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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga’s Brian Michaelson calls debut as acting head coach ‘a special moment’

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 31, 2021

GU assistant coach Brian Michaelson calls plays in the absence of head coach Mark Few during the second half of an exhibition college basketball game against Eastern Oregon on Sunday, Oct 31, 2021, at McCarthey Athletic Center, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 115-62.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
GU assistant coach Brian Michaelson calls plays in the absence of head coach Mark Few during the second half of an exhibition college basketball game against Eastern Oregon on Sunday, Oct 31, 2021, at McCarthey Athletic Center, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 115-62. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Brian Michaelson spent the first half of his Halloween Sunday as Gonzaga’s acting head coach, carrying out a game plan for the country’s top-ranked college basketball team in an exhibition tuneup against Eastern Oregon.

Part two of Michaelson’s day looked much different. At the request of his wife and three children, the longtime Gonzaga assistant agreed to dress up as Michael “Squints” Palledorous, a popular character from “The Sandlot.” Each of the five Michaelsons were planning to emulate a character from the hit 1993 film while trick-or-treating Sunday night.

“I’m not a big dress-up guy, but the wife and kids talked me into it this year,” Michaelson said. “The Sandlot crew. I get to be Squints. I didn’t have an option.”

No word on how Michaelson looked in thick-framed glasses and a backward ball cap, but the first costume he wore on Sunday seemed to fit the 40-year-old coach rather well.

In his debut as Gonzaga’s acting head coach – rather, debut against another opponent – Michaelson didn’t seem to pull any of the wrong strings, leading the Bulldogs to a 115-62 blowout exhibition win over the Mountaineers of the NAIA’s Cascade Collegiate Conference.

Michaelson, a former GU walk-on who enters year No. 9 as an assistant at his alma mater, will spell Mark Few twice more, against Lewis-Clark State in an exhibition and Dixie State in the season opener, before the Bulldogs’ head coach returns from a three-game suspension for the Nov. 13 showdown with Texas.

“It was interesting. It’s an exhibition, but to have a chance to coach at your alma mater is pretty cool and something I really just tried to focus on the game the best you can and for the most part, you get pretty caught up in the moment,” Michaelson said. “But it was definitely a special opportunity and obviously it’s been a long time since someone else stood on that sideline. So it was a cool personal moment, but what’s important is this team and helping those guys out, so it’s not about me being over there right now.”

Outside of internal team scrimmages where Few delegates head-coaching responsibilities to his assistants, and an opportunity to coach his son’s AAU team in 2005, Michaelson couldn’t recall the last time he was a head coach. Not in an official capacity, at least.

“GU intersquad games?” Michaelson said. “Obviously I had a team at Kraziness and we scrimmage internally. So ever since I became an assistant, the last 9, 10 years whatever we’re at, I’ve coached those teams internally. I think (today) was probably the head coaching debut in front of a fan base.”

Without Few in the picture, game-day logistics looked different for each of the coaches, but Michaelson said the group’s experience helped the operation run without any noticeable hitches.

“Logistically, everybody’s going to have a little different of a role,” Michaelson said. “So, among the staff they did a great job, they took a bunch of the stuff that I’ve done and obviously Stephen Gentry’s unbelievable, he’s really, really capable. He’s had a big role. Roger (Powell) does a fantastic job here, has done a great job since he got here and is really helping out.”

Hearing from a different voice on the bench didn’t seem to deter players, either. After putting the final touches on a 53-point thumping, they rewarded Michaelson with a water bath in Gonzaga’s locker room.

“It was really cool, because coach B-Mike, he recruited me here and he’s always been my guy while I’ve been here so it’s like a proud moment for me almost seeing B-Mike get the opportunity to call the shots and all that,” guard Julian Strawther said. “So I’m just really happy for him. We gave him a little shower in the locker room.”

Michaelson alluded to having pregame nerves, telling reporters “anytime you do something new for the first time, you’re going to.” If that was true, his players wouldn’t have known.

“B-Mike’s a pretty confident dude, so he wasn’t showing any jitters or anything,” freshman Chet Holmgren said. “So I don’t know if there was or not, but I know he was just as excited as us to get out there.”

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