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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


It’s a big night in McCarthey for Gonzaga in a lot of ways

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Former Gonzaga coach and athletic director Dan Fitzgerald wasn’t a big John Wooden and, by extension, UCLA fan. Which is part of the reason tonight’s game in the Kennel is important to long-time Bulldog fans. Read on.


• There are other reasons, of course. The Zags need a win against a quality opponent this season and UCLA, which recently knocked off No. 1 Kentucky, is a quality opponent. The Kentucky win was somewhat of a revenge game for the Bruins, who were dominated by the Wildcats last season. You could say the same about the Bulldogs, considering they defeated UCLA twice last season, once in Pauley Pavilion and once in the NCAA tournament. But that isn’t the only history we are concerned about here. Nope, we’re headed farther in the Wayback Machine. Back to the golden age of the UCLA program, when the Bruins, under Wooden, won 10 NCAA titles in 12 years. Back then, Fitz, who died in 2010, was a high school coach in California or an up-and-coming assistant at Santa Clara and Gonzaga, thus having a front-row seat for the Bruins’ title runs. What he saw he didn’t like. Over the years, the discussions about UCLA, Wooden and the dynasty was like a third-rail in conversations with him. For me at least. I learned to steer clear of them. He wasn’t a Wooden fan, seeing the UCLA dynasty as partly a byproduct of booster Sam Gilbert and his largesse with the Bruins. Fitz thought Wooden’s reputation as a goodie two shoes, to use a term popular back in Wooden’s youth, was built on hypocrisy concerning Gilbert. It’s a not hard-to-understand position. Gilbert did do some shady things in the background as the Bruins ran to championship after championship. But for a kid who wore blue-and-gold-colored glasses in those days, it was easy to forgive – and forget. Fitz never forgot. Or forgive. So I learned early to avoid conversations about the Bruins’ great years. But no matter what it would have been something special for Fitz to see UCLA make a trek to Spokane to face the school he helped build into national prominence. And, if you think back to the days when the Martin Centre was empty enough for kids to play in the upper bleachers during games, despite Gonzaga’s ability to win many more games than it lost, then tonight’s visit is special. There is an electricity to UCLA’s name among folks of my generation, even in the down years. And this isn’t a down year. A Gonzaga win will help burnish a resume that needs a bit of burnishing after the home loss to Arizona last week. And anyone who knew him knows Fitz would have been rooting for it.


• WSU: The preparation for the Sun Bowl rolls on, both in Pullman and in the pages of the S-R. Jim Allen checks in today with a feature on the Miami Hurricanes, WSU’s opponent. Let’s just say Miami has had an up-and-down season and leave it at that. ... Jacob Thorpe passes along his All-Pac-12 ballot. ... It’s Saturday, so we have the mailbag from’s Pac-12 blog. ... Stefanie Loh examines how Luke Falk built himself into WSU’s quarterback.

• Gonzaga: Yes, it’s a big day in the history of the Gonzaga basketball program. To have UCLA, winner of more basketball titles than any school in America, come to McCarthey is a big deal. Jim Meehan has a preview of tonight’s game. As do the newspapers in Los Angeles. ... The women traveled to Dayton and came away with a 57-47 win over the host Flyers.

• EWU: It’s been a tough road trip thus far for the Eagles. They were handled easily 84-51 by Pitt last night.

• Idaho: The Vandals’ Perrion Callandret will be the best guard in the Big Sky, according to coach Don Verlin. Sean Kramer has that and more in this blog post.

• Chiefs: Spokane had a chance to overtake Seattle in the U.S. Division standings but the Thunderbirds’ 5-1 win kept them safely in first place. ... Portland edged past Prince George 5-4. ... It was Teddy Bear Toss night in Tri-City, but Everett ruined it for the hosts, 3-2.

• Preps: It was busy night in prep hoops, with Greg Lee covering Central Valley’s 61-42 win over the U-Hi boys and Tom Clouse at Ferris for Shadle Park’s 78-66 victory. We also have a roundup of girls action in the Greater Spokane League as well as girls and boys roundups from around the area.

• Seahawks: It is looking more and more as if Jimmy Clausen will be the starting quarterback for Baltimore this Sunday. ... Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham are back in town. ... Rookies have played an integral part in the Hawks’ success. ... Want to know more about the Ravens?

• Mariners: The roster moves continued yesterday, though they were minor ones.

• Sounders: Marco Pappa looks to be on the way out of Seattle. ... Roman Torres is working on recovering from his knee injury.


• Saturdays are always busy for me this time of year. I hope yours is too, if you want it to be. If not, enjoy the rest. Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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