GLENDALE, Ariz. – No program is built on the back of one man. Mark Few is, and deservingly so, the face of this Gonzaga program, but plenty of other coaches have helped GU get to this point.
“So we talk about all these old assistants that are going to get together, two-thirds of them are here,” Leon Rice said.
Leon Rice now head coach at Boise State and Bill Grier, assistant coach at Colorado, spent 11 and 16 years at Gonzaga University respectively, and when the Bulldogs made their first-ever Final Four, it was important for Few to have these guys around.
“He said to me, ‘It was like we were laborers building this house and we kept building it.’ I said, ‘No, this wasn’t a house it was the great pyramids.’ Just to have a small part in it is humbling and in the end, inspiring,” Rice said.
No one could have predicted Gonzaga’s rise. For Grier, he was living off of former coach Dan Monson just to get by in the late 1990s.
“Yeah, I did odd jobs. I mowed the lawn, made dinner,” Grier said.
“Had to garden,” Rice said.
“I wasn’t making any money,” Grier said. “It was the only way I could survive.”
As for Rice, slumming it on the recruiting trail was the only way of life.
“We were sleeping on floors. We were driving instead of flying and, I mean, we were grinders, all of us. It’s all we knew Gonzaga could afford,” Rice said.
As former coaches who have now left the program, the one thing they continue to admire about Gonzaga, and head coach Mark Few, is its unbelievable steadiness.
“It’s so hard to get to the NCAA tournament one time, but to do it 18 straight times and to be consistent and build off that—it’s amazing what they’ve accomplished there,” Grier said.
No program is built on the back of one person, but one man’s vision can certainly take it a long way.
“He’s the one who thought you could do everything at a national level here in Spokane and with Gonzaga’s program.” Grier said.
“When you look back at that, to where it is now, it’s one of the elite programs—it is truly one of the most remarkable stories in sports of where it started and where it is now,” Rice said.
Grier was an assistant coach from 1991-2007 for the Zags.
Rice was an assistant coach from 1998-2010.