Gonzaga coach Mark Few is an obvious target for Oregon
Gonzaga coach Mark Few, an Oregon alum, might be tempted to replace Ernie Kent as Ducks coach.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Mark Few has done this drill before. A few minutes after Gonzaga's Sunday clunker against Syracuse, he was asked by a Spokane TV reporter about his commitment to staying at the school.
Few gave the non-answer answer, as he has always done. And now begins the dance that takes place every year, as predictably as Gonzaga's 20-win seasons.
Except this one could be different. And not only because he might really leave.
As the Stones sang more than four decades ago, when Few was a toddler, this could be the last time. Few has become so choosy, so discriminating in mapping his future, that it's now realistically down to one option if he is to depart Gonzaga.
That would be Oregon, his alma mater.
Few has turned his back on a number of jobs in his 11-year tenure as Zags head coach, Washington among them. In doing that, he has made it clear he isn't just job-hopping, hoping to make a big score. Location and quality of life are transparent in his priorities.
So the planets have aligned, and now Ernie Kent is out of a job at Oregon, and a $200 million arena is blocking out the sky just east of the UO campus. As all that was taking place, the Ducks were nosing around to gauge Few's interest, if discreetly.
You'll recall this happened a year ago. Then-athletic director Pat Kilkenny talked at some length with Few to measure his willingness, in a Ripley's episode of headhunting. Kilkenny is a longtime Gonzaga booster, and annually kicks into a kitty that enhances Few's contract. So there he was, attempting to separate the coach from a deal that he helps make possible.
Few said no. What could have changed, then, in a year?
Two things: The Ducks have offed Kent, whereas a year ago, it's believable that Few might not have felt comfortable helping to unseat a colleague.
Then there's this: "I don't think he feels quite as appreciated as he did three or four years ago," said somebody familiar with Few. "People start bitching. They've gotten pretty unrealistic."
There are Zags zealots who have forgotten where they were a dozen years ago. They had never won an NCAA tournament game in 1998, and now they've won 15. But the monster has a big appetite in college sports, and the buzz is, there was a good deal of grumbling when Gonzaga got whacked by Saint Mary's in the WCC final.
It's fair to assume those folks were more perturbed with the NCAA loss to Syracuse than they were pleased with the opening-round victory over Florida State.
Few doesn't have a lot of patience for that. Sunday, shortly after the Syracuse game, I postulated to him that the "trick" was for people to look at the big picture and see the 27 victories in a rebuilding season rather than dwell on the hell the Orange wrought.
"That shouldn't be a trick," Few responded sharply. "That should be what everybody does. I don't know why you'd identify a seasonlong journey with one game."
Of course, Oregon has boosters, too. And those advancing the notion that the Ducks can unleash millions on Few should know that upping the ante will also dial up the expectations on him, and quickly.
If that's a nuanced concept, this one isn't: Few would have a whole new set of glad-handers to deal with.
"He doesn't really want to put that energy into something new," said the aforementioned source. "When you're out meeting new boosters, you're not fishing. It takes so much of your family and free time."
There are those coaches caravans each May that Pac-10 programs conduct, parading their guys through golf rounds and dinners in whistle-stop towns for the purpose of raising dollars. Few would embrace those about like gastritis. At Gonzaga, he can come and go almost at his own whim.
Now there's the added uncertainty around Oregon's athletic director, with the Friday surprise that Mike Bellotti is off to ESPN. While we all recognize Phil Knight as the godfather of all things green and yellow, and Kilkenny remains a key figure there, you'd think you'd want to know who the boss down the hall is, assuming it's not Kilkenny.
True, the Ducks probably have a bigger upside than Gonzaga (though the Zags' ceiling would be higher if they didn't keep bumping into No. 1 seeds in the tournament). But the new Oregon coach better be exploring that territory relatively soon; the Ducks probably won't be into five-year plans.
In any case, after all those years of speculation and rumors that he'd jump someplace, this might be the climactic, crowning test of Few's vision. If offered, maybe this will be the one in which he finally says, "It's time."
I doubt it.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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