View Full Version : Zag For Life ( long)

12-13-2012, 04:03 PM
Zag For Life December 2012

First of all, I love this slogan used by many in the Gonzaga University basketball community, but I am not a long time Zags fan so why am I writing an essay with this as the title? I am just one of millions of North American basketball fans who fell in love with the NCAA tournament partly because of what a small school like Gonzaga did in the late 90’s in pulling off several upsets like only a true Cinderella team could do. I use the terms upset and Cinderella because when I had the opportunity to visit Spokane last July and see what Gonzaga was all about I learned that those are two words that rankle true Zags fans. They don’t see what Gonzaga did as upsets that happen only by Cinderella’s that eventually run into their midnight, they see such success as an inevitable result of working harder, recruiting better, and playing smarter than their opponents. No fairy tales, just hard work.

What took me to Spokane in the first week of July 2012 was a project that I had been working on for about a year and I needed to get to Spokane to prove to myself that I was, as they say, “all in.” I am undertaking a book on Gonzaga then-freshman sensation Kevin Pangos. I had decided that I wanted to research and write a book on the path that Kevin took from Newmarket Ontario to Spokane Washington and eventually beyond. I felt it would be better to write the story as it unfolds rather than wait till the final outcome occurs and write from a past tense perspective. Kevin, as anyone who knows him and the people of Spokane have learned very quickly, is an amazing young man whose skill at basketball is outdone by his passion for success and a work ethic that knows no bounds. I have known Kevin since he and my son ran around a basketball camp in rubber boots when they were two years old. Kevin and his family have come to mean a lot to me and my family and, truth be told, that is why I have become a Zags fan. But it was a week in the beautiful city of Spokane that made me a Zag for Life.

My true understanding of what Gonzaga was all about began at an Ontario Championship game in Kevin’s senior year of High School when I got the opportunity to meet and sit with Tommy Lloyd, the Gonzaga assistant coach who played the lead role in the recruiting of Kevin. I was very impressed with Tommy as a person but was more impressed with the fact that Gonzaga had claimed the WCC title the night before but had thought enough of their future point guard that Tommy flew to the Toronto area just to support Kevin. Tommy told me that night that he saw Kevin not only contributing in his first year but that he would be the Zags starting point guard relatively early as a freshman.

Tommy of course proved prophetic as Kevin had a great freshman year, scoring 33 points in his second game, leading the Zags in scoring, being a leader of a top 25 team, and earning All conference and newcomer of the Year honours in the WCC. Kevin deferred all attention to others and felt he had proved he belonged at the NCAA level but that he wanted much, much more. In visiting Spokane, I would see the work ethic that would bring Kevin that success he was yearning for, but I would learn a whole lot more about the school and the beautiful, basketball-crazed, city of Spokane.

The first sign that this trip would be special was the very timing of it. Kevin and I had talked and decided that the best time to come out would be the very first weekend of the summer. Little did I know that I would be arriving during HOOPFEST, only the largest 3 on 3 tournament in the world. That the people of Spokane were into basketball was shown to me from the first person I met, the cab driver from the airport. Once he knew that I was in Spokane to spend time with Kevin Pangos and Zags coaches and players he treated me like some sort of celebrity. He told me everything I needed to know about the history of the Zags and about Kevin’s first year, and he gave me his card so that I would phone him for a ride back to the airport five days hence. Cab drivers like this guy should be running the chamber of commerce!

HOOPFEST itself is something that every basketball fan, at least Zags fan, should see. The downtown of Spokane is transformed into a hoops haven where there are courts everywhere. The first matchup we saw that Saturday morning was an age group tilt that involved the children of Zags coaches Mark Few and Tommy Lloyd. This game had all the skill and intensity one would need to see in a 3 on 3 game, but what I liked most was the family atmosphere as Kevin and Gary Bell Jr and newcomer Drew Barham cheered these kids on like true fans.

Spokane seems to be a place that people are proud to be from, and a great place to visit but it is also a place where former Zags return to whenever they can. I met Blake Stepp and Jeremy Pargo, among others. The HOOPFEST Elite division games involved former Zags and a crowd estimated at 2,000 people watched as these behemoths went at it. I loved the fact that the crowd included Rob Sacre, newly minted Laker draft choice who cheered and trash-talked with the players like only Rob can. It wasn’t he was gracing the tournament with his presence; he was having s blast doing what he loves to do in a place where he loves to be.

The tournament, which had transformed the downtown area along the beautiful Spokane River into a festival, also gave me a chance to see the high regard that the Zags players are held in. The Gonzaga autograph booth was swarmed with well-wishers who wanted the Zags to pen their name on a picture or a T-shirt but it was much more than that. They wanted to simply share some of their day with young men who are representatives of almost a bygone era where respect and classy behaviour ruled. Teenage girls swooned while parents hoped that their sons grow up to be like these Zags or their daughters marry someone like them.

The 3 on 3 tournament was just the start of my Spokane pilgrimage. I got to meet and talk with coaches and players to get an inside look at the Zags, and I got to see the Kennel, albeit empty, to watch the work ethic that I had seen in Kevin for a long time as he grew into one of the best age-group point guards in the world. I got to watch summer workouts and seeing these guys in the gym at 11:30 at night, proving that its all the extra time that goes into true greatness. When I saw that YouTube trick shot video that those guys put out this fall I envisioned them doing that late at night after the serious part of their workout was done. It was just a bunch of good friends having a lot of fun whilst preparing to be the best team in America. I met and was impressed with the passion of team manager Jade who is almost Kevin’s personal workout aide who makes himself available to Kevin at any time to help with his training. This level of commitment is inspiring.

Everyone knows the value of summer workouts and scrimmages but the Zags had a 5 on 5 scrimmage that to this observer seemed a little over the top in terms of quality. Picture a pick up team that featured Memphis’ (now Cleveland’s) Jeremy Pargo, Lakers newest draft choice Rob Sacre, Adam Morrison who was getting ready for summer league action and an eventual invite to Portland, Steven Gray, whose play in the summer league got him an invite to the Wizards training camp, and recently graduated Zag Marquis Carter. Now picture that team losing in a series of games up to 15 points. The ball movement and competitive spirit of Kevin Pangos, Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk, Drew Barham, and Sam Dower was impressive and too much to handle for the NBA-level team in this ultra-competitive contest.

Yes, Gonzaga is a basketball hotbed where students camp out overnight in “tent city” for 48 hours, not to buy tickets but to use the tickets they already have to get the best seats in the student-only section of the McCarthy Centre. Yes, the ‘Kennell’ may even be a bit small for the level of ticket demand in a hoops haven like Spokane. Yes, this team is always aiming at the WCC title and getting into and going far in each year’s road to the Final Four. Yes, this year’s team has great potential to reach further than any other Zags team. Yes, my good friend Kevin Pangos couldn’t be playing at a better place or a better fit for him. Yes, Coach Few has built a tremendous reputation across the country and an even better coaching staff to work with… But most people reading this already know all that.

What I learned most of all is that Gonzaga is all that and much more. Spokane is a great place with a family atmosphere that makes people Zags for life. Jeremy Pargo the brash Chicagoan and Rob Sacre from North Vancouver not only made Spokane home for four years but they come ‘home’ whenever they get to chance. ‘Home’ to work out with the current Zags but ‘home’ also for the feeling of family they get. I found it particularly touching that Rob Sacre’s mom, the mother of the 7 footer whose tough rebounding and aggressive play belie his tender heart, wrote a letter to GUboards, the fan-based “Home of Gonzaga Basketball Talk” to thank not only the fans but everyone involved in Gonzaga basketball for taking care of her son for four years. This fine woman is definitely a “ Zag For Life.”

My project will take me to Spokane on many more occasions and I am glad for that. Bill and Patty Pangos know Gonzaga was the right choice for their son as they see a sense of family in their son’s new ‘home.’ I’m glad that Kevin is in such an inspiring place as he strives to be the best Zag he can be. Go Zags!... For Life!

12-13-2012, 04:13 PM
Beautifully written and fun to read! Thanks for posting and good luck on your project!

12-13-2012, 04:15 PM
Nice post really enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading your book when it is finished.

12-13-2012, 04:21 PM
Thanks!!! Keep the faith and keep writing! You'll get the nod for the screenplay of a blockbuster movie somewhere in our future when Kevin wins us a N.C.:pray:

12-13-2012, 04:23 PM
You had me at Zag For Life. Great stuff, thanks for sharing. I grew up with a die hard Zag fan for a father who raised me as a Zag even though I would never attend GU as intended. My dad went to GU on a basketball scholarship in the 50's and retained so many close friends, even he used to marvel at it. He talked almost daily by phone to one of his best friends from GU until he passed at age 76, 4 yrs ago. They talked Zag basketball almost every day of the year. I have many GU friends and they are some of the best people I know. I look forward to your followups.

12-13-2012, 04:29 PM
Amazing post. Well done CD.

Zag 77
12-13-2012, 04:42 PM
I am wondering out how you circumvented the feature that limits how long a post can be.

Good article, by the way.

12-13-2012, 04:52 PM
Thanks for your post. Great read. Looking forward to buying your book.

Zag for life!

12-13-2012, 05:02 PM
Good luck with your book. I look forward to reading it.


12-13-2012, 06:15 PM
I am wondering out how you circumvented the feature that limits how long a post can be.

Good article, by the way.

That feature is invoked by the mods/admins on a case by case basis and has only been used on 3 verbose posters, including yourself '77. (Just kidding, and had to "trash" talk while welcoming cdools to the guboards family).

12-13-2012, 10:44 PM
Go ZEags!

ZagMan in Philly
12-14-2012, 05:46 AM
Thank You for your post. It was inspiring and made me proud to be a Zag for life.
Go Zags!

12-14-2012, 07:17 AM
Best post, ever.
Thanks for sharing!

12-14-2012, 07:38 AM
Long indeed, but when you have the gift keep it coming! You will notice that my posts do not need a scroll down, unless I've added a picture.

Kevin's been one of my favorite Zags since his arrival, I'm sure your book will be filled with many GU victories. And I hope this season will have it's own special chapter!


12-15-2012, 04:58 AM
Great read, sounds like a hellevua trip. Glad you could see what being a Zag for Life means!

12-15-2012, 05:27 AM
I no longer buy books but yours will be on my coffee table. Thank you for your excellent post.

Go!! Zags!! FOR LIFE!!!!!

12-15-2012, 07:14 AM
Make sure to let the board know when the book is done!

PS- if you need any illustrations for your book, I know a guy. ;-)