Eric Brady: Blazing a Trail from West to East

Jason Bond, Jeff Brown, Dan Dickau and Erroll Knight have all made the switch from Washington to Gonzaga, but the guy who started it all was Eric Brady from Mercer Island.

ZH: Firstly, what has Eric Brady been up to after graduating from Gonzaga? What has your professional career path been that has led you to Itron?

EB: After graduation, I worked for one of the large accounting firms in Seattle, Deloitte & Touche, for almost 3 years. Then I moved on to KeyTronic, which is a manufacturer located in Spokane for another 3 years. I've spent the past 4 years at Itron working in a couple of different finance roles. I should probably point out that Itron is a company located in Spokane that provides solutions to help electric, gas, and water utilities optimize the delivery and use of energy and water.

ZH: What is your position at Itron and can you describe what you do in lay terms?

EB: Currently, I'm the business manager for the product development, product marketing and product management groups. With an annual budget of approximately $30 million, my duties involve a substantial amount of finance support for these groups.

ZH: Now for basketball. You played for Ed Pepple at Mercer Island. What was your career like there and what colleges recruited you?

EB: Coach Pepple is a legend. I was very fortunate to play for a coach of that caliber in high school. The winning mindset, high level of expectations, emphasis on teamwork and hard work are values that are instilled in all Mercer Island players. I was also fortunate to play with some very talented players, especially Quin Snyder (now coach at Missouri) and Brian Schwabe. We won the state championship when I was a sophomore, and then got knocked out in districts my junior and senior years.

After a good junior year, I drew attention from a number of schools, and ended up going to Washington.

ZH: What made you decide to attend Washington, and who was UW's coach then?

EB: Ultimately, the decision is a bit of a crap shoot. Unless you're a Top 25 recruit, it's difficult to tell just how interested schools really are until it comes time to put an offer in writing. Not that I ever believed the assistant at Arizona who told me that I could be the next Sean Elliott, but it's difficult to tell whether you're first, second, third, etc., on a school's list. After going through the recruiting process, I didn't have any better idea of which school would be the best for me. For me, the decision to attend Washington was the result of not sensing genuine interest from a couple of the schools, or not having genuine interest in the other schools I visited.

Andy Russo, who succeeded Marv Harshman, was the coach at the UW, when I was there. Prior to his stint at the UW, he was Karl Malone's coach at Louisiana Tech. I'm not sure where he's coaching now.

ZH: Can you candidly describe your UW experience and your career there?

EB: Sure, I rode pine for two years. I had a great seat for a lot of crappy games. With my enthusiasm waning, I didn't see any point in sticking around any longer. I had gone from someone who spent endless time in the gym, to someone who wasn't sure if they would even miss playing. I blame nobody but myself for my lack of success at the UW. I'm a believer in hard work. If I wasn't successful, it was because I didn't work hard enough at it. I'm not saying that I would have been all conference if I had been 100% dedicated to basketball, but I might have had a few less splinters at the end of two years.

ZH: What ultimately brought you to decide to transfer to Gonzaga?

EB: After notifying the UW that I would be transferring, an assistant at the UW mentioned a couple of possibilities. I also asked Coach Pepple what options might be available. Coach Pepple contacted Fitz [Former GU Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald], who said that Gonzaga would be interested. I didn't know a whole lot about Gonzaga, but I had previously played summer league with a player from Gonzaga. I've spent my entire life in the Northwest and wasn't really interested in leaving, and what little I knew about Gonzaga I liked. Since I didn't care to go through another recruiting experience, I committed to transferring to Gonzaga before even talking to Fitz or visiting the campus.

ZH: Can you explain the differences between playing for and attending a large state school as opposed to a small private school?

EB: At the bigger schools and conferences, athletics more closely resemble a business. The revenue generated from college athletics is unbelievable. As a result, the emphasis at these schools is 100% athletics, which is fine if you're in the .001% of college athletes who will eventually make a living playing your sport. Unfortunately a great number of college athletes fail to take advantage of the academic opportunities, only to find out when their eligibility expires that hitting a 20 foot jumper doesn't pay the bills.

Gonzaga afforded a true student-athlete experience. There was equal emphasis on performing in the classroom as well as on the basketball court. At a small school, most of the professors either don't care or don't know that you're on the basketball team - although that's probably changed a bit.

ZH: What do you remember most about Fitz when you first arrived at GU? Any interesting stories to tell?

EB: When I first met Fitz, I couldn't believe that it was humanly possible to talk as much as he did. The guy can literally go on for hours. If you interview Fitz, I bet you don't make it to the third question on your list. Of course, there are some good Fitz stories to tell, but since he has better stories on me, I'll pass on this opportunity.[laughs]

ZH: I've heard people say you were "deadly off screens in the flex offense from 15 feet" and that you "understood as much about the game as any Zag who ever took the floor." Can you describe your game as a 6'7" Forward?

EB: Are you sure they didn't say that Brady "knows more pubs and steakhouses in Montana than any Zag who ever took the floor"? It is a gross exaggeration to use the term "deadly" when talking about my jumper. "Adequate" might be a more appropriate term. I tend to think of terms of the team when thinking about my playing days at Gonzaga. We did have a couple of great individual contributors at the time I was there, particularly Jeff Brown and Jarrod Davis, who worked well in our system. But our success was largely determined by our ability to work together as a team.

ZH: Your redshirt season per NCAA rules saw Gonzaga lose 20 games. Were the guys who were redshirting actually better than the guys playing that year?

EB: When I redshirted we had two transfers, Jarrod Davis and myself, and four guys out of high school - Geoff Goss, Scott Spink, Matt Stanford and Marty Wall. I have a hard time saying that we were better than the guys playing that year day in and day out, but we did consistently push them. We did have great chemistry as a group, which I believe has been passed on through the years to other Zag teams and has contributed to the success of the program.

ZH: What was it like to win 20 games when you were eligible at Gonzaga, especially after that 20-loss season? And why no NCAA or NIT bid that year?

EB: We were 14-14 my first year of eligibility and 20-10 my senior year. Why no NCAA or NIT bid? Our non-conference schedule was nowhere near what today's Zag teams go through. Whereas today's teams regularly play top 25 teams in non-conference games, we played the likes of Eastern Oregon State, Central Washington, Whitman College - some real powerhouses.

ZH: What is one (or two) games in your Gonzaga career that really stand out as unforgettable highlights?

EB: Probably the biggest highlight was winning 20 games. Even though the non-conference schedule was pretty weak, no Zag team had ever won 20 games in a season. So at the time it was a pretty big accomplishment. Obviously, it pales in comparison to recent Zag successes.

ZH: Who was the toughest player you faced in college and how'd you fare against him?

EB: Doug Christie, currently playing with the Sacramento Kings, would have to be the toughest player I faced. How did I fare? Miserably. [laughs] Can we leave it at that?

ZH: Mark Few was an assistant then. Having watched his teams recently, how would you compare the style of play with Gonzaga of the early- to mid-90's?

EB: Night and day. While you still see fragments of the old system, it has been almost completely overhauled. The talent level has increased to the point where the amount of discipline that was critical for success in the early 90's might be counter-productive for today's teams. I think Mark and his staff has struck a healthy balance of discipline from the old days and opening things up and letting guys play.

ZH: Jason Bond, Jeff Brown, Dan Dickau and now Erroll Knight have all chosen the path you took. Why do you suppose such a trend exists and does that make you feel like a trailblazer of sorts?

EB: If you look at all of the guys who have transferred from the UW to Gonzaga, they are all from the state of Washington. If you're leaving the UW, and want to stay in the Northwest, there aren't too many options. With Gonzaga's success, they are attracting transfers from other parts of the country, but I think the UW-Gonzaga route is fairly easily explained.

Also, I'm not sure how many people understand this, but if Jeff Brown hadn't transferred to Gonzaga, I doubt the program would be where it is today.

No Zag fan would disagree with that. Eric Brady is single, resides in Liberty Lake and when he's not working at Itron he can often be found fishing in one of his top secret fishing spots in Montana. ZagsHoops thanks Eric for taking time out of his busy schedule for this interview and thanks him for coming to Gonzaga, leading the way for future stars.

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