I tweeted it. Repeated it. Over and over. I was pissed. We all were.
And we remember where exactly we were on the night of March 23, 2013.
That was the night the 9th seeded Wichita State Shockers, with the most appropriate mascot that night, shocked the overall 1 seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs 76-70.
I wanted Mark Few fired.
I thought that he would always be the Doug Collins, the Paul Westhead, or the Mark Jackson of Gonzaga. A talented above average coach that builds an incredible foundation only for a better coach, and perhaps elite coach, to come in and finally get a ever improving program over the proverbial hump.
I thought that Gonzaga needed a change of direction in more ways than one. I said at the time that Gonzaga needed to figure out if they were alright with winning a rather dormant WCC conference title year in and year out and winning a few games in the tournament or if they wanted to be considered alongside the blue bloods of the NCAA like Duke or Kentucky, programs that win, and win a lot. Teams that win in March. Teams that get to Final Fours. And teams that are champions.
I distinctly remember, and foolishly I might add, at the time that Gonzaga should get rid of Mark Few and get a coach that has strong recruiting skills and can lead on the court just as effectively. I said Gonzaga should hire Ben Howland from UCLA.
In fairness, Howland was fired from UCLA just two days after that fateful night in 2013 after leading the Bruins to 3 consecutive Final Fours and 4 PAC-12 conference titles in 10 years. He coached future NBA superstars such as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Howland was who Gonzaga needed. Or, again foolishly, so I thought. Well in the time since Howland’s firing from UCLA he is coaching at Mississippi State University where Howland’s Bulldogs finished with a 16-16. A far cry from Mark Few’s Bulldogs 32-1 record and trip to the school’s first ever Final Four.
This gets to the crux of the issue.
I was totally, completely, and absolutely wrong to think the Gonzaga should have fired Mark Few. It was wrong and short sighted. To all Gonzaga fans and to Mark Few, I offer my sincerest apologies. If Few was let go, the program would have been set back years. Perhaps even decades. The equity of being a strong basketball program from a small Northwest university would have been lost quickly. We would be a George Mason, Florida Gulf Coast, or VCU type school. A school that was nearly unheard of, make the tournament as a 9, 10, or 11 seed and get smacked around and thrown out by the end of the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. Top recruits would become uneasy about a university making such a drastic change after a historic and unprecedented season. Gonzaga would have been relegated to a NIT team or even worse, missing the Big Dance altogether. A Mark Few firing would have destroyed Gonzaga basketball.
In fact, Mark Few represents Gonzaga basketball better than any player that has stepped onto that court. Gonzaga University isn’t a flashy university. Mark Few isn’t on the sidelines dressed in some fancy suit like Jay Wright or Roy Williams. Mark Few doesn’t even wear a tie during games. It is a school made up of a hard working and dedicated community of basketball enthusiasts. Spokane and Gonzaga has a certain deeply rooted strength and determination. The winters are chilling. The summers are blazing. It is also a school with faith permanently etched in the foundation back when the Gonzaga was first established in 1887.
Mark Few embodies the qualities that make up Gonzaga.
He’s a passionate basketball family oriented man that grew up in the Pacific Northwest. His father was a Presbyterian pastor and basketball player himself. Few, graduated from the University of Oregon and began immediately involved with Gonzaga basketball. Since 1989, Mark Few has been a part of the fabric of Gonzaga basketball. The most incredible achievement in his years since joining Gonzaga basketball cannot be quantified with statistics. It's the fact that he has taken a single basketball program from a nobody, to a Cinderella, to now, a national power.
I was wrong about removing Mark Few from Gonzaga basketball because Mark Few is Gonzaga basketball.