky said.
It was not until his last year of graduate school that he would find his true passion.
“A part-time job at the high school across the street, Francis Parker, as the coach for the ninth grade team opened up,” said Kamansky. “I knew the coaches at USD and they mentioned it to me … it paid for tuition … so I was like, ‘I’m in.’”
The year prior to Kamansky taking over, the freshman team had not won a game. In his first season coaching, the team went 12-1 and won its league. He was so proud of their success and how they responded to his coaching. From there on, he knew that he wanted to coach.
Kamansky applied to many schools across the country before landing at Fresno Pacific University. While he originally applied for a part-time assistant athletic director position, he asked if there was an assistant coaching job open for the basketball team. He ended up being an assistant coach for five years.
Kamansky moved back to Rancho Cucamonga with his family and was contacted by his former teammate Tim Rapp – CPP’s head coach at the time – to be his assistant. After his first year with the Broncos, Rapp left, Kamansky took over as the head coach in 2000 and the rest is history.
Kamansky built the program from the bottom up. A program that went from three National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearances in 52 years now has a national championship to its name. Kamansky has earned over 300 wins in California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) play, as well as over 400 career wins at CPP.
Entering his 20th season as head coach for the Broncos, Kamansky has been named the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Division II Bulletin National Coach of the Year, CCAA Coach of the Year five times, and West Region Coach of the Year three times. He has also coached numerous All-Americans, Players of the Year, and Freshmen of the Year.
“Obviously we have to have the talent level and competitiveness, but my main thing is what kind of person they are, guys that are unselfish and guys that want to give up individual glory and stats for the betterment of the team,” Kamansky said. “I want them to have a great experience with their teammates; win, lose or draw. I want them to make lifelong friendships. I want them to be hungry, but also be great teammates and representatives of our program. This is a family and I don’t just let anybody in.”
While Kamansky has created an exceptional program, he knows he could not have achieved everything he has alone. He praises all of his assistant coaches, past and present, more specifically associate head coach Damion Hill, who has been with him from the beginning; the two won a national title together.
“One of the best things I’ve done as a coach is surround myself with great people,” Kamansky said. “Coach Hill has been with me for all this time … I have been very fortunate with some great assistant coaches that are competitive, that know the game, that are great people and give me great advice.”
He credits his two decade-long success to his staff as well as the players that believe in their vision to win and buy into the competitive environment he has created.
“I am competitive. I do not like losing,” Kamansky said. “I’m with the philosophy ‘failure is not an option.’ I hate losing more than I love winning.” He wants to instill in his players that same philosophy in hopes that they carry it with them after their basketball career has ended.
“One thing I will take away playing for Coach K. is the sense of being together and the sense of always (being) willing to compete in whatever we’re doing,” senior forward Justin Young said. “Coach K. promotes a really competitive culture where we always get after it and work really hard.”
Senior Nikhil Peters praises Kamanksy for helping him improve as a basketball player since the start of his freshman year.
“Initially, coming in as a freshman, it was a lot of pressure, just knowing how good the program is, but as my years have gone on, I learned to do what you’re told and get stuff done because playing under Coach K. is really fun,” Peters said. “Coach K. has been around the game for quite some time. Coaching over 20 years, he sees little aspects of the game that maybe as a player you don’t see all the time, but he lets you know in film and practice … and I can say that my whole game has improved in four years playing here.”
As the Broncos enter into the second half of conference, Kamansky wants his players to give it their all, one game at a time. With a 13-5 overall record and a 9-4 record in conference play, anything can happen going into the conference tournament. As defending conference champions the last two years, the Broncos have a target on their backs every game they play.
“All I care about is that we get tighter as a group and compete at an even higher level in the second half of conference,” Kamansky said. “I just want our group of guys to get that feeling that they are on a mission …. I want our guys to give everything they have left … if we have that, we’ll be fine. Every game means everything.”
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