Few Keeps The Wins Coming At Gonzaga

March 4, 2005

Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Gonzaga coach Mark Few isn't considered in the same league as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

But he's doing quite well in his first head-coaching gig.

In his sixth season at Gonzaga, Few's winning percentage of 81 is the highest of any active coach in Division I with at least five years on the job.

"They continue to impress and amaze all of us," said Brad Holland, coach of San Diego, the only West Coast Conference team to interrupt Gonzaga's string of five league tournament titles in the past six seasons. "They keep coming up with great talent and great teams."

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year in a much-tougher WCC, No. 12 Gonzaga (23-4, 12-2) once again won the regular-season title and a bye into the semifinals of this weekend's league tournament. The Zags are shoo-ins for a seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

To be sure, Gonzaga plays in the low-profile WCC, which doesn't provide the steady diet of top opponents that face teams in the power conferences. Few has not won a national title or led a team beyond the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

Still, the Bulldogs have become fixtures in Top 25.

Living in Spokane, a quiet city of 200,000 in Eastern Washington, Few, 42, and his staff have combed the world for players who allow the Zags to reload rather than rebuild each season. This team features players from Martinique, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand.

Few's Gonzaga teams are 156-36 since he took over at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season. He and North Carolina's Roy Williams (80 percent) are the only Division I coaches with at least five years experience who have won 80 percent of their games.

Few's 156 wins trail only Williams' 159 and former North Carolina State coach Everett Case's 161 among all sixth-year coaches.

Gonzaga and Duke are the only Division I teams that have lost fewer than 10 games in each of the past six seasons. Under Few, the Zags have records of 26-9, 26-7, 29-4, 24-9 and 28-3. They were 28-7 under Dan Monson in 1998.

Few spent 10 years as an assistant before succeeding Monson, who moved to Minnesota. Gonzaga has made seven NCAA appearances and three in the NIT since Few arrived on campus.

Through all his success, Few, the son of an Oregon minister, has remained a quiet, low-profile family man, displaying little interest in moving to a bigger program. Instead, he just built a big new house and indulges his love of fly fishing and building a national hoops power.

He said this has been a special season.

"This league championship means as much to us as anything," Few said. "The league is the best it's been in the 16 years I've been up here."

This season's team had only one senior starter, numerous freshman and sophomores in key roles, and a schedule that included Oklahoma State, Illinois, Washington and Georgia Tech. Throw in the WCC being rated by some as the seventh-toughest conference in the nation, and the stage was set for a Gonzaga pratfall.

Instead, the Bulldogs beat Oklahoma State, Washington and Georgia Tech.

"He knows what it takes for us to get success," said Ronny Turiaf, the only senior starter.

The team has the ability to beat any in the country when it's playing well, Few said.

Other WCC coaches credit Gonzaga's success with improving the league.

"What Gonzaga has done in the past five years is forced the other seven teams to raise the bar a little bit," Loyola Marymount coach Steve Aggers said. "They have forced a very competitive league."

Holland agrees.

"We've all had to recruit better and schedule better," he said.



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