Basketball Gets Overshadowed for Bulldogs
Dec 30, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (AP) - All along, Gonzaga's rare trip to the East Coast had been planned with a stop in New York City, even though the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs weren't playing a game there.
Third-year coach Mark Few wanted to make sure the two-game swing through the Northeast was as special as possible for his team, which is composed mostly of players from the Northwest. Then Sept. 11 turned the visit from a sightseeing tour into something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
"None of our guys had been to New York before and we are in the business of education, so I thought we should get up there and let them visit Ground Zero," Few said.
The team went to lower Manhattan on Friday, a day before it won its eighth straight game, 79-54, over Monmouth.
"That was a very moving experience for our team," Few said of the trip to the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center. "I reference all the time to them about seizing the day and making the most of your day because you don't know what God has planned for you. Nothing made it more real than that."
Dan Dickau quickly changed his tone of voice as he turned from answering questions about scoring 20 points and handing out seven assists in a road victory to talking about the team's trip a day earlier.
"One of the things that blew me away was that three months later how many people were still going down there to check it out," said Dickau, from Vancouver, Wash. "I know New York's a real tourist city but it seemed the people that were there were shellshocked and somber. It almost didn't seem real and it obviously puts things in perspective."
For Dickau, that meant thinking about the summer when he played on the U.S. team at the World University Games in Beijing.
"I thought when we were playing in China how lucky I was to be representing the United States," Dickau said. "That feeling was bolstered after Sept. 11, and now I have a real pride in being an American."
Winston Brooks, a junior college transfer, is from Richmond, Va., but has spent the past few years in the Northwest, first at North Idaho College and now in Spokane, Wash., at Gonzaga.
He had been to the World Trade Center a few years ago so he had a different perspective from his teammates.
"Seeing it in person is a lot different from what you see on TV," he said. "For the whole team, it was overwhelming, all that damage. The guys were so into it and were taking pictures because a lot of guys know they won't be back to that city again."
This was Gonzaga's first eastern visit since a four-team tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1993. The Bulldogs have had quite a bit of success since then.
They have won the West Coast Conference championship three of the last four seasons and have reached the NCAA tournament's round of 16 the last three years, a feat matched only by Duke and Michigan State. The East Coast trip ends at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia on Monday night.
"The trip was meant to give more media people and people on the East Coast a chance to see us, but I'd like to think after the last three years people are pretty educated about us," Few said.
Still, there always will be the thought that the West Coast teams and players just don't get the proper recognition from the other side of the country.
"I don't want to be singled out as only guy who thinks that but there are a lot of programs who feel the East Coast gets the bulk of the respect and publicity, but that's the nature of the business," Dickau said. "We're on three hours later and they have more big cities and everything seems to be more compact."
Brooks has lived on both sides of the issue.
"I don't think the East Coast gives enough recognition, although they do give a little," he said. "It's all Big East and ACC, and the Pac-10, let alone the West Coast Conference, doesn't get the recognition they deserve."
As Brooks fiddled with an ice pack on his right wrist, he was asked if playing on the West Coast has changed his view on the subject.
He gave a quick look up and the down the locker room aisle before smiling.
"I'll always be East Coast at heart," he said.
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