Fortiers unite on Zags bench
New GU women’s coach hires husband away from Eastern
New Gonzaga women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier completed her coaching staff Monday with the hire of a very familiar assistant coach: her husband.
Fortier hired Craig Fortier, who had been the top men’s assistant at Eastern Washington. He joins fellow assistant coaches Jordan Green and Stacy Clinesmith.
“When I went into this process, I wanted to find the best coaches available,” Lisa said. “Craig is certainly one of them. He’s a terrific coach.”
Lisa was hired seven days after former coach Kelly Graves announced on April 7 that he would be leaving Gonzaga after 14 years to become the head women’s coach at Oregon. Graves’ teams won the last 10 WCC regular-season championships and had six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Craig, 33, started working with Eastern’s Jim Hayford in 2007 when Hayford was the head men’s coach at Whitworth. Craig then followed Hayford to Cheney when the latter was hired to coach the Eagles in the spring of 2011.
Hayford said his search to replace Fortier will begin soon.
“I’m really happy for Craig and for Lisa, and I thought this might happen when the (Graves departure) presented itself,” Hayford said. “Craig is a tireless worker, and he set the bar here on how hard you need to work to be a success, but he also genuinely cares about the people he’s coaching.”
Craig joins the Gonzaga women’s staff after previously working two years as a graduate assistant for Mark Few and the Gonzaga men’s basketball team from 2004-06.
Asked why she chose to hire her husband as the last of the three coaches, Lisa said Craig had not yet made up his mind on what to do.
“It’s a big life change to switch over to the women’s side,” she said. “He wasn’t sure until last week. He was trying to decide what the best thing was for his life and career. Obviously, his life coincides with mine.”
Lisa, also 33, is due to have the couple’s third child in July.
“He has a great job and situation at Eastern,” Lisa said. “I wanted to make sure this was the best place for all these coaches. It will be nice to have both of us under the same roof … instead of trying to focus on two different programs.”
Craig said he will start his new coaching job later this week.
“It’s been a crazy few weeks, and it was a really difficult decision,” said Craig, who spent seven years under Hayford. “I’ve poured myself into this, and I really believe in what they’re doing over there (at Eastern).
“So, I really wasn’t looking for anything, but this is a unique situation. I’ve been close to it (the Gonzaga program) without actually being in it.”
Lisa previously said that Clinesmith, a former Mead star and WNBA guard, will focus on coaching the program’s guards and directing the team’s offense.
Craig is expected to work with Gonzaga’s post players and direct the team’s defense. Fortier’s first hire, Green, came to Gonzaga from Idaho and will be “a jack of all trades.”
Green “has done both. I haven’t yet decided. I may have him work with the wings or have him team up with Craig or Stacy,” Lisa said.
Most of Craig’s experience at Eastern and Whitworth was coaching and recruiting the taller players who post up in the paint.
“If you can recruit good players to a place like Whitworth with no scholarships, he can surely do the same here,” Lisa said.
The new Zags head coach will now focus on upcoming summer school and summer camps as she settles into her role.
“Oh, my goodness, I’m relieved to have (the staff) in place,” she said. “I’m so happy about getting all of them. They all know how to coach, they can recruit and they know how to win.”
Staff writer Jim Allen contributed to this story