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A tradition like none other

A GRIP ON SPORTS

You know what day it is? Yep, it's Tax Day. Time to pay the piper. Read on.


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• Like any journalist worth his or her saltines, I hate deadlines. We're supposed to have the paper ready for the pressroom by midnight? See you at 12:15. It almost seems like a point of personal pride to push deadline as far as we can. Which might explain my anathema to today. We have to pay our tax bill on April 15? Is there anyway we can wait until the 21st or 25th? Well the feds don't work like the guys in the pressroom. Mainly because the guys in the pressroom, though intimidating to nerdy reporters like myself, can't seize your home or send you to jail. The feds can. So, like everyone else, I will meekly send in my money to Uncle Sam sometime today and accept the fate of living here. There are some benefits, however. Lots of them. One of them is, of course, this column. I actually get paid for writing my thoughts. Well, that's not strictly true. I get paid for running down all the links that follow, for putting together a modern-day, digital form of the newspaper. The thoughts part, I do that for free. And they are worth every cent. Like the thoughts I have today on Gonzaga staying in-house and hiring Lisa Mispley Fortier as its new women's basketball coach. Look, it's been a long and successful tradition at Gonzaga to hire assistants, to move people up through the ranks to the head coaching chair. And like a lot of GU athletic traditions, it traces its roots to former basketball coach and athletic director Dan Fitzgerald, who actually did it twice. The first time, in the early 1980s, Fitz picked assistant Jay Hillock to replace him as head coach. The second time, when Fitz left coaching permanently, Fitz tabbed Dan Monson. Mike Roth continued the trend, turning to Mark Few when Monson left for Minnesota and, in an example in another sport, elevating Mark Machtolf to baseball coach when Steve Hertz stepped down a few years ago. In actually, Kelly Graves, hired away from rival St. Mary's 14 years ago, was an outlier. An outlier who was assimilated quickly into the Gonzaga culture. Fortier won't have problem with that. She's been around Gonzaga, off and on, for a decade and a half. She knows the Bulldog players intimately. She's been the architect of the defense – the strength of last year's team – for the past few seasons and has always been a force in the huddles. She is, truth be known, ready. But no one ever knows how a person will make the transition from assistant coach to head coach. The knee-jerk reaction is to wonder how someone will react to making all the final decisions. It's different, sure, no longer just being a person making suggestions but being the one taking them. But it isn't the biggest change a former assistant has to work through. I've always equated assistant coaches to big sisters or brothers, while the head coach has to be the gruff old father figure. If a college player wants to talk, in most cases they don't go to the head coach. They vent to their favorite assistant. And that assistant listens and guides the player through the rough times. It is a system that works. And then one day that relationship changes. No longer can that shoulder be available. The confessional is closed. The head coach has to take a step back. Some players have trouble dealing with that. So do some assistants-turned-head coaches. Some step back too far when they change chairs, some not far enough. It's hard to figure out the right distance because it's different for everyone. There is no hard-and-fast rule. But there are guidelines. There must be. Because it seems at Gonzaga they've been able to make it work. And my feeling is Fortier will be just another in a long line of Zags who have made the change, if not seamlessly, successfully. And that's all anyone at GU wants to see.

•••

• WSU: There may not have been a spring practice yesterday but that doesn't mean Jacob Thorpe didn't have items to put up on the blog. He has an interesting Q&A with WSU strength coach Jason Loscalzo and the news a former Mike Leach quarterback is moving to Pullman. … Oregon is trying to put together a strong passing game with inexperienced receivers everywhere. … UCLA is trying to figure out who its next quarterback is. … Utah's basketball recruiting class is receiving accolades.

• Gonzaga: Besides the Fortier news from Tom Clouse (above), guard Haiden Palmer also earned headlines yesterday, becoming the fifth Zag to be drafted in the WNBA.

• EWU: Jim Allen is back at it. Back at his spring previews, that is. Today he looks at the offensive line. … Southern Utah is getting a new quarterback. … Weber State's basketball star is headed to the NBA's tryout camp.

• Idaho: The Vandals had a spring practice yesterday and Josh Wright was there. He has a blog post with all the news.

• Chiefs: After a few more days off, the WHL Western Conference finals between Portland and Kelowna will finally begin.

• Preps: It’s a big week in prep soccer and Jim Allen lets you know all about it in this notebook.

• Seahawks: There are more details coming out of the incident in Miami that involved 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Hawk receiver Ricardo Lockette. It's a pretty odd situation. … The Wonderlic test is fool's gold.

• Mariners: Remember when catches in college and the NFL no longer were catches? When receivers had to do more than just catch the ball and hit the ground? There was a lot of consternation and debate over the change, which is now the norm. Yet at times the application of the rule these days still doesn't make sense to me. The same can be said of the way baseball is now enforcing the transfer rule. Such was the case last night in the Mariners' 7-1 win at Texas. There was an application of the rule – called after M's manager Lloyd McClendon took advantage of another new rule, the replay challenge – that not only confused me but also Texas manager Ron Washington, who was ejected for arguing (pictured). Ah well, in 20 years we'll all understand it. And it will be changed again. … Kyle Seager has struggled early on this season. But Texas' ballpark has always been a place where he can get healthy. … Hisashi Iwakuma is moving closer to being ready. … The M's may not win a lot, but they are worth a bunch of money. … Now this is interesting. It's the story behind Yasiel Puig's story.

• Sounders: Clint Dempsey is playing like, well, Clint Dempsey. And that's a good thing for the Sounders. … Lamar Neagle came this close to being booted from the Dallas game.

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• If you're wondering why I waited until today to finish my taxes, it's because I've known all along I was going to owe money. Not a lot mind you, but some. And my dad always felt if you had to pay, wait until the final day. Far be it for me to go against my dad's sage advice. He was, after all, a Sicilian. And it's not wise to ever disagree with a Sicilian. Even after he's gone. Until later … 


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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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