How did Gonzaga do it?

Breakin' The Plane

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Messages
8,918
Reaction score
1,102
Points
113
So, I've been giving this some thought after Ben Johnson was hired. There have been the typical responses about it not mattering because nobody can win here anyway. Which brought me to Spokane as a shining example that anyone can basically win anywhere, given they have the right coaching staff who can identify talent that will work with their system.

Here's what Gonzaga had going against it:
Prior to the mid 90s, the only time you'd hear about Gonzaga if someone asked where John Stockton went to school. There is no storied tradition that they drew upon. Prior to 2000, the only two Gonzaga players to ever step on an NBA court were Stockton and Mike Champion (he played two games for Seattle in 1987). They built their program from the ground up.

Weather/Climate/Location: The climate is not all that different than the Twin Cities. This isn't a coastal city. Spokane is 250 miles from the ocean. It's not a hip, vibrant urban center like Portland or Seattle. Despite that, they are able to get plenty of very good to great players to attend the University. The other universities in their conference are mostly located in what are thought to be very desirable locations: Portland, LA, San Francisco and San Diego.

Arena/fan support: Built a new arena in 2004. Seats 6000. It replaced an existing arena that held 4000. I'm guessing it was an easy sell after going to 3 straight Sweet 16s, but still that's about half the capacity of the majority of major D1 programs.

That's just the bare bones background. Doesn't sound to me like a place where 4 and 5 star recruits would be remotely interested in, but that's the case. The old saying that "winning cures all" is pretty obvious here.
 

GopherBlood666

Well-known member
Joined
May 17, 2019
Messages
1,942
Reaction score
1,364
Points
113
There have been very exhaustive threads on this board surrounding Gonzaga. Pretty simple formula but extremely hard to recreate. Few is probably a top 5 coach in all of college hoops. He won over a sustained period of time. His reputation as a coach and winning track record then started attracting better players. Any coach can build a program at nearly any school, but they need to be an unbelievable coach first. Everything else follows after.
 

Some guy

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 1, 2014
Messages
11,497
Reaction score
3,499
Points
113
Add on top of that if you can build a top 40 roster at Gonzaga you are guaranteed top 3 in the WCC every year, and top 2 before BYU joined
 


Tucker32

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 21, 2008
Messages
1,492
Reaction score
527
Points
113
So, I've been giving this some thought after Ben Johnson was hired. There have been the typical responses about it not mattering because nobody can win here anyway. Which brought me to Spokane as a shining example that anyone can basically win anywhere, given they have the right coaching staff who can identify talent that will work with their system.

Here's what Gonzaga had going against it:
Prior to the mid 90s, the only time you'd hear about Gonzaga if someone asked where John Stockton went to school. There is no storied tradition that they drew upon. Prior to 2000, the only two Gonzaga players to ever step on an NBA court were Stockton and Mike Champion (he played two games for Seattle in 1987). They built their program from the ground up.

Weather/Climate/Location: The climate is not all that different than the Twin Cities. This isn't a coastal city. Spokane is 250 miles from the ocean. It's not a hip, vibrant urban center like Portland or Seattle. Despite that, they are able to get plenty of very good to great players to attend the University. The other universities in their conference are mostly located in what are thought to be very desirable locations: Portland, LA, San Francisco and San Diego.

Arena/fan support: Built a new arena in 2004. Seats 6000. It replaced an existing arena that held 4000. I'm guessing it was an easy sell after going to 3 straight Sweet 16s, but still that's about half the capacity of the majority of major D1 programs.

That's just the bare bones background. Doesn't sound to me like a place where 4 and 5 star recruits would be remotely interested in, but that's the case. The old saying that "winning cures all" is pretty obvious here.
The impetus for the growth of their program was the scandal here. Had that not broke when it did, they likely would have not won their first-round game in '99 against us that lead to Monson's run to the elite eight. Clem had a good club that year that likely would have beaten Gonzaga with a full roster. if that happened, we never would have hired Dan Monson and he would have stayed at Gonzaga for many years with a decent program. Thus, Few would have either stayed an assistant or likely would have built a different Gonzaga somewhere else.

It is a great example of how college basketball is cyclical and so influenced by the coach. If Few leaves at some point does Gonzaga stay where they are at? Unlikely given the conference they are in. In the 80s and 90s the U was a much stronger program year to year than Wisconsin, and now they have been on a run the past twenty years. It is so dependent on who the coach is - Wisconsin hired Ryan following Bennett and it totally shifted their trajectory.

The coach matters more than anything. Few at Gonzaga. Wichita State had their run with Marshall. On the other end, Indiana was a blue blood but has never risen to that status with any consistency since Knight left. UCLA has not been a consistent program despite a blue blood status in the past. Georgia Tech was a great program with Bobby Cremins, but have never really replaced him. UCONN has not been a top 20 program like they consistently were under Jim Calhoun. Michigan State was not a blue blood until Izzo brought a consistency they had never had (yes they had a run with Magic but that was a once in a lifetime player). Baylor was a laughingstock program no one ever thought of 10-15 years ago. Virginia was a mid to low-tier ACC program until Bennett went there. The coach matters more than "the program", except a Duke, Kentucky, UNC that sell themselves, but that's even fragile (itcan shift like we saw at UCLA and Indiana who were thought of that way).

Let's hope we have the right coach now. It's not as much about the program as it is who is leading it. We have everything in place to be as good and better than Wisconsin, Baylor, or even Michigan State, we just need our Ryan, Drew, or Izzo.
 
Last edited:


Gopher Teeth

Fear the Teeth
Joined
Nov 12, 2008
Messages
979
Reaction score
676
Points
93
There have been very exhaustive threads on this board surrounding Gonzaga. Pretty simple formula but extremely hard to recreate. Few is probably a top 5 coach in all of college hoops. He won over a sustained period of time. His reputation as a coach and winning track record then started attracting better players. Any coach can build a program at nearly any school, but they need to be an unbelievable coach first. Everything else follows after.
Exactly and this is why all this breathless excitement about recruiting first, then wins, is all fools gold. I am sure Johnson will get an initial good recruiting class on hope, let's even delude ourselves and say he recruits just as well as Izzo, Painter, Underwood, etc. Does anyone think he will outcoach them? So then all momentum is gone and recruiting tanks. This whole strategy by Coyle is a sugar high.

Coyle's comment about he'll figure out the whole when to call a time out no problem. That seemed pretty dismissive, if he really thinks all that can be done well by just anyone, I am concerned. Look I really hope BJ does great, but I can't look at this and feel its likely at all.
 
Last edited:

Tucker32

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 21, 2008
Messages
1,492
Reaction score
527
Points
113
Exactly and this is why all this breathless excitement about recruiting first, then wins, is all fools gold. I am sure Johnson will get an initial good recruiting class on hope, let's even delude ourselves and say he recruits just as well as Izzo, Painter, Underwood, etc. Does anyone think he will outcoach them? So then all momentum is gone and recruiting tanks. This whole strategy by Coyle is a sugar high.

Coyle's comment about he'll figure out the whole when to call a time out no problem. That seemed pretty dismissive, if he really thinks all that can be done well by just anyone, I am concerned. Look I really hope BJ does great, but I can't look at this and feel its likely at all.
No one knew what kind of coach Izzo, Few or Painter were either. Few was a crapshoot as well when Gonzaga him, as were Painter and Izzo. We'll find out, and nothing wrong with some hope that this will be the time we move forward.
 

howeda7

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 22, 2008
Messages
59,748
Reaction score
15,397
Points
113
The impetus for the growth of their program was the scandal here. Had that not broke when it did, they likely would have not won their first-round game in '99 against us that lead to Monson's run to the elite eight. Clem had a good club that year that likely would have beaten Gonzaga with a full roster. if that happened, we never would have hired Dan Monson and he would have stayed at Gonzaga for many years with a decent program. Thus, Few would have either stayed an assistant or likely would have built a different Gonzaga somewhere else.
Yep. Jan Gangelhoff nuked us and built Gonzaga.
 

Joined
Dec 28, 2020
Messages
67
Reaction score
54
Points
18
A friend's son played for Calipari at Memphis. When I asked about the level of play (C-USA wasn't the SEC or ACC) he told me, "Cal likes it. They have a lot of soft games and can schedule a few top opponents out of conference." It was something he carried over from Massachusetts.

I think that has a lot to do with Gonzaga. They're today's UNLV. Look at how hard it is for Seton Hall, South Carolina, or Auburn to stay on top. The major conferences are topsy-turvy. Contrast that to a league where you see the same team most years. Much easier for San Diego St. or Wichita St. to have staying power.
 



Thunderlips

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Messages
210
Reaction score
4
Points
18
Spokane is a total dump. No idea why kids would want to live there
 

howeda7

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 22, 2008
Messages
59,748
Reaction score
15,397
Points
113
A friend's son played for Calipari at Memphis. When I asked about the level of play (C-USA wasn't the SEC or ACC) he told me, "Cal likes it. They have a lot of soft games and can schedule a few top opponents out of conference." It was something he carried over from Massachusetts.

I think that has a lot to do with Gonzaga. They're today's UNLV. Look at how hard it is for Seton Hall, South Carolina, or Auburn to stay on top. The major conferences are topsy-turvy. Contrast that to a league where you see the same team most years. Much easier for San Diego St. or Wichita St. to have staying power.
This makes sense, except no one but Gonzaga is really successful doing it. San Diego State's never been past the Sweet 16 and that was a long time ago. Wichita had about a 2 year window of great teams and then crashed. Same with Butler.
 

MplsGopher

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 4, 2017
Messages
31,509
Reaction score
8,178
Points
113
Easy conference.

Not at all the total story, but a damn important part of it. Also why Nebraska had so much success back in the Big 8 days.

When you get a bunch of wins "for free/easy", and you only need to focus on rising your game up for a few important games per year, that is much easier to sustain.
 





cjbfbp

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,431
Reaction score
3,697
Points
113
There have been very exhaustive threads on this board surrounding Gonzaga. Pretty simple formula but extremely hard to recreate. Few is probably a top 5 coach in all of college hoops. He won over a sustained period of time. His reputation as a coach and winning track record then started attracting better players. Any coach can build a program at nearly any school, but they need to be an unbelievable coach first. Everything else follows after.

Yes, that is all true, and it's important that you mentioned it took some time for Few to solidify that status of where they are now. One thing that helped them is that they were able to nurture this development within a conference that they dominated and they didn't have to face a constant arms race with their in-conference competitors. That allowed them to virtually always have at least a very good record, more often a great record, and almost always win their conference tournament. Players going there for the last 20 years virtually were assured of going to the NCAA tournament every year. Few programs can say that.
 

GopherBlood666

Well-known member
Joined
May 17, 2019
Messages
1,942
Reaction score
1,364
Points
113
Yes, that is all true, and it's important that you mentioned it took some time for Few to solidify that status of where they are now. One thing that helped them is that they were able to nurture this development within a conference that they dominated and they didn't have to face a constant arms race with their in-conference competitors. That allowed them to virtually always have at least a very good record, more often a great record, and almost always win their conference tournament. Players going there for the last 20 years virtually were assured of going to the NCAA tournament every year. Few programs can say that.
"Few" programs can say that, that's the truth!
 

atsgopher

Active member
Joined
Oct 2, 2009
Messages
858
Reaction score
249
Points
43
Yes, that is all true, and it's important that you mentioned it took some time for Few to solidify that status of where they are now. One thing that helped them is that they were able to nurture this development within a conference that they dominated and they didn't have to face a constant arms race with their in-conference competitors. That allowed them to virtually always have at least a very good record, more often a great record, and almost always win their conference tournament. Players going there for the last 20 years virtually were assured of going to the NCAA tournament every year. Few programs can say that.
Plus, it is a positive feedback loop with Money. The NCAA pays $280,000 per round and that payout lasts several years after the appearance... so sweet 16 gets $840k (i think 5-6 years). Getting 3 of those in a row pays for some upgrades.
 

Go Gophs

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 16, 2009
Messages
1,065
Reaction score
479
Points
83
The impetus for the growth of their program was the scandal here. Had that not broke when it did, they likely would have not won their first-round game in '99 against us that lead to Monson's run to the elite eight. Clem had a good club that year that likely would have beaten Gonzaga with a full roster. if that happened, we never would have hired Dan Monson and he would have stayed at Gonzaga for many years with a decent program. Thus, Few would have either stayed an assistant or likely would have built a different Gonzaga somewhere else.

It is a great example of how college basketball is cyclical and so influenced by the coach. If Few leaves at some point does Gonzaga stay where they are at? Unlikely given the conference they are in. In the 80s and 90s the U was a much stronger program year to year than Wisconsin, and now they have been on a run the past twenty years. It is so dependent on who the coach is - Wisconsin hired Ryan following Bennett and it totally shifted their trajectory.

The coach matters more than anything. Few at Gonzaga. Wichita State had their run with Marshall. On the other end, Indiana was a blue blood but has never risen to that status with any consistency since Knight left. UCLA has not been a consistent program despite a blue blood status in the past. Georgia Tech was a great program with Bobby Cremins, but have never really replaced him. UCONN has not been a top 20 program like they consistently were under Jim Calhoun. Michigan State was not a blue blood until Izzo brought a consistency they had never had (yes they had a run with Magic but that was a once in a lifetime player). Baylor was a laughingstock program no one ever thought of 10-15 years ago. Virginia was a mid to low-tier ACC program until Bennett went there. The coach matters more than "the program", except a Duke, Kentucky, UNC that sell themselves, but that's even fragile (itcan shift like we saw at UCLA and Indiana who were thought of that way).

Let's hope we have the right coach now. It's not as much about the program as it is who is leading it. We have everything in place to be as good and better than Wisconsin, Baylor, or even Michigan State, we just need our Ryan, Drew, or Izzo.
Exactly and this is why all this breathless excitement about recruiting first, then wins, is all fools gold. I am sure Johnson will get an initial good recruiting class on hope, let's even delude ourselves and say he recruits just as well as Izzo, Painter, Underwood, etc. Does anyone think he will outcoach them? So then all momentum is gone and recruiting tanks. This whole strategy by Coyle is a sugar high.

Coyle's comment about he'll figure out the whole when to call a time out no problem. That seemed pretty dismissive, if he really thinks all that can be done well by just anyone, I am concerned. Look I really hope BJ does great, but I can't look at this and feel its likely at all.

These 2 posts incapsulate exactly what I have been saying on this board all year. It is the COACH that makes these programs. All of them.

And all of them start with mid level recruits that they coach up in their system and are able to knock out teams that are more talented than they are.

That is why I say I could care less if we went and hired a D2 or 3 guy that has had alot of success with a system/program/equation he uses that works and has worked for awhile.

Recruiting in general is fool's gold. Some of these guys that are ranked high bomb, while some that are ranked low show out. Having a solid system in place that works irregardless of the players running it allows you to be competitive year in, year out. And on those special years where you do get some high level talent in here, then you have that chance to win a conference or go on a run.
 

MennoSota

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
10,563
Reaction score
1,878
Points
113
Gonzaga = fake diplomas... 😅
Or
Gonzaga = monastery where people go to find complete harmony with the basketball god's

Take your pick.
 
Last edited:

Wally

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 15, 2016
Messages
12,704
Reaction score
5,592
Points
113
So, I've been giving this some thought after Ben Johnson was hired. There have been the typical responses about it not mattering because nobody can win here anyway. Which brought me to Spokane as a shining example that anyone can basically win anywhere, given they have the right coaching staff who can identify talent that will work with their system.

Here's what Gonzaga had going against it:
Prior to the mid 90s, the only time you'd hear about Gonzaga if someone asked where John Stockton went to school. There is no storied tradition that they drew upon. Prior to 2000, the only two Gonzaga players to ever step on an NBA court were Stockton and Mike Champion (he played two games for Seattle in 1987). They built their program from the ground up.

Weather/Climate/Location: The climate is not all that different than the Twin Cities. This isn't a coastal city. Spokane is 250 miles from the ocean. It's not a hip, vibrant urban center like Portland or Seattle. Despite that, they are able to get plenty of very good to great players to attend the University. The other universities in their conference are mostly located in what are thought to be very desirable locations: Portland, LA, San Francisco and San Diego.

Arena/fan support: Built a new arena in 2004. Seats 6000. It replaced an existing arena that held 4000. I'm guessing it was an easy sell after going to 3 straight Sweet 16s, but still that's about half the capacity of the majority of major D1 programs.

That's just the bare bones background. Doesn't sound to me like a place where 4 and 5 star recruits would be remotely interested in, but that's the case. The old saying that "winning cures all" is pretty obvious here.

Good question, I went to school at Wazzu for a couple years and always thought Spokane was kind of a dumpy city.
 

Bad Gopher

A Loner, A Rebel
Joined
Nov 20, 2008
Messages
20,624
Reaction score
5,188
Points
113
These 2 posts incapsulate exactly what I have been saying on this board all year. It is the COACH that makes these programs. All of them.

And all of them start with mid level recruits that they coach up in their system and are able to knock out teams that are more talented than they are.

That is why I say I could care less if we went and hired a D2 or 3 guy that has had alot of success with a system/program/equation he uses that works and has worked for awhile.

Recruiting in general is fool's gold. Some of these guys that are ranked high bomb, while some that are ranked low show out. Having a solid system in place that works irregardless of the players running it allows you to be competitive year in, year out. And on those special years where you do get some high level talent in here, then you have that chance to win a conference or go on a run.
Precisely. Few was able to get a foothold because he's an uncommon coach. He invented the offensive motion schematic they use. There's no substitute for teaching and scheming. That's the foundation. You build on top of that, and he and their athletic department and school have built on top of that. It's a team effort.
 


Pete smith

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 12, 2017
Messages
1,078
Reaction score
253
Points
83
Actually since Gonzaga doesn’t have football, their recruiting budget for basketball spends more dollars than 95% of all universities. The main reason that Few isn’t interested in changing jobs. He knows he has a great job, wouldn’t find another job with all these advantages.
 

PhiloVance

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
Messages
750
Reaction score
381
Points
63
How did they succeed? Mn hired Monson and the assistant coach took over.
 

builtbadgers

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
7,820
Reaction score
4,068
Points
113
These 2 posts incapsulate exactly what I have been saying on this board all year. It is the COACH that makes these programs. All of them.

And all of them start with mid level recruits that they coach up in their system and are able to knock out teams that are more talented than they are.

That is why I say I could care less if we went and hired a D2 or 3 guy that has had alot of success with a system/program/equation he uses that works and has worked for awhile.

Recruiting in general is fool's gold. Some of these guys that are ranked high bomb, while some that are ranked low show out. Having a solid system in place that works irregardless of the players running it allows you to be competitive year in, year out. And on those special years where you do get some high level talent in here, then you have that chance to win a conference or go on a run.
Great post. Great coaches are rare.
 


cjbfbp

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,431
Reaction score
3,697
Points
113
Plus, it is a positive feedback loop with Money. The NCAA pays $280,000 per round and that payout lasts several years after the appearance... so sweet 16 gets $840k (i think 5-6 years). Getting 3 of those in a row pays for some upgrades.

I didn't even think of the money! In their case, the richest got richer and the rest in their conference stayed poor (most of the time anyway).
 

60's Guy

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 29, 2010
Messages
6,159
Reaction score
1,206
Points
113
Couple reasons Gonzaga rose to the top:
They had a veteran assistant coach who was phenomenal at teaching and breaking down fundamentals in a way that was incredibly interesting and effective. I heard him speak at a coaching clinic 30 years or so ago. He was memorable...with him in your gyms kids would develop and get better at a faster rate.
Two: Different wizard coach focused on foreign players and recruited some amazing guys outside the United States. Gonzaga pretty much owned the foreign recruits market for quite some time.
Maybe they still do. That coach was there last year...haven't tuned in to this year to know if he's still there.
Three: Probably loyal assistants has been a factor...those two guys there a long time.
That cumulative success led to the ability to get USA players to want to be part of the Gonzaga mystique.
Add Few who is genuine and an excellent coach and how many years later...here they are. Wasn't fast.
Good early but not dominant like now.
 

bleedsmaroonandgold

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
5,995
Reaction score
351
Points
83
Actually since Gonzaga doesn’t have football, their recruiting budget for basketball spends more dollars than 95% of all universities. The main reason that Few isn’t interested in changing jobs. He knows he has a great job, wouldn’t find another job with all these advantages.
I think the main reason Few isn't interested in changing jobs is that he has Gonzaga at the top, so there is nowhere up to go in the ranks of college hoops right now. He's been in the last 6 Sweet 16s, going for 4 of the last 6 Elite 8s this weekend, and been in the national title game recently. I don't know where he's going to find a program with more more recent success than that, except maybe one of the recent national champs, but they probably aren't hiring.
 





Top Bottom