Judge Smails: “Ty, what did you shoot today?”
Ty Webb: “Oh, I don’t keep score, judge.”
Smails: “Oh, well, how do you measure yourself with other golfers.”
Ty: “By height.”
Yeah, it’s a golf movie. But this is a height story.
It spans, really, a mere 21 inches – and yet it rises as high as 7-feet and 5, because basketball, as we’ve come to know, is nothing if not a vertical endeavor.
That’s right. We decided to have the Gonzaga Bulldogs line up by height.
Or rather, we lined them up.
Why? For argument’s sake. For something to do. Because basketball is a game of inches.
Wait, that’s baseball. Or football. Or horseshoes. OK, it’s every game.
Then we did it because life is too short not to indulge in some tall stories. What did the poet say? That happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.Click to view our interactive Zags height graphic
Because sports culture revolves around lists of bests – and worsts – and the assembling of teams with arbitrary parameters, and then debated vigorously from adjacent barstools or far-flung Wi-Fi connections. The Zags are no exception. What true devotee has never contemplated an all-time Gonzaga basketball starting five – and then branched out from there. The All-Transfer Zags. The All-International Zags. The All-NCAA Tournament Zags.
So why not by height?
After all, it seems more exact – except it’s very much not.
Because if we know anything at all, we know that height is in the eye of the tape-holder. This is proven to us each summer at Hoopfest, when a stroll through the ultra-competitive 6-foot-and-under bracket uncovers a number of ballers who were listed on their college or high school rosters at 6-foot-2 – or taller. And yet like a boxer trying to cut weight to make the championship limit, they have somehow boiled themselves down to 6 feet for our downtown shootout. Maybe they took a spin in the dryer.
Now, colleges have never been above adding a few inches to a player’s listed height – whether to satisfy an ego or to enhance a player’s professional horizons. The NBA is complicit in this charade; even though it takes unsparing, no-wiggle-room measurements at its rookie combine, the teams then apparently destroy that data before it reaches the program printer and revert to whatever outlandish fiction suits their players. Charles Barkley, for example, was famously listed at 6-foot-6. But in his book “I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It,” Barkley revealed he was just 6-4.
Of course, when his previous autobiography “Outrageous” was published, Barkley claimed he’d been misquoted. So who’s to know for sure?
Zags great Jerry Vermillion went the other way. Announced at 6-2 1/2 in his playing days – coach Hank Anderson could sandbag with the best of them – the school’s career rebounding leader revealed in his own book that he was 6-4, though a case of scoliosis had left him with a pronounced hunch in his posture.
Look, even the DMV puts away its ruler and relies on you to confess to your true height on your driver’s license – though we all know it’s the weights that get fudged.Click to see how you stack up to some of Gonzaga’s greatest players
So for the sake of this list, we’re relying on Gonzaga’s best-faith measurements. And we’re using the heights listed in the school’s media guides of each player’s senior year, allowing time for all parties to get their stories straight.
We started the polling at 5-foot-8 for the simple reason that we couldn’t find a man in GU’s records – which go back only to 1950 or so – any shorter.
Then we went ahead and chose a woman anyway.
Why? Because it’s our list. Besides, with the utmost respect to Billy Suter from the Zags’ old Big Sky champions and Quentin Hall from the first Elite Eight team, is anyone going to dispute that Courtney Vandersloot isn’t the best 5-8 player in school history?
Some other notes on the methodology and conclusions.
• As a rule, we valued college achievements more heavily than pro and gave things like Player of the Year and all-conference honors due (or maybe undue) weight. Longevity counted, too. And then occasionally we broke those rules. As noted, it’s our list.
• You may find a couple unfamiliar names at the lower end of this high-altitude scale, dating back as they do to Gonzaga basketball’s Pleistocene Epoch. Obviously, the Zags don’t seek out a lot of sub-6-footers anymore. Which doesn’t mean the old guys weren’t good players. Willie Daigle started for two years after transferring from City College of San Francisco – and hung around Spokane for a good while longer, playing semipro football for the old Goldenhawks. Chuck Goligoski led the 1952 Zags in points scored, and later won a Montana state championship as a coach in Kalispell.
• There’s never been a Zag who stands 7-2 or 7-4. We expect Mark Few and Tommy Lloyd to get right on that.
• All ties were ruthlessly broken. Except one. It didn’t seem right that either the school’s all-time scoring leader or its only Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player not make the cut. It was too close to call – or too easy to chicken out.
Hey, it really is a game of inches.