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View Full Version : SI on the Zags: "Underdogs No More"



ZagNative
03-24-2009, 07:43 AM
I enjoyed this read in Sports Illustrated (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/kelli_anderson/03/24/gonzaga/?eref=sircrc) this morning.


Kelli Anderson
Posted: Tuesday March 24, 2009 11:07AM; Updated: Tuesday March 24, 2009 11:07AM

A decade after it crashed the Big Dance as a charming Cinderella, Gonzaga is the envy of every mid-major program in the country

Some have wondered if this might be coach Mark Few's best team yet. "They say that every year," says Matt Santangelo, a guard on the '99 team. "But I do like this team. They can play with anyone in the country." (A sturdy challenge awaits against top-seeded North Carolina on Friday.)

Gonzaga hasn't made it back to the Elite Eight since '99, but it is still the envy of every mid-major program in the country. The Zags' sustained dominance of the West Coast Conference -- they've won 10 of the last 11 regular-season titles and nine of the last 11 conference tournaments -- only tells part of the story. In a community that has no pro teams to distract it, every home game in cozy, 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center is sold out. Every game is televised regionally, and this year 20 of them were broadcast nationally. The Zags compete with schools like Florida, Arizona and Kansas for players, and they are a fixture in the Top 25. They have a brand-name recognition that is so widespread that last summer IMG made a pitch to handle all the program's multimedia sponsorships. "The players now are rock stars," says Santangelo. "We were not that."

Adds Painter, "They might be in a conference that gets labeled mid-major, but there's nothing about Gonzaga that's mid-major. They schedule high-major, they recruit high-major, and they play like one of the best teams in the country."
By sticking around, Few enjoys a benefit he imagines his colleagues who bounce from job to job probably miss. "Corey Violette [class of '04] was in my office on Tuesday," says Few. "Blake Stepp ['04] comes by, Ronny Turiaf ['05] has been at about half our games the last few weeks. Seeing players come back and staying in touch with them is the coolest part of my job."

A number of former players live in Spokane. "That's one thing that makes this program so great; everyone comes back," says senior guard Micah Downs, who transferred to Gonzaga after one semester at Kansas and is still the only McDonald's All-American to play for the program. "Sometimes guys like Matt Santangelo, Casey Calvary and Corey Violette will scrimmage with us. They really help us out because they are big and strong and they play really hard."

When they aren't schooling the youngsters, the alums are going at each other. Several former Zags gather most Sundays to play pickup ball at the Warehouse, a basketball court complex owned by one of their tribe, John Stockton ('84). "Mostly we foul each other a lot," says Santangelo, now a financial adviser in town.

Though some might dispute Santangelo's claim that those scrimmages are "the best games in town," the battles are in some ways as important a measure of the program's success as a Final Four appearance or a national title would be. "You're winning conference championships and tournament games, your guys are graduating and having successful lives," says Few. "And they're coming back. It sounds corny, so mom-and-pop, but it doesn't get any better than that."

Reborn
03-24-2009, 08:01 AM
An interesting article. Ask Carolina fans if Gonzaga is an underdog. No matter how hard Williams tries to get the Tar Heels motivated to play GU, I just don't believe that they take us serious. I know their fans don't, nor do most of the "talking-heads." There is only one way to erase the concept of underdog and that is to finally beat a GREAT program like Carolina in a HUGE GAME. I don't believe Gonzaga has done that yet. This is the game that could catapult us into a new dimension.

rawkmandale
03-24-2009, 08:13 AM
Wow - this REALLY is a great article, becasue it captures the family atmosphere, and long-term relationships that embody Gonzaga. Nice to see Dan Fitzgerald acknowledged too, along with Father Spitzer.

zagnut52
03-24-2009, 08:18 AM
Way cool story. Enjoyed reading it....

CaliforniaZaggin'
03-24-2009, 08:20 AM
That article is high praise considering we've only made the Sweet Sixteen twice in the last four years. ;)

(sarcasm off)

Great article! I love reading stuff like this about former GU basketballers.

ZagNative
03-24-2009, 10:03 AM
What other former players scrimmage with the guys? I think I've seen reports of Richie Fram showing up from time to time. Zach Gourde? Does Pendo still play some?

I wish someone could sneak a camera into the Warehouse some Sunday and share some pics of those games involving the former Zag greats.

skan72
03-24-2009, 10:24 AM
I know it says Stockton owns the Warehouse, but it doesn't say if he scrimmages or not. I've definitely seen him in there scrimmaging at night during the summers.

Anyways, fantastic article, kudos to Kelli Anderson and great find ZagNative. A basketball family/community is what you need to build to have a successful program, even at the high school level that I coach at. We are trying to emulate what the Gonzaga program does, on a much smaller scale.

zag944
03-24-2009, 10:32 AM
That article is high praise considering we've only made the Sweet Sixteen twice in the last four years. ;)

(sarcasm off)

Great article! I love reading stuff like this about former GU basketballers.


I wonder how many Zag related articles with good content Ive declined to read because the terms "underdog" and "Cinderella" seem dated and that the article will be just a boring rehash of things Ive already read. I almost didnt read this one.

We may not be an elite program, but we've been a legit one for several years. No one is going to take us lightly, so the standard buzzwords used to describe our team need to change.

zagzealot
03-24-2009, 10:44 AM
What other former players scrimmage with the guys? I think I've seen reports of Richie Fram showing up from time to time. Zach Gourde? Does Pendo still play some?

I wish someone could sneak a camera into the Warehouse some Sunday and share some pics of those games involving the former Zag greats.

Stockton does scrimage with them and so does Nielsen. I've seen Frahm around there too. They go at it HARD!!! They're usually in the Jazz Courts with the doors closed but there's a window to look through if you really want to check it out. Awhile back Stockton had is arm/shoulder in a sling and I wondered if he injured himself in one of these scrimmages.

RenoZag
03-24-2009, 10:53 AM
If you follow the link for the Dan Patrick show, there's a player that will let you hear Coach Few's exchange with DP this morning. . .

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/danpatrick/?eref=fromSI

( Scroll down. . .currently the third article )

rawkmandale
03-24-2009, 12:11 PM
Thanks for the link...

lothar98zag
03-24-2009, 01:19 PM
thanks for both links!