Just this week, Grand Canyon University athletic director Mike Vaught joined the Brad Cesmat Show and said the GCU basketball team is trying to emulate Final Four-bound Gonzaga.
Gonzaga head basketball coach Mark Few thinks the Lopes are well-equipped to become a college basketball power once they are eligible for postseason play this next season, thanks to the leadership of Jerry Colangelo and Dan Majerle.
“They don’t need any advice,” Few said. “They have the best leadership, two guys I’ve ever been around.”
“To me, they are a little bit of a sleeping giant with what they got going there. And the thing that I see is they have that growth mindset that Gonzaga has had during this whole run. (They) are definitely on the rise.”
So GCU has the leadership in place to help the Lopes leap to new heights, but what is the secret sauce to Gonzaga and their culture that makes them the program to emulate?
There are few better to ask than Gonzaga center and fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski, who is the winningest player in college basketball history.
“It says a lot, seeing how much Coach Few and other coaches and our AD Mike Roth came together to develop this program to be on the national stage,” Karnowski said.
“I think some of the other schools can look up to us because I think we are trying to do things in a unique way.”
GCU basketball checks those boxes with Colangelo, Vaught and Majerle leading the way. Doing things in a unique way? They put a focus on their basketball and soccer programs and created one of the most exuberant fan bases that made an impression on Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
— WAC (@WACSports) December 9, 2016
The perspective is a little different for Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews, who transferred from Cal and is in his first season playing for the Zags. Gonzaga always had the name and brand of a quality team, but being a part of it was eye-opening for the guard.
“I knew they were always good. Now being in it, it’s completely different,” Mathews said. “It’s built on the foundation of hard work and hustle. Coach Few says that’s who we are. We’ll never be pretty. He calls us “pound puppies” because we’re tougher and we play harder.”
Now, antelopes may not have the same grit as “pound puppies,” but with a student section named “The Havocs,” GCU seems to be well on their way to checking that box as well.