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Rob Curley: Revisit Zags’ rise with Big Ed and Q on eve of Bulldogs’ season

Hollywood actor and Gonzaga alum Eric Edelstein enjoys the game with friends during the second half of an NCAA West Regional Semifinal men's basketball game Thurs., March 28, 2019, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Big Ed had a front-row seat. Way before it was cool to be in the Splash Zone at the original Kennel.

As a Gonzaga student in the late ’90s, Eric Edelstein wasn’t just a fan of a team seemingly on the cusp of something as great as it was improbable, he also was the team’s play-by-play guy on GU TV. Well, and he was roommates with a whole bunch of the players.

Only no one called him Eric. He was always “Big Ed.”

They were all unlikely friends who had each others’ backs both on and off the court, even if one of them was behind the mic. All while doing mildly inappropriate impersonations that constantly cracked up the team. Some guy named Few would even have Edelstein come to the program’s summer youth camps to do his spot-on takes of Chris Farley and Bill Walton.

Big Ed was so entertaining that he eventually moved to Los Angeles and started showing up in TV shows, movies and even cartoons. He’s one of those actors that the moment you see him on screen, you immediately say, “Hey, I know that guy! I’ve seen him in a ton of things!” You just didn’t know he was from Gonzaga.

Case in point: In “Jurassic World,” the guy who gets eaten in one bite while Chris Pratt watches is a Zag. Yep, that was Big Ed.

The Jurassic Park Collection / YouTube

This week, as The Spokesman-Review and Hooptown USA made a few final preparations before announcing our annual event to celebrate all things Bulldog basketball, Hoopfest executive director Matt Santangelo reached out to his old buddy over in LA to tell him about it.

He told him that it’s going to be at the Bing Crosby Theater on Nov. 4, the day before Gonzaga opens its season, and will be a cool look at how the Gonzaga basketball program found one of its secret weapons in recruiting players from all over the planet.

It’s called “World Court: How international players helped create one of college basketball’s elite programs” and will be co-hosted by KHQ/SWX sports director Sam Adams and Santangelo.

The evening will feature tons of cool videos, fun and revealing live interviews on stage with Gonzaga men’s assistant coach Tommy Lloyd and women’s head coach Lisa Fortier, as well as lots of former players. But one player, Santangelo told Edelstein – one of the program’s first international players – would be brought back to Spokane to help take the celebration to an entirely different level: beloved Bahamian Bulldog Quentin Hall.

More importantly, the whole evening would be a fundraiser to help Hall and his family rebuild their home in the Bahamas, which was destroyed this summer by Hurricane Dorian. Edelstein had heard all he needed to hear. There was no way he was going to miss this. He was coming back to Spokane, too.

And just like that, there was another host for the event … Big Ed.

In retrospect, this event might be big enough that it takes three hosts. Think about it: There is now an entire generation in this nation who can’t remember a time when Gonzaga wasn’t a college basketball powerhouse.

If you’re in your 20s, one of life’s certainties is that ESPN’s late-night West Coast game will feature that one team whose name everyone says wrong and whose roster is filled with players with equally unpronounceable names.

You might not actually know where Gonzaga is, but you totally know the Bulldogs will be in the middle of March Madness, loaded with a whole bunch of guys with multiple degrees, surprisingly high GPAs and fantastically foreign words on the back of their jerseys.

That last part is what’s so interesting. Actually, it’s probably one of the program’s real differentiators.

It’s practically impossible to break into the inner circle of basketball’s elites. Tradition feeds the mystique, helping the rich get richer. Literally.

Oh sure, some programs are good for a few years, but it’s hard to sustain it if your name doesn’t rhyme with Ransas. That’s what makes what has happened on the banks of the Spokane River over the last few couple of decades so darn impressive.

Blue-chip recruits across the nation want to play for basketball’s blue bloods. But what if you looked across different nations? It seems so simple now, but that wasn’t the case when Gonzaga was finding scrappy ways to win with scrappy players whom other schools overlooked. From other countries.

And Hall was one of the scrappiest.

The 1998-’99 Bulldogs made team history with Casey Calvary’s epic tip-in against Florida, sending Gonzaga to its first Elite Eight. That now legendary team also included Richie Frahm, Jeremy Eaton and Santangelo.

Peter Tormey / YouTube

It was the exact moment when the Zags first experienced what it was like for a small private school to capture the nation’s attention and heart. The team became overnight media darlings, and Hall was the human equivalent of a can of Red Bull who could immediately caffeinate both the crowd and the rest of his team.

And he did it with the best accent in all of college basketball.

So now Hall gets to return to the place he called home to talk about those moments that now mean so much to so many true Gonzaga fans. The best part is that those exact same Gonzaga fans can help Hall in a way that is even more meaningful to him.

Q, as his friends all call him, is even bringing his family with him so they can experience the incredible atmosphere of a game in The Kennel firsthand.

There’s a reason why Big Ed isn’t going to miss it, and you shouldn’t either.

Gonzaga's Casey Calvary, left, and Quentin Hall smile after they beat Minnesota 75-63 at the Key Arena in Seattle, March 11, 1999. (Barry Sweet / Associated Press)
Gonzaga’s Casey Calvary, left, and Quentin Hall smile after they beat Minnesota 75-63 at the Key Arena in Seattle, March 11, 1999. (Barry Sweet / Associated Press)

Attend World Court


What: Hollywood actor and Gonzaga alum Eric Edelstein, KHQ/SWX sports director Sam Adams and storied Gonzaga guard Matt Santangelo will be in conversation with GU coaches Tommy Lloyd and Lisa Fortier, telling the stories behind the stories. Featuring the return to Spokane of beloved Bulldog Quentin Hall. Afterward, an autograph session with numerous legendary Gonzaga players will include exclusive free posters of the players from The Spokesman-Review’s archives. Donations will be requested, but not required.

Why: The evening will be a fundraiser to help Hall rebuild his home, which was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian.

Where: The Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague Ave.

When: Nov. 4. Doors open at 6 p.m., event starts at 7. VIP reception is at 6.

Cost: General admission tickets are $6 and include the free player posters. VIP Tickets are $100 and include:

  • Private reception before the main event with light hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and soft drinks.
  • Meet-and-greet with Quentin Hall and other famous Bulldog basketball players.
  • A limited-edition print that celebrates the legacy of Gonzaga’s international players.
  • A long-sleeve shirt exclusive to this event proclaiming that this world is now “Planet Zag.”
  • Guaranteed seating in the first three rows of the Bing for the main event.

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