Scott Spink: Watching, not Playing now

If you're lucky enough to find a ticket to a game in The Kennel, chances are you will see Scott Spink. He rarely misses one. And as today's Zags vanquish foes, the success in part stems back to the mid-1990's when Scott and his teammates started the ascent.


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ZH: Let's start with your high school career and why you chose Gonzaga when Zag basketball was not yet recognized as one of the best programs in the west.

SS: I played my high school basketball in Bellingham at Sehome High School. Well before Sehome became the basketball power that it is today (sensing a theme here). I had a reasonably good junior year and I signed with Gonzaga before my senior season. I'm not delusional about choosing GU; rather they chose me. Gonzaga was one of very few formal full-ride offers I recieved. In addition, it was far enough from home, had an engineering school, was Catholic (mom factor), and played basketball at the highest level. All of these components added up to a great opportunity for a person like myself who wasn't worried about making a splash in the NBA.

ZH: During your basketball years at Gonzaga, was there a sense that the program was slowly but steadily turning the corner and rising with players like Jeff Brown coming in?

SS: That attitude was fostered early in my time, even before Jeff arrived, as good as he was. I came in with five other players: Matt Stanford, Geoff Goss, Marty Wall, Jarrod Davis, and Eric Brady. When we first started playing, I'm sure that the other players in the GU program thought we were overconfident, I think that we were just naive. We loved to play basketball and would play anyone, anytime, anywhere. Each of us had something to prove, both to ourselves and to the coaches. Jarrod and Eric were transfers who had experienced some rocky roads, and Geoff, Marty and Matt were walk-ons at the time. We really liked being around each other and I believe that added to our cohesiveness on the basketball court. With the addition or Jeff Brown to our group the following year, the belief that we could be very successful took a further leap. That was also the year that Mark Few came aboard and by now everyone knows about his attitude towards taking anyone on and fearing no one. What's anecdotal about my recruiting class is that Eric Brady and I were the only two who had full scholarships in that recruiting class and we ended up being the only two in the group not to earn some form of all league honors.

ZH: The teams you were a part of were solid and successful. Watching recent Zag teams, what are the biggest differences between your days and now?

SS: The players are significantly more physically talented, yet still have that same drive and desire to do anything to win. This is what makes GU special today. The coaching staff is able to convince the individual players to subjugate themselves for the good of the team. I believe this is one main reason GU has been so successful in recent times.

ZH: What was your most memorable game at Gonzaga, and why?

SS: Beating Santa Clara at Santa Clara when I was a senior, for several reasons. The first is Santa Clara at the time was probably our main rival, because of the closeness of the coaching staff and the similar styles of play. They also had a really good group of guys, people as well as basketball players, and it was fun to compete in those types of games, hard fought and well played. Also, Fitz had never ever won in Toso Pavilion in all his years at Gonzaga and it was great to see his excitement. Also, we usually got together with the players from SCU after the games and had a few laughs.

ZH: You attend nearly every home game. When watching the games, do you ever feel like you miss the action? Do you still see similarities between Fitz's style of play and Few's style?

SS: I sometimes miss the feeling of extreme competition, just going for a run to stay in shape or working out at the gym doesn't give me the adrenaline rush of competing against another person or team in The Kennel. I also miss the awesome and indescribible level of support that comes from the fans in Spokane. Of having a sense of being part of a larger team that included all of the fans and well-wishers. When I went on the floor with my brother Mark on Senior Day in 2000, I was reminded of the feeling you get being on the floor with the best fans in the world in The Kennel…. I miss those feelings.

ZH: What did the Gonzaga Experience mean to you, Scott? Were you close to Father Tony?

SS: It's hard for me to describe what the Gonzaga Experience means to me. To start, I met my wife there. Anyone who knows me also knows my wife, she makes me so much better than I would be without her. I received two degrees from GU that allow me to pursue the things in life I enjoy, and the friends I made at GU will be with me for life. People like Steve Delong, who you can trust with anything in your life, and not be afraid to ask for help. Not to mention the fond memories I have growing up in such a supporting yet disciplined environment. In addition the administration and the coaching staff had the wherewithal to allow young adults the freedom to make their own choices.

Was I close to Father Tony? Yes, but no closer than many, many, people. I think that may be a statement on his life. He married my wife and I, and was around for many baptisms and weddings in my extended family. I traveled with him to many games and had some interesting conversations. I will never forget the impact his attitude and spritiuality had on my life.

ZH: Now you're a working man and a family man. Tell us about Avista Labs and what you do there. What was your major at GU?

SS: Avista Labs is a wholly owned subsidiary of Avista Corp, the company that most of us buy our gas and electricity from. We (AL) were started as a way to improve the growth potential of our parent company. The charter of Avista Labs is to commercialize PEM fuel cells. PEM fuel cells are an alternative method of making electricity that rely on some very specific electrochemical properties of hydrogen and a thin polymeric membrane. I could go on for a while on this, but it's kind of nerdy. If anyone is actually interested they can call me. Right now I work with a group of very smart people who are developing and improving the basic building block of the system, the fuel cell "cartridge" itself. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Gonzaga.

ZH: You received recognition for something you helped invent that was powered by an alternative fuel. Could you fill us in on that, from the idea to the finished product?

SS: I didn't really invent anything, we (my partner Tim Lewis and I) tried to figure out a way to make something as old and traditional as crop waste into a useful article of trade (electricity). The premise of the idea was to burn cereal grain stubble and make electricity. Lord knows we have enough grain stubble in the inland northwest. To make a long story short, [laughs] it turns out that it costs more money to make the electricity than you can sell it for, and you need 50 million dollars to start. Not such a fiscally sound idea, it was a fun experience though. We met lots of great people and learned a lot about starting a business.

ZH: Tell us about your family now. Where and how did you meet your wife, and what about those little Zags of yours?

SS: I met my wife, Kelley Cunningham, in the Gonzaga training room in 1989. She was a Gonzaga volleyball player, who turned out to be pretty good. That was my freshman year at GU. It has been an incredible ride since then. She went to play for the national team in San Diego and I went with her. We lived there for almost 5 years and met lots of great people. We moved back to Spokane to be closer to our families and the support system that we missed in San Diego. I wouldn't trade a moment of it. We also have two little boys: Tyler, aged 2 1/2 and McCoy, age 10 months, who take up a fair amount of my time.

ZH: Do you stay in touch with your old teammates? Any humorous stories about a former teammate? Care to share one with us?

SS: Not as much as I would like to. I think the real problem is that I don't golf. [laughs] It's usually golf that brings the group together. I talk to each of them several times a year in all sorts of random places. Recently, I saw Matt Stanford at a Mariners game, and Eric Brady at Costco. And I usually see some people at GU home games. I am closest to Jason Rubright and his wife Val and their daughter Shea. We see them three to four times a year. Finally, If I told you a funny story it would be about Jamie Dudley, [laughs] but he wouldn't think it was funny so I think I'll just stop right here.


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