Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

‘Zags to Riches

February 13, 2002 Columns No Comments



Zags to Riches

by Brian Strong

Say it loud and pronounce it right. Gone-ZAG-uh is letting the country know they’re a Top Dog.

The power structure on the West Coast has officially extended north. UCLA, USC, and Stanford have long been the sturdy pillars of a strong left coast hoops tradition, but it’s now time to take a long, hard look north to the Martin Centre, better known as “The Kennel,” in Spokane, Washington, where the Gonzaga Bulldogs are officially legit. The Bulldogs earned their recent first appearance in the top ten of both polls, and that should now be fully apparent to not only the basketball connoisseurs who have been singing the Zags’ praises for some time, but to common civilian as well.

Gonzaga has achieved their status because they’ve learned to do things the way the big boys do it. Several years ago, they had a great head coach in Dan Monson, who proceeded to march his 1999 team to the Elite Eight. That team sent Minnesota home in the first round, and the Gopher higher-ups were men enough to admit they’d been spanked and lure Monson away to Minneapolis with loads of money. So the Zags, in the way of the Jayhawk and the Tar Heel, kept it in the family and promoted assistant Mark Few. He knew the system. He was young, intelligent and the protege of an exceptional ex-coach, Monson. He’s guided the team to two more Sweet Sixteens. That’s the way you build a program.

Relentless recruiting is another way. Good recruiting finds diamonds in the rough like senior point guard Dan Dickau, who has gone from unhappy backup at the University of Washington to All-America and John Wooden Award candidate at Gonzaga. Good recruiting also laughs in the face of the so-called “rebuilding year.” In 2000, exit superstar guard Matt Santangelo, enter Dickau and reigning West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year guard Blake Stepp to fill the talent void.

And what would the Zags do this year without last year’s conference player of the year and All-America Casey Calvary? Well, they would, and did for that matter, beat out Duke, UNC, Connecticut, Florida, and Georgia, for French junior national team forward Ronny Turiaf from Martinique, who is one of the better athletes you’ll see on a basketball court anywhere this year. Turiaf, is a graduate of INSEP, the National Institute of Physical Education in Paris, France, a hotbed of overseas basketball talent.

But as commendable as it is for coaches to take the time to recruit across the pond, you also have to give the Bulldogs’ staff credit for taking care of their own backyard. Big time programs don’t like to lose in-state talent. Look at the Indiana rosters over they years and count the number of Hoosiers listed as a former Indiana high school Mr. Basketball. Likewise, study the Zags and you’ll see a plethora of Washington talent. Of four players from the state, Dickau and freshman Josh Reisman, were each named Washington player of the year in high school (the Zags are redshirting Reisman, as is their tradition with freshman point guards). Gonzaga did a little fence-hopping as well, nabbing Stepp, a former Oregon Mr. Basketball.

Maybe it’s that collective home state pride that’s developed this squad’s air of invincibility on their home court – another signature of the big programs. The Zags and their supporters, led by the Kennel Club, have ruled their home venue with a threatening “beware of dog” mentality since the Zags last lost there in February 2000. Even as plans are in the works for a new and improved Kennel, it should also been known that the Zags have shown no fear in hitting the road to make their name. They traveled to preseason powers Illinois and St. Joseph’s early this season, as well as the Great Alaska Shootout, and have made a habit of playing tough teams on the road since their rise to recognition a few years back.

However, in a backhanded sign of respect, the so-called powers don’t seem as willing to travel to Spokane. Call it fear. Call it whatever you like, but come March you’ll be calling Gonzaga something that you never have in the NCAA tournament – a favorite.

Thus, the Zags’ next step toward further legitimacy: Dealing with life as the well-known, highly-seeded West Coast power that everyone’s gunning for, as opposed to the old double-digit seed that everyone’s been sleeping on.

     

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 by

In our first off-season edition, we look back on the season that just ended, including redemption for one team and a big development for a conference that has had more questions than success on the hardwood. We also look at players coming and going, as well as big coaching news on a day where there was a lot of it.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2017

April 4, 2017 by

We look back at Monday’s national championship game, which was not a thing of beauty but had plenty of drama. Along the way we share some post-game quotes from both coaches.

College Basketball Tonight – April 2, 2017

April 3, 2017 by

In our Final Four special edition, three head coaches join us to offer their insights on the Final Four, as well as their own programs.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the national semifinal contests and then look ahead to an intriguing matchup for the national championship that is ahead of us on Monday night.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by

We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by

Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout