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

A Grip on Sports: Monday turned out to be a taxing day in a couple ways for Inland Northwest college hoop fans

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It was just another Monday in April. Tax Day, actually. Until it morphed into something more. Much more in that little niche of America known as the Inland Northwest. Somehow yesterday transformed into a celebration of college hoops.


• Let’s change one cliché used every Tax Day, shall we? Forget the first word and jump straight to “taxes and everyone praising the new coach an introductory press conference.” It’s inevitable. Certain even. And in Monday’s case out in Cheney, correct.

After all, Dan Monson has returned to the Spokane area, 25 years after he changed it forever. What isn’t to like?

Yes, everyone already knew Monson, who spent most of the past two-and-a-half decades coaching at the ultimate Southern California commuter school, Long Beach State, was coming back to town to lead the Eastern program. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t going to be some suspense lurking in the background of his introduction.

Part of the expectation revolved around his old employer. No, not the Beach. Not even Minnesota, where Monson’s career almost froze after he left this area in 1999. No, the other one. The place he grew up as a coach. The place he helped drag into the national consciousness.


Of course, a guy who once lived in abject poverty on the near-North Side, just to get a start in a profession his father, Don, a seasoned veteran, hoped he would avoid, would be asked about his starting point. His launching one as well. A place still coached by the guy who replaced him in the main chair after once sleeping on his couch.

Monson had scouted the questions, certainly, and had an answer about playing the Zags, about facing Mark Few’s nationally recognized program. And his answer was a great non-answer, focused on saying “no way” without actually having to say it. 

“I have a problem playing Gonzaga. I want to beat Gonzaga and I don’t want to just go play them. I’m not sure we’re ready for that,” he told the assembled media. “We’re not at that level yet, but we want to get there.”

One question answered. Others will come up, we’re sure. How Monson and his Eagles answer them will be the best storyline about local basketball connections of the next few years.

If it isn’t the one being written by Eastern’s former coach, David Riley, the former Whitworth player and EWU graduate assistant who now holds the reins in Pullman.

The way college basketball has evolved in this area since Monson began his head coaching career has made such things inevitable. Like, you know, taxes.

• The Monson presser was expected. Scheduled. What wasn’t foreseen on the Monday when we empty our pockets to ensure the greater good of our nation, was how two players off Gonzaga’s 32-4 women’s team would crash the WNBA’s draft party in New York. Even though they weren’t there.

When the Chicago Sky, who already had drafted two of the nation’s most recognizable inside players, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso and LSU’s Angel Reese, opened the second round by selecting the Bulldog’s Brynna Maxwell, the ESPN crew covering the festivities had to scramble.

The Zag guard, who hit almost 46% of her 3-pointers while in Spokane, wasn’t on any mock drafts we perused. And wasn’t invited to New York. Now she’ll get a chance to show if her game can translate to the league.

But that wasn’t the only surprise. Eight picks later, the player who orchestrated the offense Maxwell thrived within, point guard Kaylynne Truong, was selected by Washington. That was much earlier than the only mock draft we could find that mentioned her, projected as its penultimate selection by Yahoo.

Not only did Truong average more than five assists a game her last two years at Gonzaga, she also connected on 42% of her 3-pointers in that span. It’s a skill valued throughout the WNBA and a Mystics’ need.

Whether either Maxwell or Truong make the regular-season rosters is up in the air in a league with limited space. But we are sure of a couple things. If they do, we won’t be surprised. And we will expect some sort of celebration.


WSU: We may be seeing the final hurrah for Klay Thompson with Golden State this week as the NBA playoffs open. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, we will delve into the WNBA draft a bit more in the Gonzaga section below, but we have to mention the No. 2 pick, Stanford’s Cameron Brink here. … And the No. 8 selection, undersized post Alissa Pili of Utah. … Two Arizona players were drafted in the second round. … Colorado has lost a player to the portal. … John Canzano has a mailbag which includes questions and answers about Oregon State and Washington State. … In football news, the portal is about to open again. Washington needs reinforcements. In part because there are so many Huskies in the NFL draft. … Oregon State may do the last scrimmage differently this spring. … Oregon’s depth chart is changing. … The offseason will include portal additions for Utah. … And more losses for Colorado. … On the men’s basketball front, Oregon State seems to be at something of a crossroads.

Gonzaga: The choices seemed to catch a lot of folks by surprise, but Greg Lee has this story on the selections. … We also found stories from Chicago, Washington and Houston that mention the Bulldog players. … The WNBA draft was headlined, of course, by Indiana’s anticipated pick of Caitlin Clark. But it also featured if not the deepest draft class ever, at least the most recognizable.

EWU: We can pass along three different looks at Monson’s introductory press conference, starting with Dan Thompson’s coverage. … Theo Lawson connected the Monson, Gonzaga and Eastern dots in this story. … Dave Boling? He wrapped it all up in this don’t-miss column. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana actually received some positive basketball roster news yesterday. … We have two unusual stories about football to pass along. A former Portland State player was sentenced to 23 years in prison yesterday after being found guilty in the murder of his girlfriend. … A Cal Poly player lost his scholarship just before he found out he was about to become a father.

Mariners: Nine runs? What the heck? Yep, the M’s offense decided to show up last night at T-Mobile in a 9-3 win over the Reds. (By the way, is it weird we still type Safeco Field occasionally?) … Speaking of weird, the explosion came a day after Matt Calkins wrote the team won’t be embraced by the fans until it starts hitting. … Recent call-up, rookie Jonatan Clase, was in the lineup and got a hit.

Seahawks: We used the word “embraced” above. Which got us to thinking. Was there ever another punter more embraced by the 12s than Jon Ryan? Nope. He will retire a Seahawk today after signing a one-day contract. … Another hole in the Seattle defense seems to be linebacker. Are there draft prospects that could address the issue? … No need to pick a cornerback these days.

Kraken: It’s time to write the obit on Seattle’s season.

Storm: With no first-round pick, Seattle went took a UConn player, Nika Muhl, with its first selection in the second round.  


• We consider ourselves a well-balanced sports fan, if in using the term “balanced” you mean we follow all sports, as opposed to how we go nuts during some contests. Anyhow, we are sure we’ve never followed the WNBA draft to the depth we did last night. And when Maxwell was chosen, we were as gob-smacked as we’ve ever been by a draft selection. And because of that we actually got a bit out of balance in our reaction. Until later …