ZH: How'd you finagle this color commentary gig for Gonzaga TV broadcasts and how much did you have to bribe them? But seriously, how'd this all happen?
JB: I was actually on a morning run up at my folks' cabin at Priest Lake this summer when I began wondering why a color analyst was not part of the telecasts in light of GU's stature of a Top 20 program. From there, I pro-actively discussed my interest with Mark Few, Mike Roth, Mike Hogan and eventually with Lon Lee and Greg Heister of KHQ. I was pleased with their reaction and things fell into place from there.
Jeff still listens intently to Coach Few after a scrimmage; Greg Heister on the left in background.
ZH: What kind of insights will you be offering during a game? Mostly post player comments or overall play from the guards to the bigs?
JB: As the color analyst, my focus will be centered on the "why & how" during the game. In other words, extending beyond time, score, and possession and talk a bit about strategy, X and O's, and attempt to offer the fan more depth into the game itself. As a former Zag, I hope the fan at home will find my perspective insightful.
ZH: Give us a summary of your life after graduating from Gonzaga, and what brought you back to Spokane?
JB: Upon graduating from Gonzaga in '94, I spent the following summer tying out as a free agent with the Washington Bullets (doesn't that date me), and Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, I was considered a ‘tweener'—not big enough to play the 4 and clearly not athletic enough to play the 3 at that level. I had zero intention of playing in the CBA. In fact, I couldn't tell you today what CBA team drafted me out of GU. The minimal salary structure, brutal travel, and frankly playing with guys that I probably wouldn't voluntarily hang out with made Europe a much better fit. I played for 4 years in Spain, Argentina, Belgium and Australia.
Looking back it was a wonderful opportunity to experience other cultures from a non-tourist perspective. I was fortunate to travel and see a large part of the world at a young age. However, I would also be the first to tell someone that playing professional basketball overseas is far less glamorous than it appears. Every country and league is much different in how they operate. I had a fabulous time in Australia playing with John Rillie. By far and away the most unique experience was in Argentina. There are a number of former NBA players playing down—however it is a tough league. The basketball courts are generally fenced in from the crowd, as it is not unusual to get spit on while playing on the road. While I was down there, a referee was tragically killed after a game by fans throwing rocks. Out of GU, my plan was to play overseas until I was 30. However, after 3 or 4 years, I was ready to move on with my life.
While in Australia, I made the decision that I would play in Australia's first division for as long as possible, but had decided it was the last stop in the concert tour. Unfortunately, I was released by the club 4 or 5 weeks into the regular season. The bright side was that I was able to get back to the US and stand next to Marty Wall as his best man in his wedding.
During the spring semester of my senior year at GU, I strode into the first day of class of Philosophy class and strategically sat directly behind a rather attractive co-ed, Loriann Zent. During my senior year and while playing overseas, Loriann and I became very good friends. As Loriann accepted a teaching position in Spokane, we spent considerable time in the summers as I awaited the next overseas job. Our friendship quickly evolved and Father Tony married Loriann and I on May 27, 2000.
Jeff and Loriann on the Cayman Islands
After a brief stint living and working in Los Angeles, former Zag Jamie Dudley hired me to work for him for a San Diego software company called Peregrine Systems. Loriann and I actually lived literally across the street from Jamie and his wonderful wife, Ahnna for about a year. Practically every evening the four of us would get together and have what became know as nightly Thanksgiving dinners. Peregrine was an incredible career opportunity and one that I owe to Dudley. I accepted a promotion to Regional Manager and continued to work for Peregrine for 3 ½ years until this summer when I resigned with the intention of moving back to the NW to locate and acquire a business.
ZH: What meant more to you, being an Academic All-American or WCC Player of the Year? And what did you major in?
JB: Both awards mean a great deal to me. However, what means more to me is knowing that the teams of which I was a member contributed to the foundation of what has become an incredible story.
ZH: You, Marty Wall, Jamie Dudley, Geoff Goss and others were the first to break through the barrier and take the Zags into postseason, but the year before Gonzaga was snubbed yet again. Can you describe what happened and the reactions of some players when they learned there would be no postseason?
JB: My sophomore ('92) year we went 20-10 and got beat by a very good Pepperdine team in the WCC tourney final by 2. Given a twenty win season and our proximity to WSU, it was projected that we would receive a NIT invite and travel to Pullman and take on the Cougars which created some buzz as they refused to play us at that time. The entire squad gathered in the Bulldog Room with great anticipation of GU's first post-season bid. Earlier that day, the NIT told Fitz we were headed to WSU. I can still remember looking at Fitz's face while he broke the news that we were snubbed and the NIT decided in it's infinite wisdom to fly the University of Minnesota (who finished like 8th in the Big-10 that year) to Pullman. I was enormously disappointed for the seniors Jarrod Davis and Eric Brady whom both laid significant bricks in the foundation of what this program has become.
In '93, we returned a strong squad but we were cursed with injuries. Felix McGowan tragically had his senior year cut short while breaking his shooting hand in a freak incident at practice. Jamie Dudley literally almost lost lower leg to amputation with compartment syndrome. I had blown out my ankle during the pre-season and then caught mono during the earlier part of the schedule. This team had a spirit and we keep grinding through the season. Had we stayed healthy, this could have been my best team. This year, I had prepared myself for the worst and hoped for the best in regards to an NIT bid. We were snubbed yet again.
In '94, as we did in the previous 2 seasons, we got out of the gates very sluggishly. In fact, to this day we still chuckle about how absolutely brutal we were in a non-league tournament in Buffalo, NY. We lost both games to teams that we should have boat-raced. Fitz kept the staff up till sunrise pacing and telling them over and over that we wouldn't win 8 games that year. Things began clicking and we won the WCC going away with a 12-2 league record. In the second round of the WCC, we played poorly and were upset by a tough USD team. By far and away, the most disappointing loss of my career. The NIT extended an invite to play at Stanford. We played well and gave GU it's first ever post season win, albeit not in the tournament that we had hoped.
ZH: Jarrod Davis claims you never played well in unstructured pick-up games and that your defense was suspect, but there's a rather notorious on court incident regarding Mr. Davis that I'm sure you'd enjoy detailing for us. Do tell, Jeff.
JB: [laughs] Claiming that I don't play well in pick-up games is an understatement. Regarding defense, Marc Armstead and Scott Spink became very adept at guarding both their man and mine.
Now, for this so-called notorious incident. We were playing at Santa Clara my sophomore year. The Bronco's had just scored and as the 4-man I was chartered with inbounding the ball. As the point guard, Dudley was in literally 8 feet in front of me yelling for the ball. I still claim (and Dudley strongly refutes) that his guy was denying him the ball. Jarrod was filling the left lane, which unfortunately also happened to be in front of our bench. I inbounded the ball to Jarrod at the exact same nano-second he turned his head up court. The ball went off of Jarrod's back and hit Fitz in the head. Not good. Fitz in a rage, yanked Jarrod. Go figure!
ZH: Quickly, best player you ever played against, most memorable game, your highest high at GU and your lowest low?
JB: Best opposing player: Doug Christie, Pepperdine.
Most memorable game: Senior night. Impossible to describe the feeling of walking out onto the Kennel floor for the last time with your family at your side.
Highest High: Beating Stanford in NIT.
Lowest Low: Getting upset by USD in second round of WCC tourney in '94.
ZH: Besides doing color alongside Greg Heister, what else is keeping you out of trouble these days?
JB: I am searching for a successful small-medium sized company in Spokane to acquire.
ZH: I think all Zag fans would like to hear about your family now.
JB: The former Loriann Zent and I were married by Father Tony on May 27, 2001. We are hoping to start our family sooner rather than later.
Jeff, Loriann and Jeff's parents at lake cabin.
Raising our kids in the NW was a large impetus behind our migration back up to the Pacific NW.
My mother, Myrna teaches first grade at Audubon Elementary. My father Jim is entering his 37-year of teaching at Shadle Park. They spend their summers at their Priest Lake cabin.
I am also the proud uncle of Brandon Wright who just turned 6. My sister, Jamie and her husband Mark now live in Salt Lake City. Mark is a news anchor with Fox and was formerly the KXLY news anchor in Spokane.