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The passing of a GU legend

GU Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald gives an official his displeased look after a foul was called on the Zags during a game with San Diego.   The game was the last home stand for Fitz who retired after 15 years at the helm.  (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
GU Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald gives an official his displeased look after a foul was called on the Zags during a game with San Diego. The game was the last home stand for Fitz who retired after 15 years at the helm. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Dan Fitzgerald, described by his former assistant coach Dan Monson as the "founding father" of Gonzaga basketball, died Tuesday night at the age of 67. Fitzgerald, GU's coach from 1978-97 (taking four years off to concentrate on his A.D. duties from 1981-85) apparently suffered a heart attack at an Airway Heights restaurant and was pronounced dead 40 minutes later at Deaconess Medical Center.

Fitzgerald was as charismatic as they come. I covered several Gonzaga-Idaho games in the 1990s and remember Fitz and/or his post-game comments as much as the games. After a blowout loss in Moscow, Fitz was asked if he saw any positives. He heard one: "I thought the band was outstanding," he quipped. 

Reflecting on UI's Orlando Lightfoot, who lit up Gonzaga for 50 points in a losing cause at the Kennel, Fitzgerald said: "That was truly unbelievable. I think when we're old men, we'll get that tape out to watch it for fun; I've never seen a guy that hot. Our guys were just shaking their heads. One of them said, `Hey, I shut him down, he only got 14 when I was guarding him'."

Nobody in the media knew Fitzgerald better than S-R columnist John Blanchette, who filed this story on Fitzgerald's passing.



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.

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