There was a time when the Gonzaga basketball program bemoaned its substandard seeds in the NCAA Tournament, due in large part to its presence in the West Coast Conference. In 1999 the Zags were a No. 10 seed and advanced to the Elite Eight. In 2000 and 2001 Gonzaga put together Sweet 16 marches despite being tabbed as a No. 10 and a No. 12 seed, respectively. In 2003 their No. 9 seed set them up for a second-round meeting with top-seeded Arizona, a game it lost 96-95 in double-overtime.
That's since changed. Gonzaga was a No. 2 seed in 2004 and a No. 3 seed last season, although they bowed out in the second round each season. This year, with a 23-3 record, a No. 5 national ranking, and a leading National Player of the Year candidate, this one-time Cinderella program has emerged as a national power.
Seventh-year Gonzaga Coach Mark Few has been there every step of the way. A ten-year assistant coach at Gonzaga before becoming the head coach in 1999, Few has an amazing 182-40 record in his six-plus years on the sidelines. He piled up 159 wins in his first six seasons as a head coach, equaling the NCAA record set by former Kansas and current North Carolina coach Roy Williams. Gonzaga, meanwhile, has won more games in the last six years than any other Division I program other than Duke (189).
Few has led the Spokane, Wash., based program to five regular season WCC titles, six conference postseason crowns and six straight NCAA tourney berths. Gonzaga's run of success, meanwhile, has also enabled it to significantly improve its non-conference scheduling. Not only has it been invited to the Maui Invitational twice in the last four years, it has also been able to lure major conference schools such as Oklahoma State and Virginia out west for games this season. No longer is Gonzaga viewed as a team for major conference schools to shy away from when it comes to scheduling. Instead, they are a national power that can strengthen a team's strength of schedule and get them on national television as well.
Few is considered an offensive guru, using the man-to-man "Flex Offense" that was originally introduced to Gonzaga by former head coach Dan Fitzgerald. It's a system that is referred to by many as a structured motion offense, one in which all five players are interchangeable at any position. It relies on constantly reversing the ball and player movement.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: Few has someone out West who might tell him that the IU job is worth a very serious look. Former Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote retired to the Spokane, Wash., area 10 years ago. The two reportedly have lunch together once a week, and they also talk before every Gonzaga game. If Indiana calls to inquire about its job opening, you can bet Few will talk to the former Spartan coach about the pros and cons of the job. Heathcote coached at MSU from 1976-95, thus going up against a trio of Indiana teams that won national championships (1976, 1981, 1987) and another that advanced to the Final Four (1992). Few has had Gonzaga knocking on the door of a Final Four berth, but they've yet to get over the hump. Heathcote might be able to convince Few that it's a whole lot easier to get the job done at Indiana than it is at Gonzaga. Few will also lose Player of the Year candidate Adam Morrison at season's end, undoubtedly the best player to ever suit up for the Zags, so the timing could be good for Few to depart as well.
What Makes Him a Longshot: He's a West Coast guy. Born in Creswell, Ore., Few spent four years coaching in the Oregon high school ranks before joining the Gonzaga staff as a graduate assistant in 1990. He was an assistant on the Zags' staff for ten years before being named head coach in July of 1999. IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan's has displayed a trend of hiring coaches with ties to the state of Indiana or (football coach Terry Hoeppner is from Franklin, Ind.; women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp is from Mishawaka, Ind., and baseball coach Tracy Smith is from Kentland, Ind.) and Few doesn't fit that criteria whatsoever. As for the loss of Morrison, Gonzaga has lost the likes other greats such as Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp, Casey Calvary, Matt Santangelo and Ronny Turiaf and still find a way to remain among the nation's elite. He's not anxious to jump at the first good offer by any means.
HoosierNation.com's Take: Few's credentials are indisputable, but his interest is questionable. Few is in a great situation. He's helped build Gonzaga into a nationally-recognized program, and there doesn't appear to be a drop-off coming anytime soon. This past season alone, Gonzaga was on ESPN 12 times, more than any other program in the country. That's helped him expand his recruiting base as well. After assembling most of his early teams with players from the state of Washington, Gonzaga went into Chicago last year to attract freshman guard Jeremy Pargo, and they'll welcome top-50 shooting guard and Colorado product Matt Bouldin next fall. Few has also shied away from pursuing other major conference offers in recent years. He turned down the University of Washington in 2002, and when Stanford wanted to talk to him in 2004 after Mike Montgomery left for the NBA, he said wasn't interested. Gonzaga, meanwhile, is going to do what it can to kee Few in Spokane. Last May, Few signed an extension that has him under contract through the 2015 season. While the details of the contract haven't been made public, it is believed Few makes in the $600-700,000 range annually.
COACHING SEARCH: IU To Consider Few?
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