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Monday, October 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

George Nethercutt: Our Zags will always be elite under Few

George Nethercutt

The Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team didn’t emerge from the Elite Eight matchup with Texas Tech to make the Final Four during the NCAA Tournament, but managed to show they completed a remarkable season as an elite team in other laudable arenas.

Gonzaga lost to the Red Raiders last Saturday by only a few points, having made only 3 of 25 3-point shots in that game – unusual for the Bulldogs after leading the U.S. as a nationally ranked No. 1 team during much of the regular season, even though the NCAA 3-point line is 20-foot-9, with a smaller arc than the NBA’s 3-point line. Their percentage of field goals was off, too. Gonzaga only made 43 percent of its field goals after scoring nearly 100 points per game (and 53 percent) during the regular season. Taking nothing away from Texas Tech’s strong defense, which frustrated Gonzaga, the Texas team earned the victory, in spite of GU’s poor performance.

But that defeat should not prevent anyone from calling the Bulldog team elite. Starting with Coach Mark Few (GU boasts one of the finest and longest-serving coaches in America), the Bulldog team is filled with an elite coaching staff as well as elite players. All the team members, including the starting five, are quality individuals who routinely get good grades in school. Brandon Clarke (who led the nation in field-goal percentage at 69.3 percent) spoke for his teammates after the victory over Florida State with humility and class, praising a fine Seminoles team, and downplaying his own outstanding performance.

Also an integral part of the team is Few’s wife, Marcy Laca, a loyal and committed GU alumna and Mark Few fan, who prayed silently (as shown on television) that GU star Rui Hachimura would sink his free throws in the final stages of the Texas Tech game. She’s a family person (married to Mark in 1994), having helped raise four Few children, and has stood by her husband as he achieved notoriety as Gonzaga’s most outstanding coach for over 20 years. While many coaches’ wives stay away from team games, Marcy does not. She’s known by the players and is a loyal Gonzaga supporter. She and her husband have for years quietly, routinely, charitably raised millions for the fight against cancer. She’s undeniably a force behind her husband’s and Gonzaga’s success over many years, both on and off the basketball court.

Coach Few strives to make better adults of the young men he coaches each year – and he does so by setting an example for them. In response to a congratulatory letter he received a few years ago for Gonzaga’s team making a strong showing in March Madness, Few wrote a handwritten thank-you note to the fan. Though he needn’t have written back, Few did so because he’s a class act, and that style rubs off on his players. One never hears of arrogant behavior or braggadocious comments from a team member. Some players took the high road and denied that the win over Florida State was revenge-driven for last year’s loss. Rather than inflate the score, and embarrass an opposing team, Gonzaga players slow the pace at game’s end when facing a big win over an opponent – likely due to Few’s influence. That kind of behavior is taught and is not usually innate, and Few realizes that molding good citizens is important for any winning record, a sign of GU’s mission. Thankfully, the winning seasons are also part of the Gonzaga tradition.

While many Gonzaga fans are disappointed in the Gonzaga-Texas Tech outcome, one prominent trial lawyer/Gonzaga law professor emailed that Gonzaga had an off night and we should all root for Texas Tech as a Final Four contender. Many Gonzaga fans are rightfully disappointed with the Elite Eight outcome, but realize that it’s only a game and that Gonzaga had an off night. They’ll be back next year cheering on the new team, recognizing that the Zags, behind Few’s leadership, will make a strong showing in their conference and nationally. Coach Few and Marcy will continue to serve the Gonzaga community and Spokane with their presence.

And the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team, in spite of the Texas Tech loss in the Elite Eight matchup, will always be elite with the Fews in charge.

George Nethercutt was the U.S. representative for the 5th Congressional District of Washington from 1995-2005.

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