Leon Rice Named Men's Basketball Coach

July 30, 1999

SPOKANE, Wash. -

Leon Rice, head coach at Yakima Valley College, has been hired by Gonzaga University head coach Mark Few, completing Few's inaugural staff after being named head coach of the Bulldogs last Monday.

Rice joins the Bulldogs from YVC, where he served two seasons as an assistant coach and one as co-head coach with the legendary Dean Nicholson, then served as head coach this past season. YVC went from worst to first in the first season of the Rice-Nicholson partnership, and this past season YVC went 31-2 in capturing its fourth straight Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Eastern Region title. The 31 wins were a school record and came four seasons after Rice and Nicholson inherited a program which had gone 3-20 overall during the 1994-95 season. YVC went a perfect 12-0 in the NWAACC this season and Rice earned his second straight Eastern Region coach of the Year honor.

The duo coached YVC to a 103-26 overall record and 40-8 league record in four seasons. Rice has coached 18 student-athletes who have gone on to play NCAA Division I basketball, including the Bulldogs' Quentin Hall who was a senior this past season. YVC has six players from the 1999 squad joining Division I programs this fall.

"Number one, it's a quality program, and not just because of last year (Gonzaga's run to the NCAA Elite Eight)," Rice said of his decision to join Few's staff. "The past eight years Gonzaga has been a model of consistency. The university is nationally respected, and obviously my association with Mark played a big part in my decision."

Few and Rice have known each other for 12 years, the two of them becoming acquainted when Rice was on Don Monson's staff at the University of Oregon and the two worked Monson's camp together.

"He's definitely someone you'd want your son to play for. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for Mark," Rice said. "He has the character and values of someone I'd like to work for."

With Bill Grier and Scott Snider remaining on the Gonzaga staff after Dan Monson's departure to the University of Minnesota, Few said he is excited about his staff with the addition of Rice.

"It's a fantastic addition to complete our staff. To be able to get someone with as much experience as Leon has recruiting on the road and knowing the ins and outs of the Northwest is a big advantage for us," Few said. "Plus, he brings a wealth of on-the-floor coaching experience. We'll be comfortable working together and he's very loyal. He brings with him a high level of enthusiasm and is very positive. I think our players will enjoy being coached by him."

Rice received his B.A. in physical education from Washington State University in 1986 and his M.A. in athletic administration, management and program development from Oregon in 1991. After one year of high school coaching, he began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon in 1989, then served two seasons as a fulltime assistant coach for the Ducks. He was the head assistant coach at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for three seasons prior to going to YVC.

Rice and his wife, Robin, have a 2-year-old son Brock and another child due any day.



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