Flashback to Donnie Baldwin

Quite probably the best Point Guard at Gonzaga that nobody knows about is Don Baldwin. How good was he? John Stockton was his back up. Now he teaches, coaches and is a family man in Southeast Idaho.


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ZH: First, let's start with your family. Tell us about the Baldwin family and the star golfer in your family.

DB: My wife Lori and I have been married for 24 and a half years. We have 4 children, our oldest is Ashley, she is starting her first year at college this year at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She is playing both golf and basketball for them there. She recently took second at a big tournament in Billings, Montana. Erika is our second child, she is a junior in high school and is also an outstanding golfer, finishing third at our recent state tournament. She is a cheerleader at her school which keeps her very busy. Andrea is our third child, she is very busy with sports playing volleyball, basketball and also a good little golfer. Scott is our only boy, he is in the fourth grade and keeps us busy as well, he participates in baseball, basketball, golf, and anything else that he likes. We have great kids that we really enjoy.

ZH: Speaking of multiple sport stars, you were a triple-option QB, a point guard and a baseball player who was getting some looks from Major League Baseball scouts in high school. What was your recruitment like and why did you choose basketball at Gonzaga over multiple sports at a school that had football?

DB: Actually I knew from the very beginning that I enjoyed playing basketball more than the other two sports, so that is why I went with basketball instead of football or baseball. I wanted to concentrate on playing just one sport. I had an oppurtunity while at Gonzaga to try and play baseball, but [head baseball coach] Steve Hertz left after my freshman year so I didn't pursue it any further. I was busy enough playing basketball. I went to summer camps at Gonzaga for a couple of years and that is where I actually was seen by the coaching staff, and that is basically where I got recruited from. Stu Morrill, now the head coach at Utah State, was an assistant coach at the time and he watched me play a couple of games in high school.

ZH: What did you major in at Gonzaga and what did you do until you started teaching in southeast Idaho? Did you give pro ball a go? Tell us where you teach now, what you teach and coach.

DB: I majored in physical education. I started teaching as soon as I graduated from college and am now in my 24th year. I am currently employed at Hillcrest high school in Idaho Falls, this is my seventh year at this school. I teach math and I am the head basketball coach and also the head golf coach. I didn't give any pro ball a chance, I didn't want to travel overseas very bad.

ZH: How did you meet your wife? Was she also an athlete?

DB: My wife and I met in high school, I guess you could call us high school sweathearts. I met her after a high school basketball game she was playing in. She played two years of basketball at Spokane Falls Community College after we got married. We got married the summer before my senior year. She is an exceptional athlete. She still holds some high school track records.

ZH: Who were the two best players you played against while at Gonzaga, and why?

DB: I think the best player I played against would have to be Quinton Dailey from San Francisco. He was exceptionaly tough to guard. The other one would have to be Michael Ray Richardson from Montana. He was the number one dratf pick his senior year and had a nice NBA career until he got into the drugs and got banned from the league. There are plenty of other players that were very good however.

ZH: What were two of the most memorable games you were involved in at Gonzaga? What was the greatest win, in your opinion?

DB: The most memorable game would be the night we beat San Francisco at home, it may have been our biggest win. We thought that would get us in the NIT, it didn't work that way however. The other one would be my freshman year, we beat Idaho State in four overtimes. To me, being from that area and beating them and playing 60 minutes was a lot of fun.

ZH: Conversely, what was the toughest, most heartbreaking loss in your college career, and why?

DB: That is really hard to say, there were a few of them. We lost an overtime game to Pepperdine my senior year at home that I felt we should have won. I had a couple of oppurtunities to make a last second shot that just fell off the rim. Probably the worst was the last game of that season at home against Portland. A win would have given us a 20 win season and maybe into the NIT.

ZH: Not every Zag fan or alum knows it but it could be said Gonzaga's point guard tradition began with you. When Stockton backed you up when you were a senior and he was a freshman, could you see that John was something special now that you've had years to reflect on it? What was your game like compared to his game?

DB: John was a very solid player as a freshman, but I feel he made tremendous strides between his freshman and sophomore seasons. I had to go back after my senior year to finish up my student teaching and Johnny and I spent a lot of time in the gym, just about everyday together. That is when I saw he was going to be a very special player. Did I think he would become in my opinion the best point guard ever? Maybe not that good, but I thought he would be a very good player. My game compared to John's, lets see, I felt at that time I was a better shooter, but his quickness was unbelievable. I think both of us were very smart players. He is just a tremendous player and to be mentioned in the same sentence with him is an honor.

ZH: Everybody has a few dozen "Fitz" stories. Can you relate a memorable story to us?

DB: I do have a few Fitz storys but instead I would rather tell you it was just a tremendous pleasure for me to play for him. He was the best thing that ever happened to Gonzaga basketball. He brought in the right type of people to succeed at Gonzaga. I still feel like he is a very good friend and his legacy will live on at GU.
I guess my one of my favorite stories is the day he told me practice would not last more than 2 hours, than he told all the guards there would be a pre-practice an hour early. We ended up practicing for more than three hours. When I asked him about it we both just laughed.

ZH: When you watch the recent Zag teams on TV, do you still recognize some similarities from Fitz's Flex Offense? What are the most obvious differences, besides perhaps the overall talent level?

DB: I still can pick out some of the same offenses and stuff, but the game has really evolved. We didn't have a three point line or a shot clock. The flex we ran was to get 15 foot jump shots. We didn't have to go one on one with the shot clock running down. I love watching the Zags play because they play the game as a team the way it was meant to be played and that may be the biggest similarities.


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