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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 38
• Title: Vice president, Division I men's basketball and championship strategies
• Organization: NCAA
• Education: B.S., business, Indiana University, 1990
• Family: Single
• Career: Organized the NCAA's move to Indianapolis while working for Indiana Sports Corp., joining the NCAA in 2000; prior to that helped run family's electrical contracting business in Indianapolis and directed Indianapolis Local Organizing Committee's operations for 1996, '97, '99 and 2000 NCAA Division I men's basketball championships.
• Last vacation: November 2004, 13 days in Hawaii
• Last book read: "First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy," by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill
• Last movie seen: "Syriana"
• Pet peeve: When people expect to get something that they haven't earned
• Greatest achievement: Assembling a group to elevate the Division I men's basketball championships and maintaining a solid working relationship with its broadcast partners
• Greatest disappointment: My continuing quest to find work-life balance and struggle to enjoy time away from the office
• Fantasy job: Any job that would involve a major logistical challenge, such as organizing the Olympics or directing Homeland Security
• Business advice: There is always a solution. It's a matter of taking whatever time is necessary to solve the problem at hand.
As he watched the 1980 men's Final Four inside Indianapolis' Market Square Arena, 12-year-old Greg Shaheen told his father that one day he'd like to organize college basketball's premier event.
A quarter-century later, Shaheen has gotten his wish — and then some. As vice president of Division I men's basketball and championship strategies, Shaheen runs the Final Four and fulfills several other duties for the NCAA. He loves his job, but that's not the driving force behind his work ethic.
Seven years after he proclaimed his childhood goal of running the Final Four, when Shaheen was a freshman at Indiana University, his father, Riad, suffered a heart attack. Shaheen drove 75 miles from Bloomington to the family home in Carmel, Ind., daily to see his father until he died of complications from the attack about six weeks later.
His father's death still motivates him, nearly 20 years later.
"My dad died at 50. I think of that every day," he said. "Not that I feel like I'm living on borrowed time, but … you have to take advantage of every opportunity you can to experience what's there."
Shaheen has done that, sleep and time off be damned. He refers to himself as "a professional greenskeeper."
"I get things ready for my colleagues," he said.
He's done plenty of work himself, though.
Shaheen helped the NCAA move its headquarters to Indianapolis and ascended to his current post in 2000. During the last year alone, he's taken on many new challenges. After the NCAA in August acquired the NIT, Shaheen managed the transition in ownership, which included renaming the bookend preseason tournament the NIT Season Tip-Off and creating a selection panel for the first time for the postseason NIT. He contributes to the College Basketball Partnership, a committee that meets occasionally to discuss the status of men's college basketball. In addition, for the coming Final Four in Indianapolis, he has planned enhanced corporate hospitality opportunities, new family activities and a free concert by Indiana's own John Mellencamp.
"He's invaluable" said Tom Jernstedt, NCAA executive vice president. "He continues to demonstrate a remarkable capacity for doing a large quantity of work at a very high level of quality."
Jernstedt noted that Shaheen's phone sign-off is "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you."
"He's very service-oriented," Jernstedt said.
Shaheen has applied that approach outside work as well. He returns home at least once a year to host a community fundraiser at his old school, Carmel High.
He also takes at least one moment to honor his father right after the Final Four. While he stands on the court with the newly crowned NCAA champions, Shaheen takes in "One Shining Moment," the song that airs with highlights from the tournament immediately after every Final Four championship game.
Shaheen saw it for the first time while watching a broadcast of Indiana's championship victory over Syracuse in 1987, not long after his father died. He promised he'd never miss a Final Four again. He hasn't.
"My moment to reconnect with my dad is during 'One Shining Moment,'" Shaheen said. "For three minutes, it all fits into place."