8 Questions for Coach Mountain

She ranks near the top of many statistical categories for Gonzaga women's basketball, and now she is head coach Kelly Graves top assistant. We follow Jennifer Mountain's career, both as a player and a coach, in the following Q&A.

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GN: Tell us about your high school athletic career and how you ended up choosing to play your college career at Gonzaga. What was your recruitment like?

JM: My high school athletic career was pretty typical. Three sport 4 year letter winner. Soccer, basketball and softball. I was pretty successful in all three and was inducted into my high school hall of fame about 5 years ago. I played select soccer from the time I entered 3rd grade and began playing basketball in 6th grade. I was all state in all three sports at one time or another and also played basketball for the Oregon selects during the summer. Brad Smith and Carl Tinsley (Oregon city coaches ) were my coaches at the time. They really introduced me to Mike Peterson who eventually recruited me to Gonzaga. I was not that highly recruited out of high school. My high school team was not very good. Before I entered they had only one a few games at the varsity level. We did improve and make a huge jump while I was there but we lost in the first round, usually, to get to state. I was recruited through my summer team and Mike Peterson, like I said, was instrumental in me choosing GU. I was recruited by probably five schools and knew as soon as I set foot on campus here that this is where I wanted to go. I did not even take any other visits. I loved the school, the people, the coaching staff, the team, everything. The rest is history.

GN: What was most memorable about your overall experience at Gonzaga, and what was one of your most memorable games?

JM: The thing that is most memorable about my experience at Gonzaga is the people I met. My teammates, my teachers, my coaches, the community. It was a great fit for me and a place I have always felt comfortable in. I love the family atmosphere with the feel of a big city with a lot to experience. I enjoyed playing in the Kennel, the kennel club, (which at the time was basically the baseball team. We were very close to the baseball team.) We were a very close team and we did almost everything together. One game I remember was against Boise State. We had crashed the vans on the way to pendelton, minor injuries but totaled the van and we were pretty scared and sore. We were coming from Portland State and the conditions were not great but we hit black ice and rolled the van. We continued on, practiced that afternoon and luckily had a day in between before we played. We ended up winning in overtime and I hit a shot at the buzzer to win.

GN: In what ways has the women's game changed from the years you played to currently?

JM: I think the game has changed because of the athleticism. It seems to me that the game use to be a little more fundamental. Today you see great athletes who do a great job of playing the game. There are not the pure shooters that use to be. There are athletes getting to the rim and slashing. Of course that use to happen but I think it is much more of an emphasis. Players today are probably better athletes. Look at all the resources made available to kids these days. I am not that old and we did not have the weight programs, sport-specific training that a lot of these kids have. We played multiple sports and did everything at once. I think the game is at a faster pace and they play so much. They play so many more games in the summers and even during the year with AAU tourneys.

GN: What did you do after graduation that eventually led you to be head coach at St. George's High School for the boys basketball team?

JM: When I graduated I was an assistant for two seasons for Julie Holt here at GU. My second season I was offered a job coaching track at St. George's because a friend of mine knew the AD and they needed someone. I wasn't making hardly anything at the time and needed the money. So, I bought a book on track and started coaching track in the spring. Their P.E. teacher at the time quit and I eventually got hired for that fall to teach. I taught there for two years before I got the boys job. I was the head volleyball and track coach for the two years and helped with 7-8th grade boys basketball. Ross Thomas was the girls coach (very successful and Marty Jesset was the boys coach (Cheney girls coach after he left) When Marty decided to leave, Claudia Thomas the athletic director asked me if I wanted the job and the rest fell into place. I taught there for 9 years before I left to come to GU. I had a wonderful experience at St. George's. I taught k-12 and had fun everyday.

GN: You took St. George's to some lofty heights. Can you describe your successes there and how that might've prepared you for your current position at Gonzaga?

JM: I think that my success there was due to the fact that my boys' bought into a system. We did not have the best basketball players or even the best athletes. We were always undersized and usually weaker then our opponent. However, they were extremely disciplined and did what I asked them to do. They knew their roles and performed them to the best of their abilities. Ken Anderson was my assistant the entire time I was at St. George's. He was my right hand man and his views and philosophy fit so well with mine that between the two of us we did not let too many things slide. We demanded high expectations and extreme discipline. Our boy's in turn expected the same thing and they did a great job of holding each other responsible. I know my experience at St. George's prepared me to get to where I am today. I knew I always would coach. I think I have had it in me since I was in high school; however, being a women in a male dominated arena prepared me to work hard and to have high expectations of myself. I had to earn the respect of a lot of people and always work harder then the opposition. I think a lot of it is my upbringing, my personality. I can be very stern, disciplined, hard on my players but at the same time compassionate and understanding. My experience at St. George's taught me balance with all the disciplines that makes someone successful. You have to set your goals extremely high but at the same time have the capacity to adjust and be willing to bend. I feel that the most successful businesses and teams have a common theme. (Cohesiveness.) If you have a group that wants the same thing and they are all working to achieve the same goal you are better off then a team with a few super stars. I am very proud of my teams at St. George's and all the athletes male and female that I have coached. Each one has had an impact on my career, I am very lucky to go to work each day and do something that I absolutely love.

GN: Okay, a fun question. Who wins, your St. George's State Championship team or last year's Lady Zags, and why?

JM: [laughs] Last year's Lady Zags! It would be a contest (close game). The lady's would win because they have a group of 15 good basketball players. The boys are athletic enough to keep up but the skill level would win out with the ladies.

GN: How did it come about that Kelly Graves wanted you and hired you to be his top assistant?

JM: Well, I heard about the opening through Ken Anderson and the fact that I followed the program. Kelly actually called me and we met at the Onion [restaurant] up north to talk. He hired me after that and the rest is history. He told me later that he had asked who some of the best coaches were in Spokane and someone had told him about me. That is how it kind of happened, nothing real dramatic. I started about three weeks later after school ended for me.

GN: What has been the highlight of your coaching career at Gonzaga so far, and what will it take to get to the NCAA Tournament year after year for the Zags?

JM: Well, I think last year was a huge highlight, the success, the crowd, all of it was an accumulation of hard work. It is really nice to see the turn-around, and to be a part of it is so special. The crowd on senior night was almost amazing. It was a feeling hard to describe standing down on the floor with all of those people. I loved it! I think we are at the point of succeeding and getting to the NCAA tournament year after year. I felt last year we really got robbed. We had a tremendous year! It hardly gets better. The only way we get past that point is to keep winning and the strength of our league and our opponents' increases. We are doing our best to put all of those pieces together.

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