In November 2004, Gonzaga University opened a building befitting its newfound basketball notoriety, and the Zags have never looked back. How much of that precisely is the doing of playing games in the McCarthey Athletic Center and not the snug old Kennel cannot be quantified, but it’s impossible to imagine the momentum being quite so irresistible without it.
Rod Butler started attending Gonzaga basketball games in 1980 when a guy named John Stockton began throwing the ball around on his way to the NBA Hall of Fame.
Just weeks ago, Butler received the last pair of season tickets, only the 30th such pair that have become available in the decade since Gonzaga opened the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I’m happy to be there,” said Butler, a 60-year-old architect. “It’s a path, but it’s achievable.”
When Gonzaga University women's basketball coach Kelly Graves first got wind of the school's desire to build a basketball arena, he was skeptical. Not because he was worried about his women getting short-changed during the arena planning process, but because he had heard similar rumors during his brief, three-year tenure as the head women's coach at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif.
Mark Few didn’t even try to defend his Gonzaga Bulldogs’ effort on defense Friday night.
“It was absolutely the worst I’ve seen in my 16 years here,” the Zags sixth-year head basketball coach said.
It certainly wasn’t the kind of defensive statement Few was hoping his Zags would make in their first official game in the McCarthey Athletic Center, their new $25 million, 6,000-seat arena. But it was the one they made.
The McCarthey Athletic Center on Cincinnati Street, erected on the site of Gonzaga University’s old baseball field at a cost of $25 million and due for its grand opening Friday night when the Bulldogs host Portland State. There is seating for 6,000 – and at the moment, not a single ticket remains available for sale.
Gonzaga built it – because they had already come.
The happiest problem in all of college basketball belongs to GU athletic director Mike Roth, who must continually and patiently explain to the casual followers of Zags basketball why there is no room at the inn for them, even now that the school has virtually doubled the capacity of its hoops hotel.
Truth be told, Adam Morrison liked the old Kennel, now remaindered to volleyball just a few feet to the west.
“Loved it,” he said. “It was so loud, and you had the general admission part that kind of amped things up – and the Kennel Club wasn’t university sponsored then, so you know what they were up to beforehand.”