“Say I Love You, A Lot,” With Greg Ostertag of the Utah Jazz

“Say I love you. A lot. This might sound strange coming from a big guy, but don’t be afraid to soften up a bit and say, “I love you.”…

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“Say I love you. A lot. This might sound strange coming from a big guy, but don’t be afraid to soften up a bit and say, “I love you.” There’s no such thing as overusing the word with your loved ones. I try and make sure I tell them every day because you never know what tomorrow holds.”

I had the pleasure to interview Greg Donovan Ostertag. Greg is a retired NBA player, who spent most of his career with the Utah Jazz.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “backstory”?

I grew up in in a suburb just outside of Dallas, Texas. I played every sport possible — football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and baseball (my favorite). I didn’t start playing basketball until the 4th grade, and that was mostly because my parents and the coaches forced me to play. I was always taller than everyone on the team, so basketball was easy for me. By the time I was in sixth grade and going into high school, I was 6 ft tall. Come my sophomore year, I reached 7’2”, giving me a huge advantage. Senior year, I led my team to the state title and then committed to the University of Kansas, where I played all four years. Once I graduated from KU, I was drafted within the first round of the NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. I played professional basketball for 11 years. I retired in 2006, which has led me back to my Texas roots, living in a small cattle farm in northeast Texas.

Please share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I used to have three fake front teeth that were on a flipper where I could take them in and out to brush and clean. Once during a game against the Houston Rockets, I had to call a screen and they popped right out onto the court. I tried to pick them up but couldn’t get a grip so I swatted them off of the floor, going in the direction of the Rocket’s bench. Their head coach went to pick them up until he realized what they were — he jumped straight into the air, completely grossed out. I literally laughed out loud and so did everyone else!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to play professional sports?

Always use the 10,000-hour rule to push yourself — thank you #malcolmgladwell. Stay late, put in the extra work and never forget there’s always someone working just as hard or harder than you. You’re either north with talent or you’re not. Regardless, the amount of work you put into something is one variable you have total control of — take advantage of it.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Jerry Sloan, my NBA coach, made a huge impact on my life. Although I didn’t realize it at the time (we used to argue like an old married couple), Jerry would continually try to push me to not only be a better player but an overall better person. To this day, he is still one of the greatest men I’ve ever known or met.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Tell us more about Mount Vernon and your passion behind it.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to live in on a small farm with cows, crops, tractors — the whole deal. After I retired in 2006, I met my wife Shannon and finally put my plan and dreams in the works. In 2015, we moved our family to Mount Vernon, Texas — a small, historic town with a population of 2,800 people. Mount Vernon is a lot like Mayberry — perfect little Main Street, with a courthouse, a plaza, and historic buildings all around — including generations of residents connected by family and community. The thing was, everything was all boarded up, and it was sad. Some things are worth saving and in this case, Mount Vernon was it.

We created The Ostertag Group in 2016, a collective of several different brands with a uniform goal of restoring and preserving small town living for current and future generations of Mount Vernon to enjoy. Our focus with The Ostertag Group is to redevelop rural and historic commercial buildings and business, as well as rebuilding surrounding neighborhoods to foster a sense of community. We have personally invested, and continue to invest, in the town of Mount Vernon. Our brand consists of our general store, bistro and event venue, M.L. Edwards & Co, Watermelon Mills Coffeehouse, as well as our award-winning construction company, Ostertag Construction, that focuses on commercial and residential new construction, remodeling and interior design.

Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

While we were renovating some of the old buildings in our town, one of the locals — an 83 year While we were renovating some of the old buildings in our town, one of the locals — an 83-year-old retired professor named Tom — would stop by almost every day to watch the progress. He would say, “boy, I hope I live to see the day these buildings are open again for business.” Now that we’re open, Tom stops by daily to read a book over several cups of coffee and conversation with other friends within the community. And he reminds us regularly how grateful he is to see life breathed back into his beloved hometown.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Work hard(er). I’ve always been athletic and able to pick up a new sport with ease. At 7’2″, playing basketball came naturally for me. It obviously helped me through my career, but I wish I would’ve played harder. Practiced more. Natural talent isn’t enough — some of the greatest athletes I’ve ever played with or against weren’t always the tallest or strongest guys in the room. They were completely dedicated and hyper-focused on the sport. I can’t help but think how far my career might have gone had I put in 110 percent instead of just relying on my height or physical abilities.

Live with no regret. This kind of goes along with what I said earlier about working harder — it’s my one true regret. Being able to play in the NBA was an enormous opportunity, yet I wish I would have listened to my coaches, worked out a little bit more, and practiced harder, over just doing enough to get by. However, that’s the thing about the past — you can’t change it. Why not take that chance, and give it your all with whatever “it” might be. Pursue your passion. Travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Do the things you want to do, especially while you still can.

Help others. My parents infused this in me from super young age. Doesn’t matter their race, creed, or financial status, always give others a helping hand whenever you’re able to. It’s amazing how much joy comes out of the simple act of helping people, volunteering, and paying it forward.

Say I love you. A lot. This might sound strange coming from a big guy, but don’t be afraid to soften up a bit and say, “I love you.” There’s no such thing as overusing the word with your loved ones. I try and make sure I tell them every day because you never know what tomorrow holds.

Be grateful. Appreciate all the good in your life, at this very moment. We get so wrapped up in what we don’t have, guilt or regret, that we lose sight of the accomplishments, opportunities, and relationships that are sitting right in front of us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Let your failures be your inspiration.” Failure happens to everyone. We can either let it crush us or we can embrace it, learn from it, and use it to grow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Warren Buffet. From what I’ve read about Buffet is he’s not motivated by purchases or “things.” He lives what looks to be a pretty modest life, considering he is one of the wealthiest people on the planet. I wonder what motivates him to continue to go to work every day and bring his own lunch? To go home every night to the same $30k house he’s lived in for 50 years? Does he find passion in the day-to-day grind? I’d love to grab lunch with him — I’d even pack a brown sack for the both of us.

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