Greg Lee once described the dominance of his UCLA basketball teams by saying that if he had a perfect game, they would win by 50 points instead of 40.
It was not an exaggeration. Those Bruins won national championships in 1972 and 1973 under coach John Wooden while surprising most of a record 88-game winning streak that would end the following season.
A 6-foot-5 cerebral guard known for lobbing big man Bill Walton, Lee was mostly a complementary piece while surrounded by seven future NBA players. He began his first two seasons on the varsity team before coming off the bench as a senior.
But his greatest professional success came in the arena, not the court, as he divided his time between careers in basketball and volleyball. Lee won a record 13 consecutive professional beach volleyball tournament titles between 1975 and 1976 along with his partner Jim Menges, another former Bruin. Lee said one of the things that drew him to volleyball was having a bigger impact on the team’s performance than he did.
“If I played bad volleyball, I was out of there,” Lee once told The Times. “If you made mistakes, you were history.”
After years of failing health, Lee died Wednesday at a San Diego hospital from an infection related to an immune disorder, his older brother Jon said. Hello what 70.
Greg Lee had battled many health issues in his later years, including neuropathy and a heart valve that required replacement.
“He had a very glorious first nine,” Jon Lee said of his brother’s life, “but the last nine were riddled with problems.”
Greg Lee grew up in the San Fernando Valley and played at Reseda High for his father, Marvin, a former UCLA center under coach Wilbur Johns. Greg Lee was the valedictorian of his high school’s senior class and a two-time Los Angeles City Section player of the year, making him a natural recruit for the Bruins. Last month, he was selected into the City Section Hall of Fame.
Unlike Menges, his eventual professional volleyball teammate who won two national championships at UCLA, Lee did not play the sport while in college. The duo met while playing beach volleyball with friends in 1972 and partnered occasionally before playing together full-time after their respective college careers were over.
His 13-tournament winning streak was later matched by two other former Bruins: Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes.
Lee’s professional basketball career included brief stops with the ABA’s San Diego Pathfinders and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, where he was reunited with Walton. Lee also played four seasons in West Germany.
Later, he taught accelerated math and coached basketball for many years at Clairemont High in San Diego, the school that inspired the Cameron Crowe movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Lee is survived by his wife, Lisa, son Ethan and daughter Jessamyn Feves, as well as his brother. They were all by his hospital bed this week, Lisa holding his hand as Ethan played Neil Young’s “Thrasher” on his guitar, Greg singing through a haze of medication until he passed out for the last time.