GUnation Remembers Greg Sten

Greg Sten was a 6'7" rebounding machine. In only three years, he collected almost as many boards as Ronny Turiaf and Cory Violette did in four years. Greg passed away recently. From his days at GU to cheering on the Zags in Madison Square Garden we look back on his life.

Greg Sten (Class of '73), a 1995 inductee into Gonzaga's Athletic Hall of Fame, died in Sandy Hook, CT on November 7, 2004 at the age of 52. He is survived by his wife Christine and one-year old twin daughters, Trinity and Eva. Greg is also survived by two older children, Nick and Jill, and two sisters Stephanie and Debbie.

Greg was the son of Russian emigre and noted musician Aaron Sten, founder of the California Youth Symphony, and his wife Catherine. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Greg played French horn with CYS from 1962 to 1969. He is remembered by contemporaries to have enlivened DeSmet Hall at GU with the sound of music during his freshman year. He played high school basketball in San Carlos, CA before being recruited to play basketball at Gonzaga University, where he was fond of joking that as a "Jewish boy from California" he'd had no idea that the college was even Catholic until he actually arrived on campus.

After playing the then-mandatory year of JV basketball as a freshman, Sten was a standout on the basketball team and ranked as the third all-time rebounder in Gonzaga history, a record compiled in only three years of playing at the Varsity level under coaches Hank Anderson and Adrian Buoncristiani.

Sophomore Greg Sten became an instant impact player for coach Hank Anderson at a time when it was rare to see underclassmen star at GU. This very tough, lean left-hander had a nose for the ball and a disregard for his body. At 6'7", Greg had a deadly line-drive shot, out to 15 feet that became more deadly in clutch situations. Sten's 3-year career average was more than 10 rebounds a game, an amazing stat. Fearless and very active in the paint the quality I most remember is that Greg was the best garbage collector I had ever seen. Dozens of times he would steal the outlet pass almost out of the hands of the passer and convert for 2 points or if the ball was loose in the paint Greg was sure to grab it and lay it in. One might describe his game as a tad on the nasty side not at all unlike John Stockton's approach. Greg would do what it took to beat his opponent. He made good use of sharp elbows. Off the court Greg appeared easy going and quick to smile.

After the wonderful success of the Lechman years 1965-66-67 the Zags began a 3-year slide in which they lost 6 straight games to our beloved brothers at WSU and 2 straight to our next most beloved team, Seattle U. Our Zags were losing to teams like Puget Sound and beating teams like Mankato State, overall we were 30-48 for those 3 years.


In Greg's first game the Zags lost an overtime game to the Cougs in Kennedy Pavilion, but came back 4 nights later to win in Pullman. On Dec. 19 a powerful Seattle U team played us at home. The Zags had only managed 2 wins over SU in 10 years before that game. A tough battle seemed headed for overtime when Larry Carter hit a jumper from the corner almost at the buzzer and the Zags won 71-69. The refreshed Zags were on their way and finished at 13-13 that year and above .500 the next 2 years that included winning 3 out of 4 games against WSU. Greg Sten was the stud of those turnaround years making all league (Big Sky) his junior and senior years. His senior year Greg teamed with Joe Clayton and Stew Morrill in the frontcourt with Willie Daigle and Skip Molitor in the backcourt to give new head coach Adrian Buoncristiani and assistant Dan Fitzgerald a very solid lineup. We will all miss this Zag Hall Of Famer.

Greg played professional basketball in Spain for three years after graduation, then joined the Navy. He trained as a fighter pilot and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander before his discharge in the early 1990's. At the time of his death, he had recently completed construction of a new home outside Danbury, Connecticut, acting as his own general contractor on the project, while also working as a commercial pilot for American Airlines.

Inside The Kennel Top Stories