Stepping and walking on the concrete at Lausanne Collegiate School located on 1381 W Massey Rd. in Memphis, TN is priceless. Here is where current Memphis Grizzlies’ starting center Marc Gasol played high school basketball and Tennessee Vols’ center Jarnell Stokes younger brother Isaiah Stokes attends school. He’s currently playing for the varsity basketball team.
Former Laker great Jerry West son Johnny West was the point guard for Lausanne when Gasol played for the team. Current Grizzlies player Tony Allen daughter went to Lausanne and played sports.
The next name may not play for the Grizzlies but, his name is just as big as the other names mentioned. He’s an enforcer at Lausanne and he goes by the name of Gregory Graber. He’s a special piece to the University of Memphis Men’s Basketball team. He’s not the person you will see scoring points for the team or on the sideline with coach Josh Pastner and his assistant coach Robert Kirby. Greg does his damage away from the FedEx Forum. You can easily find him at the Larry Finch Center during practice.
Gregory also known as Greg has a unique title for his duties with the team. He’s the mental mindfulness coach for the Tigers. His wife was the one who got him into taking meditation classes. He feels that meditating helps the mind focus and concentrate for a person in their everyday life.
“You can easily substitute the word meditation for focus or concentration. What it does is clears your mind. This is nothing that I have started. Phil Jackson has done it. I am a big fan for the guy who did it for Phil Jackson and his name is George Munford. He’s an old pro basketball player who became sort of a guru in meditation for basketball,” Graber said.
Graber states that Sylvester Stallone’s famous character Rocky is a perfect example of someone who used the meditation strategy to prefection. There was a Rocky action figure on one of his stands in his office. Rocky was wearing Apollo Creed’s American flag trunks from either Rocky III or Rocky IIII. Graber wasn’t the only Rocky Balboa fan in the room.
“There’s another metaphor for life. Look at his face, it’s all bloody and he’s beat up, but he doesn’t give up. I use examples like this also. I love all of that stuff,” Graber said.
Graber also mentioned that Jackson was able to get two of his best players Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to buy into the meditation system. Current Miami Heat star LeBron James is into meditation as he has been seen during timeouts of a game meditating.
Tiger Woods does it as well and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll brought the idea to Seattle to help them become mentally tough. With the mental toughness, Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos 43-8 in last season’s Super Bowl.
Before the 2013-14 season got underway, Graber introduced his idea to coach Pastner and he thought it would be great if Greg could work with the team.
“Me and Josh have been friends for a while. We met a few years back. He’s always nice enough to come here to Lausanne and talk to my kids during an assembly or whatever,” Graber said.
“In June of last year, I start emailing him and texting him back and forth and I sent him research and articles and of course the Phil Jackson stuff. He read Phil Jackson’s book “11”. Josh is real open minded and he asked if this could help my team and I said definitely.
So I started going and I presented it for the first time to the whole team in August. It went really well, so then I presented it to all of the guys maybe a half dozen times between August and November. Then Josh came to me and wanted me to work with certain guys instead of the whole team. Joe Jackson was the first one to embrace it. Joe and I had a great bond with this stuff.”
Freshman forward Austin Nichols praised Greg for the work he had done with the team over the course of the season. After the Tigers won the Old Spice Classic with a 73-68 victory against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Nichols ran into a freshman wall. There were highs and lows in Nichols’ freshman campaign but managed to finish Memphis last six regular season games scoring in double figures. As a result, Nichols was awarded freshman of the year in the American Athletic Conference.
Nichols finished the season averaging 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists a game. Graber feels that Nichols can be a great player for Memphis in the seasons to come.
“We all knew that Austin had the physical attributes to be a great basketball player. Coming out of Briarcrest, he’s fundamentally sound,” Graber said. “He’s great with both hands. I think he will tell you that he lacked a little confidence at the beginning.
He had a quote in The Commercial Appeal at the beginning of the season that these guys are bigger and faster in college than they were in high school. But once we got him to see that the secret to this is to use your mind and not have your mind use you, if you can get to that point then you’re going to be good. I think the sky is the limit for Austin.”
Graber is currently the principal for grades 5-8 at Lausanne and has held the title since the early 2000’s. While he’s been principal at Lausanne, he was a weekly columnist for the Memphis Grizzlies from 2001-2004 as his section on the site was entitled “Greg Graber Growl.”
Graber hasn’t pursued the opportunity to become a mental mindfulness coach full-time, but will consider it in the years to come.
“There might be one day years from now, I will have to decide whether I want to do the mindfulness training full-time or remain as an educator, but for right now, I am in the best of both worlds.”
As he was sitting in a relaxed chair in his office that’s big enough to live in, he started to reminisce about his favorite moments in Memphis Tiger Basketball. The young generations today wouldn’t have a clue of who or what he was talking about.
“I have lived in other places but I’m born and bred in Memphis and I have been a Tiger supporter since 1972, you know when Finch and those guys played Bill Walton and UCLA in the national championship.
I was a teenager during the Keith Lee hay day years, so I would have to say 1984-85 when Keith Lee, William Buford and Andre Turner played. Those were my favorite days until now,” Graber said.
Graber continues with the past years of U of M basketball and states that Josh Pastner is the best coach the program has ever had.
“Josh Pastner is the best coach we have ever had for sure. I can give you so many reasons, but Josh is the best coach in the program and he can be another John Wooden.”