SPOKANE, Wash. — I graduated from Gonzaga in 1997. You know, before it was this cool to be a Gonzaga grad.
I started working at KREM in March of 1998, about a year before the whole Gonzaga experience blew up. How could I have ever predicted what the program would become and how a big part of my career has been so intertwined with their success?
From Spokane to Sacramento, Denver to Memphis, Boise to Buffalo, I've been all over the country chasing this team in the NCAA tournament as a photojournalist.
I've been to every tournament game since 2001. That's 48 NCAA tournament games in a row. When I say it out loud, I still don't believe it.
In that time, I've lived in three houses and had four kids. I've been blessed in so many ways. But lately, I was getting kind of nostalgic while watching the Zags dismantle St. Mary's and thinking over how many great stories I've been lucky enough to be a part of over the last 20-plus years.
That led me to put together a list of my top 20 favorite Gonzaga basketball stories. Here they are.
To watch the KREM 2 Bulldog Throwback special on YouTube, click here.
20) Jesse Wade: March 2017
Darnay Tripp, Evan Closky and I were chasing the Zags in Salt Lake City for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. One thing that Darnay was always so good at was wanting to get a bunch of work done right away so it would lighten our load later. So we got off that plane and headed straight out of town to do this story with Eric Wade, father of Gonzaga recruit Jesse Wade. Jesse was on his LDS mission in France at the time and we were able to arrange it so that we got a phone interview with him while we were at Eric's place. It's too bad things didn't work out at Gonzaga for Jesse, but it was great meeting his family. This will be a common theme throughout these posts: meeting some great Zag families.
19) Remembering Fitz: March 2017
Darnay Tripp, Evan Closky and I were on the second leg of our NCAA tournament journey in San Jose, and in true Darnay fashion, he made me work as soon as we got off the plane. We went right to the house of Jim Fitzgerald, who is the brother of legendary Gonzaga coach Dan Fitzgerald. We had a great conversation and got so many great anecdotes about Fitz. Evan did most of the heavy lifting through research and a couple other interviews, and as usual, put together a great story.
18) Dominick Harris: March 2019
Brenna Greene and I were on leg two of our NCAA tournament run, as the Zags got sent to Anaheim for the Sweet Sixteen. We drove out to Temecula and met Dominick Harris and family. Talk about some cool people. His parents and brothers are the nicest people and it was great hanging out with them. People often talk about the quality of kids that Gonzaga seems to attract, kids that fit their family-oriented culture. You meet people like the Harris family and it makes perfect sense.
17) Reuniting With Randy: March of 2017
Tom Sherry, Jane McCarthy and I arrived in Phoenix to cover the Final Four. Former KREM 2 anchor Randy Shaw was enjoying retirement in Arizona, so after a brief stop at a Mariners spring training game in search of Gonzaga fans, we headed over to Randy's house to catch up. It was cool seeing Randy again, but the best part was listening to Randy and Tom joke around. A lot of laughs that day.
16) Stockton Shorts: March 2017
I've been to Salt Lake City so many times to cover Gonzaga, it's like a home away from home. Yet, my sports friends always come up with something new. I don't even remember how Darnay found out about this kid. His name is Stockton Shorts, so named by his dad, who is a huge Utah Jazz fan. By the way, his middle name is Malone. Stockton Malone Shorts. We had to go check this out.
15) Player Reaction to Goodson Game-Winner: March 2009 in Portland
A loaded 4th-seeded Zags team got Western Kentucky in the second round. The 12th-seeded Hilltoppers upset Illinois to set up the matchup. Like most people, I thought the Zags would roll this team, but it came down to the last possession and a coast-to-coast journey by Demetri Goodson for the game-winning bucket. Tim Lewis and I gathered some of the best post-game sound I've ever gotten.
14) Jordan Mathews: November 2016
We wanted to get to know Jordan early on in his one and only year at Gonzaga. Darnay set up a one-on-one interview with him that included a few games of H-O-R-S-E (or in this case, Z-A-G-S). Darnay can't beat ME in H-O-R-S-E, so I figured this would be a quick shoot. Thus, I set up cameras pretty much everywhere to capture every Darnay miss and every Jordan one-foot bank shot.
13) Marcus Dawson and the Zag Room: March 2019
Brenna hooked us up with Zag superfan Brad Dawson and his brother Marcus. Brad has helped outfit his brother's room with an insane amount of Zag stuff and some of the GU players even took notice on Twitter. Very fun story.
12) Lithuanian Zag Fans: March 2016
Darnay and I were in Chicago for the Sweet Sixteen. We learned at the practice day that it is apparently a very Lithuanian city. There were a handful of Lithuanians at practice and they were all in on seeing Domantas Sabonis. This is easily the best story I ever got out of fans at the practice session, which is usually pretty boring.
11) David Pendergraft: March 2008
Tom Hudson and I did several stories on several about-to-be-done seniors over the years, but this one is probably my favorite. Pendo is one of the most beloved players who ever played at Gonzaga. It was fun putting this story together without a bunch of made buckets. Pendo pushing a guy. Pendo grabbing a rebound. Pendo diving on the floor. It captured what he was about pretty well.
10) Old Zags In Boise: March 2018
Evan Closky and I drove up to a really nice neighborhood in Boise (way to go, Zag alums!). We met up with former Zags Jarrod Davis, Jamie Dudley, and Geoff Goss, three guys who starred for the Zags in the Dan Fitzgerald era. Lots of funny stories and a little bit of tongue-in-cheek jealousy at how things have changed. I mean, those guys had to take a bus to Portland! There were no charter flights!
9) Brock Osweiler: Early 2008
Future (at least, at the time) Zag Brock Osweiler had verbally committed to the Zags as a sophomore at Flathead High School in Montana. Tom Hudson and I made a very snowy drive into Montana for this one. Brock played that night in Whitefish, where I put a mic on the play-by-play radio guy and got some television gold. After talking to Brock's dad, Tom and I got the distinct impression that night that Brock was going end up going to play football in college, which he ultimately did. He also made over $40 million playing for seven NFL seasons. Clearly, he made the right choice. No hard feelings, Brock.
8) Me and Darnay: March 2017
After the Zags beat Xavier to get to their first Final Four, Darnay wanted to do a segment that evening with just the two of us sitting on the steps outside the Spokane Arena chatting about the experience. It was such a fun moment knowing that the best was still ahead.
7) Nobody Wanted This: March 2010
The Zags got sent across the country to Buffalo, New York, for the first round. Nobody was too jazzed about making that long of a trip, so we walked the streets of Buffalo trying to find some characters to tell us about the city. We still laugh about the people we met that day.
6) The Pangos Family: March 2012
Tim Lewis and I made another long journey, this time to Pittsburgh (which is an awesome city, by the way). We were struggling to find some kind of fan-related story before heading to practice and we were running out of time quickly. We go to this touristy spot of the city and randomly bump into Kevin Pangos' parents, sister and high school basketball coach. We could not believe our luck. I have said it a million times: you find out why these players are such good people when you meet their families. The Pangos family was fantastic.
5) Steven Gray: Early 2007
I made a drive (and a ferry ride) to Bainbridge Island to see future Zag Steven Gray play that night. Tom Hudson had been calling the Zags game the previous night in Portland, so he met me in Seattle, hopped on the ferry with me, and we watched Steven put on a show. We made the last ferry and drove back that night, too. It took us forever to get back in white-knuckle driving conditions. I'm pretty sure the sun was coming up when I got into bed in Spokane.
04) Richie Frahm the Bike Rider: Summer 2013
Darnay Tripp and I caught up with former Zag great Richie Frahm, who decided to take his talents to the road and became a very competitive cyclist in the region. It was such a unique story and it made me feel like I wasn't in very good shape, which I wasn't. I also loved seeing him pull out all the jerseys from all the teams he had played for. If Richie Frahm isn't on your all-time Zags team, you are wrong and there is no hope for you.
3) Drew Timme in Texas: January 2019
Brenna and I landed in Dallas to cover EWU playing for the FCS championship, but first we had to go see future Zag Drew Timme that night. His Pearce Mustangs had a big rivalry game that night on the road and Timme destroyed them. That trip also ended with the Seahawks playoff game in Arlington, so needles to say, Brenna and I were EXHAUSTED when that trip was over.
2) Killian Tillie the Volleyball Player: February 2018
It took Darnay a while to get this one set up, but once he did, we nailed it. Killian was hilarious. I had never seen a dude set a basketball like a volleyball before. Another multi-camera shoot that paid off huge. I couldn't believe how he just kept making those shots.
1) Zag Legends Turned Coaches: Winter 2013
My friend Jane McCarthy set us up with former Zags Matt Santangelo, Mike Nilson and Ryan Floyd, who were coaching their kids on the same youth basketball team. We shot everything in that ugly old gym with terrible lighting but it was fantastic. So many hilarious moments. One of my favorite stories that I've ever done. The easy No. 1 choice on this list.