Gonzaga hoping for better results this time around in Buffalo | NCAA tournament
Buffalo, N. Y., the site for Gonzaga's first-round game against Florida State, is memorable for GU program insiders. But the Zags would...
Seattle Times staff reporter
NCAA first round: No. 9 Gonzaga vs.
No. 8 Florida State, 4:10 p.m., Ch. 7
Buffalo, N.Y., the site for Gonzaga's first-round game against Florida State, is memorable for GU program insiders. But the Zags would just as soon create a different kind of history Friday.
The season was 1993-94. The coach was Dan Fitzgerald, the colorful character who died of a heart attack in January at 67.
Early in December that season, the Zags traveled to Buffalo to face Canisius and Niagara on back-to-back nights in the Canisius Classic.
Two of Gonzaga's best players, Jeff Brown and Geoff Goss, were bothered by injuries and struggled. The Zags got dropped by Canisius the first night, 81-66, and followed by losing a 63-61 decision to Niagara.
"I have a great recollection of that trip," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few wryly. "It was not a stellar (24 hours) for the Zags."
Among the hard-charging Fitzgerald's many idiosyncrasies were that he took losses especially hard, often driving his assistants to dissect video all night; and he was prone to making especially harsh forecasts about his team's future.
After the Canisius loss, the three assistants — Few, Dan Monson and Bill Grier — were in a room, breaking down Niagara video and working up a scouting report.
"Fitz would love to come and watch the film of the game just played," Grier, now coaching at San Diego, said Monday. "If he came in and wanted to watch film, it went from finishing at like 3 (a.m.) to finishing at like 6."
Between 1 and 2 a.m., there was a knock on the hotel door.
Said Grier: " 'Mons' looked at Mark and me and said, 'If either one of you answer it, I'll kill you.'
"We didn't answer it."
After the Niagara loss, dropping the Zags to 1-3, Fitzgerald, in characteristic doomsayer mode, issued his prediction.
"This team will not win more than eight games," Grier remembers him saying.
Actually, it went 22-8 and won the first West Coast Conference regular-season title in school history.
Said Few, laughing: "People in Buffalo are going to be shocked that that team went on to win the conference that year."
Leonard Hamilton, the Florida State coach, is not only for expansion of the tournament to 96 teams. He doesn't see why it shouldn't just go another full weekend, to 128.
The Seminoles tied in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 10-6 with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies were left out of the field.
"I think you ought to just double it," Hamilton said, referring to Tech, "so you take a lot of those scenarios out of the game."
• Gonzaga is 10-6 against the ACC all-time. But it was 10-3 before a current three-game losing streak that includes the Sweet 16 tournament ouster a year ago to North Carolina, plus losses to Wake Forest and Duke this season.
• If either team can be respectable at the foul line, it may be pivotal. Gonzaga is 252nd nationally, at 66.3 percent, and FSU is 290th at 64.6.
• The Gonzaga contingent, including band and cheerleaders, is due to leave Wednesday for Buffalo.
• Guard Matt Bouldin remembers a trip to Niagara Falls, outside Buffalo, when he was 12. He rode "Maid of the Mist," a boat cruise, but said, "My dad was too scared. He just videotaped it from the deck."