Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: It’s a different Dan Monson who returns to the Inland Northwest as EWU’s basketball coach but, after 25 years, it’s to be expected

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where were we? Oh, yes. Contemplating a Thomas Wolfe novel and college hoops. Where else would we be?


• Wolfe had passed by the time his editor cobbled together a novel in 1940, titled it “You Can’t Go Home Again” and watched it become a cliché of American life. And required reading in college literature classes.

Then, for the past 84 years, folks have been hell-bent on proving the title wrong. Latest case in point, of course, was illustrated in Cheney on Friday, where Eastern Washington University named Dan Monson its head basketball coach.

It’s a homecoming – of sorts.

Yes, Monson is returning to the Inland Northwest, where his dad once coached (at Cheney High, Pasco High and the University of Idaho), where he graduated high school – in Moscow – and where he burst onto the national consciousness after he guided the Gonzaga Bulldogs on their magical 1999 NCAA run. But in the 25 years since, much has changed, not only with the little school Monson once led but with the entire collegiate landscape. Though it would be hard to prove it walking around Reese Court on game days.

Which, finally, brings us to our point.

Monson is returning home, though not in a geographic sense, 25 years older, wiser and more aware.

He knows what he’s walking into at Eastern. A time machine of sorts. The EWU program is a modern-day equivalent of the Gonzaga program Monson inherited from his Gonzaga boss, Dan Fitzgerald.

The Eagles aren’t a powerhouse, except in their conference, the Big Sky. Ironically, that was once the home of GU, though that was almost as long ago as when we first slogged through (part of) Wolfe’s novel. But around the country? EWU isn’t a well-known acronym. But at least hoops fans can pronounce “Eastern” correctly, something few could do with Gonzaga in 1999.

We remember those days well. The crowds at the Martin Centre weren’t huge. Heck, just a few years before the run, one could walk up and buy a ticket day-of, and spread out to watch the Bulldogs compete with its WCC foes. That’s the case these days in Cheney as well, where despite back-to-back regular-season Big Sky titles, the Eagles still have part of the Reese Court seating covered with a tarp.

There are differences between then and now, of course, the biggest of which is roster retention. When Monson took over from Fitz in 1997, if he wanted a player to stay at GU, that player was pretty much going to stay. Leaving met sitting out for a year.

Now? Most of the Eastern roster that rolled to a 15-3 Big Sky record is in the transfer portal, eligible to play where ever they wish next season. Some may join former coach David Riley in Pullman. Others may end up elsewhere, or return to EWU now that a coach is in place. It’s their choice.

But that also means the Long Beach State players Monson inspired and led to an NCAA berth last month are in play as well. Whether any will follow him to Cheney is yet to be seen.

It will be a different Dan Monson who stalks the sidelines there next season. Different from last year. Different from his early tenure with The Beach. Different from the ugly days in Minnesota. Different, certainly, from the young man who put together a roster, a star-studded coaching staff and a magical run with Gonzaga in 1999.

As Wolfe wrote so many years ago, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting, but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

We will see, once again, if he was right.


WSU: Kamie Etheridge seems to have found a home in Pullman. The Cougars’ women’s basketball coach signed a contract extension this week, taking her out to 2030. … The football team is home, working on its running game. As Greg Woods wrote in Friday’s paper, the offense broke out this week. … According to Dan Thompson’s story, one Eastern transfer has WSU atop his list as he thinks about joining David Riley. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, let’s start with the bad news. In Corvallis, the hits to the women’s basketball program just keep on coming. The Elite Eight squad has lost that many players to the portal. Playing in the WCC doesn’t seem to be on the transfers’ radar. … With Tara VanDerveer’s retirement, Stanford’s program just lost its best returning player to the portal as well. … The good news for the Cardinal? Kyle Smith has talked one of the school’s best players into leaving the portal and staying. … California is keeping coach Mark Madsen. … Colorado got some bad news about its best player as well. … UCLA is in the same boat. … Arizona has to restock, though Tommy Lloyd has a unique chance to see some players worth recruiting. … The USC women have a goal of becoming the nation’s premier program. … In football news, Jon Wilner has a mailbag in the Mercury News and passes along a recruiting notebook. … Washington is still dealing with the bad news about one football player as spring practice continues. … John Canzano delved into the football program’s bad news in Corvallis. … An Oregon quarterback explained his roundabout path to Eugene. … A Colorado cornerback has shown out during practice. … Utah is already playing its spring game. … USC has lost its highest-rated 2024 recruit. … There is a strong walk-on culture at UCLA. … Arizona is losing players while it tries to build a new culture.

Gonzaga: Julian Strawther’s first NBA season has been a learning experience. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Pepperdine has hired its new women’s basketball coach, one with Montana ties.

EWU: Thompson has this in-depth coverage of the Monson hire, including some thoughts from the coach. The official introduction will come Monday. … Dave Boling thought Monson was the right choice and explained why Friday. Heck, he even reminded everyone of Don Monson’s coaching tenure at Cheney High, back in the day when the games were held in a “downtown” gym. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, the new normal means staying nimble for Montana State. … Northern Colorado has some new football assistants this year. … UC Davis football is happy at the FCS level. … So is Montana, we are sure.

Indians: The winning streak to start the season is up to seven. Dave Nichols covers the 7-6, 10-inning victory in Pasco as well as Chase Dollander’s second effective start. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Vancouver shut out Hillsboro 2-0 but the Hops won the continuation of an earlier game. … Eugene stayed on Spokane’s heels with a 6-1 win over host Everett.

Mariners: Bryce Miller has done well to start the season. And the M’s did well last night, topping the Cubs 4-2 to begin a homestand. … They have struck out often, which has to change. … A couple of key pitchers are starting to throw again after early season injuries.

Seahawks: The draft. It’s all anyone can talk, or write, about these days. Who will the Hawks’ take? How about a quarterback? … Oh, free agents are still in the news. … Tyler Lockett didn’t like the rumors Seattle would move him.

Sounders: Seattle is at Dallas today. There is a lot to watch.

Masters: We only were able to catch bits and pieces yesterday as we spent the entire day in an airport. But we did see the wind blowing and the scores ballooning at Augusta, which has the word “gust” right in the middle. … Tiger Woods made the cut, giving him a record 24 consecutive ones. … Max Homa learned a lot playing with him.


• As we mentioned, we were at the airport around 8 a.m. Friday. Sat around to load our 10 a.m. flight. Mechanical issues. More mechanical issues. Finally got on the plane around noon. Taxied. Stopped. Set on the tarmac for a half-hour. Back to the terminal. Waited. Finally got on a flight at 7 p.m. The folks who work for Delta Airlines in Spokane were great. Did everything they could despite a computer system that decided our protected reservations were not protected. The airline itself? Well, we hate to speak poorly of a major American corporation, but, well, we can’t say anything nice. Until later …