Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Saturday, September 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 69° Partly Cloudy


Game day for Zags, Toreros

Gonzaga coach Mark Few (right) welcomes back former GU assistant coach now San Diego head coach, Bill Grier before the start of the game, January 19, 2008 in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  DAN PELLE The Spokesman-Review (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few (right) welcomes back former GU assistant coach now San Diego head coach, Bill Grier before the start of the game, January 19, 2008 in the McCarthey Athletic Center. DAN PELLE The Spokesman-Review (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

More from ex-Zag assistant Bill Grier and some notes and quotes as Gonzaga and Grier's San Diego Toreros await a 3 p.m. tip at the MAC. (The picture above is of Mark Few and Grier just before the start of last year's game in Spokane).

--Here's a Gonzaga-San Diego preview from the San Diego newspaper. Here's an update on Saint Mary's injured guard Patty Mills.

--A WCC official said prior to Thursday’s GU-Saint Mary’s game that only a few hundred tickets remained for the conference tournament in Vegas. The official thought the Orleans Arena seats about 7,500; the Orleans Web site says 8,500. Impressive ticket sales, either way.

--Gonzaga’s Mark Few has another milestone within reach. After reaching 250 career wins with last Saturday’s victory, Few can hike his GU record to 252-64 with a win over USD. That would match his former boss, Dan Fitzgerald (252-171, 15 seasons), for No. 2 on the school’s all-time wins list.

--Saint Mary’s shot 41 percent against Gonzaga on Thursday, the first WCC team to crack the 40-percent barrier against the Zags.

--Gonzaga had seven assists and seven turnovers in that contest. It was the first time GU failed to crack double figures in assists this season. It equaled Gonzaga’s season low for turnovers.

--The coaching staffs of the eight WCC schools in action today will wear sneakers as part of “Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend.”

--The Grier family is awaiting a new addition. Grier’s wife, Nicole, is due in April with the couple’s second daughter.

--Grier, more than most, can relate to what Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett is dealing with after the loss of star guard Patty Mills (broken hand). USD’s Brandon Johnson was lost for the season after rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in early December.

“During the flow of the game it’s really hard to deal with,” Grier said. “After they get through the weekend they’ll have some time to make adjustments and they’ve still got good players. He’s the guy that set the tempo for them in how they played.”

--Johnson was San Diego’s point guard, but Grier moved him to ‘2’ guard midway through last season and handed the ball to Trumaine Johnson.

For a while earlier this season, USD was without both Johnsons and guard De’Jon Jackson. That forced Matt Dorr (Mt. Spokane High, CCS) to play point. The short-handed Toreros beat Oregon, but the return of Trumaine Johnson from suspension and Jackson from injury has returned everyone to their natural positions.

--Of today’s date with Gonzaga, Grier said, “I don’t think we matchup very well. It’s funny, I listed to all the quote-unquote ‘experts’ when they went through the stretch after UConn say, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ Nothing’s wrong with them. They played some good teams, they had a rough patch but that happens to every team. Now, they have their mojo back and they have some momentum. They have tremendous talent and great depth. We certainly don’t have great depth. They’re long and hard to score on. And they’re certainly difficult to guard.”

A stat from Thursday’s loss to Portland supports Grier. The Toreros’ bench was outscored 28-0.

--Grier said the addition of Mike Burns, former EWU and CCS head coach, and ex-CCS guard Dorr have been great for the program.

“I had Bill Carr on staff and he was a head coach (at UC San Diego). And to have Mike on staff, another former head coach, has been good for me to have that kind of experience,” Grier said. “He’s so good with the guys. He’s just got the personality that people around the school really like.”

Of Dorr, Grier said: “We had signed a couple kids in the spring period, but both didn’t make it into school so we had a couple scholarships available and we were looking for someone who could come in and shoot the ball.

“We felt Matt was the kind of guy that could help us by his character and certainly he can shoot the ball. The thing that has been a struggle is it’s his first year of Division I basketball and it’s more of a grind, people know your tendencies and it’s been a little more difficult to score.”

“He’s pretty cerebral and understands the game. He does the little things – makes the extra pass, being in the right place defensively – the things you need to win. I just think he isn’t looking at the basket enough. He has to step up and score more for us.”

--Grier said early-season opponents approached San Diego differently after the team’s success a year ago (won WCC tournament, beat UConn in NCAA first round). “As much as I tried to get our guys to understand, they just couldn’t fathom it just because of the success we had. It’s not to the level of what Gonzaga sees, but I knew we weren’t going to sneak up on anybody in the preseason. It’s not that way right now because we lost Brandon and we’ve had some struggles.”


Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

Follow Jim online:

Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.