By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Nearly 25 years have passed since Cherie Greer Brown played her last lacrosse game for the University of Virginia, but her stature in the sport hasn’t diminished.
At the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Greer Brown — who went by Greer, her maiden name, at UVA — received a Tewaaraton Legends Award on June 1 in Washington, D.C.
“It was a phenomenal evening,” Greer Brown said, “and I was honored and humbled and really overwhelmed.”
During Greer Brown’s illustrious college career, the Cavaliers won two NCAA titles (1991 and ’93), and she was named a first-team All-American three times.
Her jersey, No. 18, was the first retired in the Virginia women’s program. The Wahoos reached the NCAA tournament’s Final Four every year Greer Brown, a defender from the Philadelphia area, was on their roster.
“Cherie is the standard by which all other players are measured,” said Jane Miller, who coached Greer Brown at UVA. “I learned almost as much from Cherie as she hopefully learned from me.”
How dominant was Greer Brown at Virginia? Consider her final season. In 1994, she was named the national defensive player of the year. She also led the nation in scoring, with 61 goals and 18 assists.
“I just sort of created some things [in the Cavaliers’ system] so she could be used at both ends of the field,” said Miller, now UVA’s senior associate athletics director for programs. “She was so versatile.”
At Greer Brown’s request, Miller introduced her at the Tewaaraton banquet. Watching proudly were Greer Brown’s husband, Winston Brown, and their two children: daughter Greer, who’s 5, and son Cannon, who turns 2 this summer.
“I really wanted them to be there,” Greer Brown said.
They weren’t the only ones in Greer Brown’s cheering section in D.C. “My high school coach arrived, and that was a surprise,” she said, “and then almost 10 to 15 of the players I played with at UVA came back to support me and to be there. So to see their love and all their support, it was wonderful.”
A graduate of Harriton High in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylania, Greer Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and communication studies from UVA in 1994. She lives in Orlando, Florida, where lacrosse has “really exploded,” Greer Brown said, “through all of Florida. It’s so nice to see it grow, considering I’m from the Northeast. It was so big up there.”
Her husband, who’s from the Atlanta area, has an engineering degree from Tulane, where he ran track & field.
“I always say he married into the sport,” Greer Brown said, laughing. “He did not grow up playing lacrosse.”
Greer Brown, 44, grew up playing lacrosse, field hockey and basketball and also competed in track & field and swimming. Her father is NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer, who starred for the Syracuse Nationals and the Philadelphia 76ers.
“She was blessed with great genes,” Miller said, but Greer Brown never took her ability for granted.
“She was one of the hardest workers on the team,” Miller said. “She practiced as hard as she played. She never took a minute off. She made her teammates better because of her work ethic and her own play.
“She was a coach’s dream and a teammate’s dream: really humble, but she knew when it was time to up her game. She really was the first one to take blame for losses, but she rarely took any credit for wins.”
For her first two years at UVA, Greer Brown also played field hockey. Miller was head coach of that team, too.
“It was kind of like what players did back in the day,” Greer Brown said. “Now people really focus on one sport or the other. After the two years, I really didn’t have the passion for the game of field hockey anymore, so I put that aside and just pursued lacrosse throughout the whole year.”
She represented the United States in the Women’s World Cup in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005. Three of those teams won world championships. In 2000, Lacrosse Magazine named Greer to its all-century team. In 2009, she was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Greer Brown, 44, is the founder and principal of Greer Strategy Group, a consulting firm that assists professional athletes with their business ventures. She’s also involved with real estate projects and philanthropic initiatives.
She doesn’t get back to Charlottesville as often as she’d like, said Greer Brown, but she returned last year when the team that won the NCAA title in 1991 was recognized during a women’s basketball game at John Paul Jones Arena. (The ’93 championship team will be honored at UVA in 2018, Miller said.)
Greer Brown’s teammates in 1991 included Julie Myers, who succeeded Miller as head coach after the ’95 season and has guided the `Hoos to 22 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Myers was a UVA assistant coach during Greer Brown’s final three years in the program.
“I really don’t get back much,” Greer Brown said, “but I will, because I need to take my kids there and tour the Grounds and take them all around UVA and tell them some stories. I need to come back more often.”
Of her time at the University, Greer Brown said, “I wish I could go back to those four years again. I had so much fun. It was incredible, just the experience academically and athletically. I wish I could go back and take my kids with me. If I didn’t have [UVA], I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Her former teammates remain “dear friends,” Greer Brown said, “really lifelong friends. We keep in touch. We always try to stay in each other’s lives as much as possible, and our kids have met.
“So UVA really has laid a strong foundation for me in moving forward over the 20-plus years since I’ve been there. Time goes by really fast. It was really a remarkable experience that helped lay the groundwork for my future.”
Greer Brown recently watched the NBA Finals, in which Golden State defeated Cleveland. That led her to reflect on her experiences on NCAA lacrosse’s biggest stage.
“That’s what people dream of,” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal, to win a championship. To know that I competed at UVA, at a top-notch level, and won two NCAA championships is really an honor in itself.
“It’s a great achievement, and our whole team did it together. It’s a team sport, and I definitely did not do it by myself. The teammates that I had and loved playing with really just worked really, really together and were prepared very well by Jane, too.
“Jane was a phenomenal coach. She really pulled out the strengths of every player, and that’s how she built a strong team and a legacy at UVA.”