Not so long ago, when the absolute dog days afflicted a sports-talk radio station -- no buzz, no hot topic, crickets -- the host inevitably would drag out this old standby and ask for input from listeners: Should Pete Rose be in the baseball hall of fame?
I hope the Glory Hounds blog hasn’t descended to that abyss, but it’s possible. Anyway, I’m going to entertain the notion of who should be on Gonzaga’s men’s basketball Mount Rushmore.
Actually, I think the subject is fascinating, it’s just that it’s one of those out-of-season reveries apropos of not particularly anything at the moment.
Seems to me that Gonzaga makes for a fairly unusual Mount Rushmore, just as the Gonzaga story is highly unusual. Let’s go ahead and violate the journalist’s unwritten credo and call it unique.
Why? If we’re to chisel out features of the top four people responsible for the phenomenon that is Zag hoops -- including players, coaches, presidents, donors -- I suspect you’ll find more than the average nuance, sub-theme and sidebar that populate other programs. That's because the program came from nothing to within two minutes of a national championship.
Say, for example, we did this for, oh, Ohio State. From a great distance, I’d suggest you’d have Fred Taylor, who coached the 1960 national champions. And probably guys like Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, stalwarts of that era, would draw heavy support. And in more recent times, players like Evan Turner, Greg Oden and Mike Conley.
But it would probably be a pretty orderly procedure, because while the Buckeyes have a reasonably robust basketball heritage, its story is hardly striking or especially notable.
Then there’s Gonzaga, bound up by all sorts of figures and forces and phenomena that, in the words of Sports Illustrated, have made it a “nouveau power.”
So onward. I’m not going to declare myself on this post (partly because I haven’t decided). But I’ll do so in a week. For now, I’ll throw out some candidates and some thoughts.
Before the Zags’ crazy 19-year streak of NCAA appearances got so long, it was easier to single out players as Mount Rushmore operatives. There were simply fewer of them. Countervailing that, as the skein got longer, the player list got more and more selective, and it was easier to look at overarching factors like coaches and administrators. Then, in 2015, the Zags returned to the Elite Eight for the first time since ’99, winning 35 games. And of course in 2017, they won a school-record 37 and marched all the way to the NCAA title game, so it seems logical certain players who made that happen demand a closer look.
That said, I think we can all agree on the only automatic bid on this Rushmore: Mark Few.
These are others to chew on -- certainly not the only ones whom we should vet:
Dan Monson, who coached that ground-breaking 1999 team, the first of the young lions who pulled up the program by the bootstraps, and essentially hired Few.
Dan Fitzgerald, whose supporters will argue that he laid the solid foundation and gathered assistants like Monson, Few and Bill Grier.
Tom and Phil McCarthey, whose largesse of some $9 million enabled construction of the arena that essentially made GU basketball a major player.
Mike Roth, the athletic director whose steady stewardship over two decades provided Few a reason to stay put.
Robert Spitzer, the former Gonzaga president who bought into the idea that upgrading basketball was a wise choice for the university. What if the sitting president back in the formative years had been a stuffy, non-believer in the power of athletics?
Casey Calvary, the implacable forward who was the key big on the 1999-2001 teams, and whose ’99 tip to beat Florida is one of the two or three biggest shots in GU history.
Dan Dickau, both for becoming an athletic and academic first-team All-American, and also symbolizing the phenomenon of the transfer whose game expands when he sits out.
Ronny Turiaf, with Dickau part of that key second wave of players that sustained the NCAA run, and maybe the most popular Zag in history.
Adam Morrison, whose game -- and persona -- gathered more spotlight than any other GU player.
Kelly Olynyk, who went from lost redshirt to first-team All-American.
Nigel Williams-Goss, whose transcendent, first-team All-America season helped trigger Gonzaga’s first Final Four.
By no means is this a complete checklist, just some obvious candidates.
I’ll be back with my picks in a week. Might even include somebody not on this list.