Who is Greg Kampe? Age, career timeline for Oakland basketball coach in 40th season

March Madness is all about the players who have the opportunity to make memories that last a lifetime. Just don’t forget about the coaches, too. 

Jack Gohlke was admittedly the star of Oakland’s upset of No. 3 Kentucky on Thursday night, but no individual was perhaps more deserving of the moment than coach Greg Kampe, whose journey with the Golden Grizzlies started long before anyone on the court was born.

Kampe is in his 40th season at Oakland, and what better way to celebrate four decades than winning an NCAA Tournament game over one of the most recognizable brands in the sport?

RELATED: Meet Jack Gohlke, Oakland sharpshooter who helped slay Kentucky

While some coaches are superstitious, Kampe has been around long enough to simply be honest about the moment. He told reporters on Wednesday that a win would change his players’ lives, calling the tournament “one of the three greatest sporting events in the world” because of that opportunity. Mission accomplished.

Here’s a closer look at Kampe’s career timeline and age as Oakland prepares for the second round.

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Greg Kampe coaching timeline

1984 — Hired by Oakland

Oakland, then a Division II program, hired Kampe away from Toledo ahead of the 1984-85 season. Kampe was just 28 at the time, making him a remarkably bold hire for a Golden Grizzlies program that was still trying to climb its way up to the highest level of the sport.

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Kampe was an assistant coach at Toledo for six seasons, so Oakland represented his first head coaching opportunity. 

1999 — Jump to Division I

Oakland found a rhythm between 1993 and 1997, winning at least 20 games in four consecutive seasons and getting as far as the Division II Sweet 16. That set the stage for the program to make the jump to the Division I level in 1999, a testament to Kampe’s elevation of the program. 

Kampe won 262 games at the Division II level, including 27 as an independent. Oakland joined the Mid-Continent Conference, later renamed the Summit League, after its Division I transition.

2005 — First NCAA Tournament appearance

It only took six Division I seasons for Oakland to reach the NCAA Tournament, though it came in a season in which the Golden Grizzlies went just 13-19. A conference tournament run sent Oakland to the First Four, where Kampe picked up his first tournament win before suffering a 28-point loss to eventual champion North Carolina in the first round.

MORE: How many perfect brackets are left after Kentucky goes down?

2009-10 — Back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances

Oakland found real success in 2009 and 2010, reaching the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years as Kampe surpassed the quarter-century mark with the program.

The Golden Grizzlies went 51-19 between 2008-09 and 2009-10, though they couldn’t pull off an upset in either tournament appearance.

2017 – Life-threatening health scare

Kampe revealed that he nearly died during the 2017 offseason after suffering from sepsis as a result of kidney stones. The scare put Kampe in the intensive care unit for five days and left him with a fever that would have killed him had he not gone to the hospital where emergency measures were taken to cool him down.

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The scare came after a 25-9 season that ended in an NIT appearance, and Kampe elected to continue coaching despite having a solid 33 seasons under his belt. 

2024 — NCAA Tournament upset of Kentucky

Based on his comments about his players on Wednesday, it’s fair to label Thursday’s March Madness upset of Kentucky as the pinnacle of Kampe’s career.

From a basketball perspective, it absolutely is. Kampe had never reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before the victory, and he now gets to enjoy a day in Pittsburgh before attempting to earn an improbable Sweet 16 bid on Saturday.

HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
16 vs. 1 | 15 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

How old is Greg Kampe?

Kampe is 68 years old. It’s hard for coaches to spend 40 years at one school because, well, Father Time comes for everyone regardless of how much success is found on the basketball court.

Kampe benefited from getting a head coaching job before he turned 30, a rare achievement, and he’s left Oakland with no choice but to keep him around by steadily taking the Golden Grizzlies program to new heights.

At 68, Kampe is now one of the oldest coaches in college basketball. That hasn’t seemed to matter this season, and it’s hard to imagine Kampe is feeling anything but young as Oakland awaits its next NCAA Tournament battle.

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