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.