LAS VEGAS — Gonzaga was picked second in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches’ poll behind Saint Mary’s, just the second time the Zags were not ranked first since 2001.
It was an obvious topic of discussion at WCC Media Day on Thursday, but it probably didn’t generate as many questions as the ongoing discussions between Gonzaga and the Big 12 Conference.
Several COE coaches, including Gonzaga’s Mark Few, and commissioner Stu Jackson weighed in on conference realignment and the possibility of the Zags joining the Big 12, which previously added former COE member BYU.
“It’s COE Media Day (and) we’re playing COE this year, so I mean that’s kind of all I’m focused on right now is the year ahead ” Few said. “This thing has been going on for a while. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
The Zags and the Big 12 have had a constant dialogue for about a year. He came back to the forefront earlier this week with reports of high-level conversations involving GU’s administration and Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, who wants to bring in the Zags as a 17th member to add to that which is widely considered the best basketball conference in the country. the country.
A final decision could come as early as next week. The Zags could potentially make the move after this season or in two years, according to reports.
“Totally,” few responded when asked if this was the reality of today’s academic landscape. “Whether it’s transfers or players or conferences, you just live today and live in the present and try to make it the best day possible and you’re totally committed to trying to make it the best year we’ve ever had and the best year these guys (Anton Watson and Ryan Nembhard) have ever had.
“Kind of narrow it down to that so it makes it easier, so I’m not worried about all these things that haven’t happened or might not happen.”
Jackson, hired as WCC commissioner last March, oversees the current nine-team conference.
“I’m a New Yorker, I like action,” Jackson said, when asked whether his first eight months on the job had been disruptive because of conference membership shuffling. “In all seriousness, we all know we live in a fluid landscape. It is up to us all to have information to understand the landscape.
“And to that end, you are able to use that information to strategically help stabilize or steer our conference in the right direction that makes sense for us.”
Jackson said expansion is likely, but not inevitable after BYU leaves for the Big 12, starting this season. Jackson, who served in several coaching roles during his career, including as an assistant at Washington State from 1983 to 1985, said his approach as commissioner was similar to that of coach .
“Any good coach worth his salt these days, you have to manage your squad,” he said. “I don’t think it’s much different from being a commissioner. You just have to do your best to manage your list each year.
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett had a one-word reaction to the Pac-12’s shrinking in favor of the Pac-2.
“It’s crazy,” he said. ” That does not make sense. They could have kept this league together. I don’t really care about the Pac-12, I care about West Coast basketball, our West Region. Blowing it all up wasn’t right. I’m sure it happened for a good reason to someone, but I think it could have been handled better.
When asked specifically about GU and the Big 12, Bennett noted, “Anything can happen now. If we spoke last year and said the Pac-12 would no longer exist and it would be the Pac-2, that wouldn’t have been a conversation. We would have said to ourselves: “You are crazy”.
“I think the biggest problem in all of this is controlling what you can control. That’s what Gonzaga does. If that’s what’s best for them, I think that’s what they’ll do. Every school needs to see it this way.
LMU excited about Harris’ talent
Loyola Marymount coach Stan Johnson praised Gonzaga transfer Dominick Harris when he met with reporters in one of the final media sessions of the day.
He also had a warning.
“I was telling someone earlier that Dom is still in the early stages of his ordeal,” Johnson said. “He still hasn’t played, so that gives him the right expectations and gives him a chance to succeed.”
Johnson still envisions Harris playing a big role for LMU, which lost its top three scorers in the backcourt, including first-team All-WCC selection Cam Shelton, a 21.4 points per game scorer for the Lions in 2022-23.
Starting guard Justin Ahrens graduated and Jalin Anderson, a 14-game starter for LMU last season, entered the transfer portal before landing at Ball State.
Harris was the first of three players on Gonzaga’s 2022-23 roster to enter the transfer portal. He committed to LMU on March 4 after considering a few other schools, including former COE rival BYU.
“We needed to add talent and depth at guard,” Johnson said. “With COVID hitting, our teams over the last few years – I feel like we just haven’t had the depth that we need to have in this league. I loved who Dom was and I believed in his talent and I believe he’s a great kid.
A former four-star recruit, Harris signed with Gonzaga as part of a loaded 2020 recruiting class that also included possible first-round NBA draft picks Jalen Suggs and Julian Strawther. Harris struggled to carve out a role in Gonzaga’s backcourt as a rookie and missed the 2021-22 season with a foot injury.
Despite his offensive versatility and strengths as a defender, the injury setback made it difficult for Harris to crack Few’s rotation last season. Harris only made 13 appearances, totaling 57 minutes overall.
“His talent is awesome,” Johnson said. “Talent for talent, he might be our most talented player in terms of gifts.”
Drew Timme often worked WCC programs and non-conference opponents during his decorated four-year career, but the three-time All-American moved on to the pros.
The Gaels’ Bennett likes the idea of not having to prepare for Timme’s assortment of moves for the first time in four seasons.
“It won’t bother me,” Bennett said. “It was a burden, but they will ask the guys to step up. They run a program like we run a program. Their guys are developing. But I will go back, everything will be fine with me. Timme is not here. It was a tough match (for) the three guys we played against him.
Timme is with the Milwaukee Bucks on an exhibition 10 contract.