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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Gonzaga’s Mark Few closing in on 600th career victory

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 23, 2020

John Wooden, one of Mark Few’s coaching idols, is on the list with 664 career wins. Kansas coach Bill Self, who will be on the other end of the sideline for Gonzaga’s opener Thursday in Fort Myers, is No. 23 with 708 victories.

Several of Few’s closest buddies in the profession – Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (No. 2, 1,065 wins), North Carolina’s Roy Williams (No. 4, 885), Kentucky’s John Calipari (T-13, 775) and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes (No. 22, 709) – made it a while ago.

Few is one victory from reaching another milestone, joining a short list of Division I coaches with 600 career wins. Few, at 599-124 entering his 22nd season, is already considered one of the game’s elite coaches. His winning percentage (82.8) is tops among active coaches.

There’s a pretty good chance Few has no idea he’s on the verge of No. 600.

“The biggest thing is he just has really high standards,” said assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, who has been on Gonzaga’s staff for over two decades, first as a grad assistant and the last 20 as an assistant coach. “He’s able to get a group of people to meet those standards.

“For him, I don’t think it’s the style of play or the Xs and Os. He has a great ability to focus on things that impact winning. Things he doesn’t think impact winning he doesn’t pay attention to.”

Few shares 38th on the all-time D-I wins list, according to sports-reference.com. He’s 15th among active D-I coaches.

Few’s 500th win came when the Zags edged Northwestern in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. It hasn’t taken long for Few to close in on No. 600.

The Zags won a school-record 37 games in 2017 and followed it with win totals of 32, 33 and 31 the next three years, respectively. The program’s six 30-win campaigns have come in the last eight years.

“There are multiple reasons for his success – he’s driven, competitive – but there’s one that I’m not sure everybody might understand. He has balance,” said athletic director Mike Roth, who promoted Few to replace Dan Monson after Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight run. “That balance gives him the ability to come at this stressful, crazy business of college athletics in a way that not every coach can.

“Last year’s team was one of the favorites to win (the NCAA Tournament). Mark handled that incredibly well (when the tourney was canceled) and some of that is because it’s not basketball 100% every day 365 days a year. He has balance with family being his No. 1 priority.”

Lloyd has been on the bench for virtually every one of Few’s milestone victories.

The Zags pummeled Oklahoma State 73-52 on Dec. 31, 2010, for Few’s 300th. “David (Stockton) made a half-court shot right before halftime,” said Lloyd, who also remembered it was a New Year’s Eve game.

No. 400 was a 77-75 win over Santa Clara at the 2014 WCC Tournament quarterfinals. “David hit the driving layup (with 1.4 seconds left),” Lloyd said.

Lloyd recalled Few’s 500th win.

“Some serious runs by both teams,” Lloyd said. “Zach (Collins) blocking the shot, the technical foul on (Northwestern coach Chris Collins).”

Lloyd said the happiest he’s seen Few was when the 2017 team locked up a spot in the Final Four. About 65 former Zags traveled to Phoenix, and they walked into the room after one of the team’s film sessions. The 2017 squad gave the former players a standing ovation.

“I think it was a culmination of a lot of things for him, not only making the Final Four, but his former players were so appreciative,” Lloyd said. “And he understood what they meant to where we were at.”

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