A GRIP ON SPORTS
Anything happen around here yesterday? I was a bit busy and didn't have time to check. What, you're kidding? Gonzaga is No. 1 in the nation? In what, ROTC rankings? Basketball? Men's basketball? You have to be kidding. Read on.
• It's no dream. Yep, the Bulldogs are atop the polls. It was a long time coming for a program that's been on an upward past for the entire century. A little too long in one way. It's awful sad that Dan Fitzgerald isn't here to enjoy it. And he would. The godfather of today's program, it was Fitz who built the foundation for the GU program we see today, first as head coach, then as athletic director. It was Fitz who hired Dan Monson, Bill Grier and Mark Few. It was Fitz, even after his breakup with Gonzaga following a run-in with the NCAA, who was the keeper of the flame, the man with the institutional knowledge of where the program had been. Ask a former Zag who crossed his path and they'll tell you how much the miss Fitz. I understand. After leaving GU, Fitz kept in touch with the Spokane basketball community in many ways, one of which continues after his passing a couple years ago, the Fitz Camp for high school basketball players (it occurs this year March 15, 16 and 17 at West Valley High). I was honored many years ago when Dan asked me to instruct at the camp, something I did for a few years before moving to Pullman to cover the Cougars. But that didn't end the relationship. In fact, it nurtured it. Fitz knew everyone and everything in basketball, it seemed, but he always wanted to know more. He would call occasionally just to talk hoops, wondering what Tony Bennett was up to, asking about practice, relating stories about coaching against Dick Bennett, asking about Ken Bone, even posing an occasional football question. When Fitz was holding court in a tavern or classroom, telling stories about the old days, whether at GU or his years in California, you just listened. And laughed. When he would call, though, there was more interaction, as he was trying to learn – though he was always willing to explain why something was happening, a trait I really cherished. I learned a lot of basketball in my five years in Pullman, some of which went over my head at first. Fitz had a way of explaining it that I could understand. Which, I guess, is why he was a good coach. And an excellent mentor for other coaches. It's too bad he isn't here to see one of his protégés take the Gonzaga program to heights I'm sure Fitz never really envisioned. Though I'm also sure he would have a story about it. A funny one at that.
• Gonzaga: The Zags' ascension to the top spot in the polls is story No. 1 today (as this picture shows). Jim Meehan has the distinction of being the only sportswriter at the Review to cover a No. 1-ranked basketball team and he weighs in with this story and blog post. … Bud Withers has this story on the No. 1 ranking. … We mentioned Grier above and we mention him here because he is on the hot seat in San Diego. … Were the sanctions against St. Mary's fair? Yes.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has a morning post with links today and will have more later after Bone talks with the media. … Cal's Sonny Dykes' contract isn't all that different than the rest of the Pac-12's football coaches.
• CCS: The Sasquatch turned the ball over too much to survive their semifinal matchup with Edmonds.
• Mariners: Another day, a couple more home runs and another victory. Just the typical spring game for the M's this season. … Pitching prospect Danny Hultzen will sit a while with a strained hip flexor muscle. It's not a big deal. … Another pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, struggled with his command yesterday. … There is more than one catching prospect in the organization. … Kyle Seager is looking forward to this season.
• Sonics: The longshore workers union is not giving up its legal fight against the Sodo arena.
• That's our typical Tuesday morning report on this fairly untypical Tuesday. Have a good day and we'll see you tomorrow. Until then …