Gonzaga Coach Few Has Found Balance In Life

Nov. 20, 2001

By Dale Goodwin
Director of Public Relations

SPOKANE, Wash. -

Mark Few is a quiet, unassuming man whose personal characteristics somewhat defy his chosen profession.

Few is quite reserved by nature. He'd rather be fly fishing a secluded Northwest stream or bouncing his nearly 2-year-old son A.J. on his lap than simmering in the national spotlight most of the year.

But three straight trips to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA men's basketball tournament have made the Gonzaga head coach a media target and the object of grocery store discussion.

"I used to be able to go to the grocery store in a ratty t-shirt, cutoffs and thongs," Few laughed. "But now that people know who I am I can't get away with such sloppy dress."

Few also admits that the Bulldogs' journey into the national limelight has forced him to become more social, "which is a good thing," he said. Now everyone wants to talk basketball with the third-year Bulldog head coach.

But wife Marcy isn't complaining.

"Mark makes the best of the time he has with us," Marcy said. "Mornings are family time. Sundays we go to church, out for coffee and AJ has his run of the Rockwood Bakery.

"I never saw this life coming," Marcy continued. "But it has allowed us to do a lot of traveling. The tough part for Mark has been his adjustment to being in the public eye wherever he goes. His career has allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. That's good."

Few has made a lot of sacrifices for the sake of his family.

"I have to turn a lot of things down, such as speaking engagements and personal appearances because I value that family time very much," Mark said. "I'm away from home a lot, but it could be a lot more."

But he's able to maintain a balance he has found to be important in life. Perhaps his upbringing in the home of a Presbyterian minister had something to do with it.

"God is first, family is second and self is third," Mark said. "That's the way I was brought up and that's the way Marcy and I feel about our family. The love that emanates from that carries over into everything we do."

That includes his coaching. For Few, his basketball team is his second family.

"Building a team is like building your family," Mark said. "You set the foundation of basic principles, then give your players the freedom to do their thing without them looking at the bench wondering what we're thinking."

Few thanks God every day for the opportunity to coach young men at Gonzaga. "I am constantly running into coaches who tell me how lucky I am to be coaching at a place where the players actually listen to you, and they and enjoy playing with each other. I know how fortunate I am to be coaching such high character, high caliber people."

Few came to Gonzaga in 1989 as a graduate assistant to Dan Fitzgerald. Few's buddy Dan Monson was Fitzgerald's full-time assistant. Few had coached high school basketball for five years, and decided the opportunity to pursue his master's degree and concentrate on just one thing, coaching, was a good move for a 27-year-old single guy from Eugene, Ore.

After two years Few became a full-time assistant, and was named associate head coach when Monson became head coach in 1997. The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight during Monson's second year as head coach, and he left to take the reigns at the University of Minnesota.

"It was an unbelievable 72 hours," Few said, recalling a weekend in July 1999 when Monson was offered the Minnesota job. "I was happy for Dan, excited about the opportunity, but I felt tremendous apprehension. Being the dark horse the previous year, we hadn't received a lot of attention. But my first fall as head coach we were inundated with media requests. Our guys did a great job of staying focused and taking care of their responsibilities, despite the bright spotlight and crazy expectations on them. I was very proud of them."

In two years as head coach Few has taken teams twice to the Sweet Sixteen, and compiled a record of 52-16, third best in NCAA Division I since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

So what about this season? "We have to replace two unbelievable leaders," Few said, referring to Casey Calvary and Mark Spink. "We have enough tools in the shed to have a great year, but that will take staying healthy and coming together as a group."

The Bulldogs return Zach Gourde and Cory Violette up front, and will receive depth from 6-foot-10 Ronny Turiaf, from the island of Martinique, and Dustin Villipique from Simi Valley, Calif. Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp will be joined in the backcourt by 5-10 speedster Winston Brooks, a transfer from North Idaho College.

"We may run some three-guard offense," Few said. "I've always liked that."

So why Gonzaga? Few chose the place because of the opportunities it provided him to improve himself and the program. He has stayed because of the people.

"This a is a great people place, and I tell that to all of my recruits," Few said. "I just hope people realize what this program has accomplished with limited resources and against the teams we have played.

"I don't plan on going anywhere else. This is a great fit for Mark Few and his family."



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