Greg Lee days; UCLA basketball player under John Wooden who became a beach volleyball star

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 no exaggeration. These Bruins won national championships in 1972 and 1973 under coach John Wooden while amassing the bulk of a record 88-game winning streak that would end the following season.

A 6-foot-5 brainguard known for throwing lobs to big man Bill Walton, Lee was mostly an add-on piece while surrounded by seven future NBA players. He started his first two seasons on the varsity team before coming off the bench as a senior.

But his greatest professional success came on the sand, not the hardwood, while dividing his time between basketball and volleyball careers. Lee won a record 13 consecutive professional beach volleyball tournament titles from 1975 to 1976 alongside partner Jim Menges, another former Bruin. Lee said one of the things that drew him to volleyball was having a bigger impact on his team’s performance.

“If I played volleyball badly, I was okay,” Lee told The Times. “If you made mistakes, you were history.”

After years of declining health, Lee died Wednesday in a San Diego hospital of an infection related to an immune disorder, his older brother Jon said. I was 70 years old.

Greg Lee had battled numerous health issues in his later years, including neuropathy and a heart valve that needed to be replaced.

“He had a very glorious front nine,” Jon Lee said of his brother’s life, “but the back nine was strewn with pitfalls.”

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee, left, during a break against Iowa Jan. 28.  17, 1974, in Chicago.

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee, left, during a break against Iowa Jan. 28. 17, 1974, in Chicago.

(Associated Press)

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 valedictorian of his high school’s senior class and twice Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year, making him a natural recruit for the Bruins. Last month, he was selected for induction into the City Section Hall of Fame.

Unlike Menges, his eventual professional volleyball partner who won two national championships at UCLA, Lee did not play the sport in college. The duo met while playing beach volleyball with friends in 1972 and they occasionally hooked up before playing together full-time at the end of their respective college careers.

Their 13-game winning streak was then matched by two other former Bruins: Karch Kirali and Kent Steffes.

Lee’s professional basketball career included brief stints with the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, where he reunited with Walton. Lee also played four seasons in West Germany.

Later, I taught accelerated math and coached basketball for many years at Clairemont High in San Diego, the school that inspired Cameron Crowe’s movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Lee is survived by his wife, Lisa, son Ethan and daughter Jessamyn Fews in addition to his brother. They were all at his hospital bedside this week, Lisa holding his hand as Ethan played the Neil Young song ‘Thrasher’ on guitar, Greg singing through a haze of medication until he passed out for the last time.