Friday, October 24, 2008

How is GU Impacted by Olson's Departure?

Yesterday brought the college basketball world the stunning news of Lute Olson's departure as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. Olson is one of the great coaches of the last 25 years, as he amassed 780 wins throughout his Hall of Fame career. While there is no denying the greatness of Olson, the point of this blog is to examine things from the perspective of a Gonzaga University fan. The main question is, will GU be impacted by Olson's departure from Arizona?

- The most important aspect of Olson's departure, is that it opens up a head-coaching job at one of the top basketball schools in the Pac-10. And I am not alone in thinking that one of the first coaches that Arizona will contact at the end of the season is Mark Few. Arizona has announced Russ Pennell as the interim coach for this season, and unless he gets the Wildcats to the Final 4, this will likely be his only year as head coach. Here is what Gary Parrish had to say on the topic

"But again, I'm just throwing out Grant, Bennett and Pastner as back-up plans, because the first two options should be Few and Dixon. Both are experienced and proven winners with west-coast ties (Few has been in the WCC forever and is from Oregon; Dixon is from the Los Angeles-area and assisted Ben Howland at Northern Arizona in the mid-1990s) and still young enough (Few is 45, Dixon 42) to where it's reasonable to think they'll be going strong for at least another 15 years. And, yes, I honestly believe one of them (if not both) would accept an offer after this season under certain circumstances because they will both be facing revamped rosters in 2009-10, making it an ideal time to leave if they were ever going to leave (Gonzaga will lose Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs and perhaps Austin Daye after this season; Pitt will lose Sam Young, Levance Fields and perhaps DeJuan Blair)."

"As for Few specifically, at what point does he become bored killing folks in the WCC? You’ve got to think he'll want to try something new at some point, and Arizona would be a great situation, about as good a situation as would ever present itself. So those would be the reasons for Few to leave Gonzaga, to face a new challenge and see if he can run one of the nation's power programs."

TKR's Take: Parrish offers a very compelling argument for why Mark Few would leave. There is no denying that this Arizona is one of the premier jobs in the country. Many GU fans have long speculated that if Coach Few were to ever leave it would be to Oregon or to replace Lute Olson at Arizona. Despite saying all this, I still don't believe that Coach Few would leave for Arizona. My main argument for this is that Mark Few is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. He is the face of the program, and along with the early success of Dan Monson, he has built the program to these amazing heights. If he were to go to Arizona, would the Wildcats ever be his program? I don't believe so. Coach Few would spend every game of every season under the giant shadow that Coach Olson casts over the Arizona program. Olson built the Wildcats from the laughingstock of the Pac-10 to a perennial Final 4 contender. Does Few really want to subject himself to that microscope and scrutiny? Few has built Gonzaga to one of the premier programs in the nation, and is able to recruit the top talent across the country. Being in Spokane, he does not have the pressure of needing a Final 4 appearance every season to please the rabid fan base.

The other interesting aspect of Olson's departure is what will will happen with his recruiting class. The 09 class originally consisted of Abdul Gaddy (recruited by Gonzaga, from Tacoma), Solomon Hill (recruited by Gonzaga), and Mike Moser (from Portland, Oregon). According to Gary Parrish:

" Arizona's recruiting class is falling apart, as predicted. is reporting that both Mike Moser and Solomon Hill -- a pair of top 65 national prospects -- have decommitted from the Arizona program since Lute Olson's Thursday retirement, leaving Abdul Gaddy as the only Class of 2009 product still verbally committed to the Wildcats. However, a source has told that Gaddy will also likely decommit soon, and that UCLA is emerging as a probable destination.

Gaddy, a point guard from Tacoma, Wash., is ranked as the ninth-best prospect in the Class of 2009.

Arizona will announce later today that assistant Russ Pennell will coach the Wildcats on an interim basis."

TKR's Take: As much as I would love to see Abdul Gaddy in a Gonzaga uniform, it just isn't going to happen. At this point I would be beyond stunned if Gaddy isn't a member of the UCLA Bruins recruiting class. The more realistic prospects to look at are Solomon Hill and Mike Moser.

Solomon Hill is a 6'6 wing that has improved dramatically over the past year. However, I never got a great read on how serious GU was in its recruitment of Solomon. He expressed interest in visiting Gonzaga prior to his committment to Arizona, but at this point it seems that USC is the school to beat for Hill. However, if the Zags could somehow lure Hill to Spokane, he would be a great complement to a class of Dower and Arop.

Mike Moser is another available prospect who I would love to see the Zags go after. Moser is a 6'8 SF, who has a world of potential. At this point, Moser is an elite level defender, but his offensive game is a struggle. Moser is an incredibly hard worker, and has put lots of strength in the past year. He has also improved his offensive game, and demonstrates the potential to be an elite player. I'm not sure why the Zags haven't recruited him, as Moser is a native of Portland, Oregon.

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