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Dad Daze: We can’t let go of the Zags

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, center, celebrates making the game-winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men’s Final Four NCAA basketball tournament semifinal game April 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90.  (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, center, celebrates making the game-winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men’s Final Four NCAA basketball tournament semifinal game April 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

It’s over, but we don’t want it to end. Even though our beloved Gonzaga men’s basketball team suffered the lone loss of an unforgettable season the night after Easter Sunday in a championship battle versus Baylor, no love is lost for Mark Few’s most embraceable team.

“I don’t know if the Zags realize what a huge part they played in keeping our spirits up during the enforced isolation of the pandemic,” a reader responded in a spot-on manner after digesting last week’s Dad Daze. here in The Spokesman-Review.

Do the Bulldogs, who were even more isolated than fans, have any idea that they propelled us through a very difficult time during this yearlong pandemic? Probably partly considering that the team was comprised of a seemingly down-to-Earth collection of talented players.

What is known is that homemade Zags signs across Spokane still stand. Residents, many of them alumni, stroll downtown streets and parks in Gonzaga T-shirts. Some new Zags shirts, courtesy of Zome Design, will hit the streets soon.

What’s most surprising is that there is a demand for Zags wear after the team suffered such a disappointing loss in a game they were never in after Baylor raced to a 9-0 advantage.

“It’s unbelievable,” Zane Troester, senior account manager of Zome Design, said while relaxing in his Spokane Valley office. “What normally happens is when a team loses, the internet goes silent. People want to take an emotional break. But that’s not happening with Gonzaga.

“We’ve had steady orders. Grocery store outlets want shirts. It’s mind-boggling. But it was a great run. People here don’t want to forget it, and they continue to appreciate it.”

Troester expected to print and sell more than 20,000 licensed T-shirts if the Zags won the NCAA Championship. However, it appears that Troester has enough demand to deal 5,000 shirts to commemorate an incredible 31-1 season.

After residing in a number of sports mad markets, I’ve witnessed teams’ promising seasons end abruptly, and the squads are instantly ignored. What I’m witnessing now is remarkable.

Sports fans tend to turn the page quickly and jump to the next sport after a team suffers the type of season-ending loss Gonzaga endured. It’s not lost on my children, who have lived among fickle fans.

My son Milo, 15, won’t take off his Gonzaga outerwear, and his brother Eddie, 18, proudly sports his Planet Zags shirt. “The support the Zags receive feels kind of like what I’ve experienced with my AAU teams,” Milo said.

“Parents and family support us no matter what. It’s great how all the people here support Gonzaga. It’s great because it’s our team. It felt like we all won when (Jalen) Suggs hit that (40-foot) shot to beat UCLA. It was so disappointing when Baylor beat us.”

But what was so cool was after the loss we witnessed while watching the game at Northern Quest Resort & Casino was the “wait till next year” buzz. That sentiment was uttered from multiple parties.

It’s going to be quite a while until next season, and I don’t blame anybody for basking in the glow of arguably the greatest season in the history of Gonzaga men’s basketball.

I’m looking back, but I can’t help but look forward. Milo hopes he can step inside McCarthey Athletic Center for the first time to experience the Zags on their home court.

ESPN analyst Sean Farnham insists the Zags’ home court advantage is on a level in which Duke enjoys playing in the Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the meantime, we don our Zags swag and couldn’t be prouder of our team, particularly the impact the boys have on children.

Their work ethic, grace under pressure and lack of hubris will hopefully inspire boys and girls to play the right way. Few’s squad is reminiscent of my alma mater, Temple University. The Owls basketball team was coached by the iconic John Chaney, who recently passed away.

Chaney enabled kids who were projects to graduate and have solid NBA careers. Joel Ayayi, anyone? Few, like Chaney, transformed a relative non-entity into a national power. Hopefully, Few will be able to accomplish what Chaney never managed – to win a national championship.

Hats off to the Zags one more time, and thanks for the ride – it was a wonderful diversion!

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