GLENDALE, Ariz. — This Final Four appearance by Gonzaga has allowed coach Mark Few to spend some time with former Bulldogs coaches who helped build the program into a national power. He doesn't want their contributions to be forgotten.
At his news conference Sunday, Few recognized Dan Monson, the head coach he replaced at Gonzaga, along with former Gonzaga assistants Leon Rice, Bill Grier and Ray Giacoletti.
Monson was an assistant at Gonzaga for more than a decade before spending two seasons (1997-99) as head coach.
The Bulldogs' first big NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight came with Monson as head coach.
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When he left for Minnesota, Few was promoted.
"It would never have happened without them. I never would have been coaching without Dan Monson giving me a job and believing in me and letting me grow," Few said.
Monson is the now the head coach at Long Beach State. Rice is head coach at Boise State after spending 12 years at Gonzaga as an assistant. Grier was a Gonzaga assistant for 16 years before leaving to become the head coach at San Diego. He now is an assistant at Colorado.
Giacoletti did six years as an assistant at Gonzaga in between stints as a head coach.
Williams reiterates UNC program did nothing wrong
North Carolina coach Roy Williams again says his program in particular did nothing wrong in the school's multi-year academic scandal that has led to charges from the NCAA.
"Were there some mistakes made? You're darned right there were. Were there some things I wish hadn't happened? You're darned right. But there were no allegations against men's basketball," Williams said. "Do I believe again that our institution, there were some mistakes, you're darned right I do. I'm very mad, sad, ticked off, any way you want to put all that terminology about it, embarrassed and all those things, too."
The scandal centers on problems in the academic department, including irregular courses between 1993 and 2011 that featured athletes across numerous sports making up roughly half the enrollments.
The NCAA has sent three versions of a Notice of Allegations (NOA) outlining violations in the past two years, with the charges including lack of institutional control. Williams' program is referenced along with football in a rewritten broad-based charge from the third NOA, though no coaches or program staffers are charged with misconduct.
Williams said the length of the investigation in some ways has been a punishment for his program.
"But we've received a tremendous amount of hurt already over the last three years," he said.
Williams noted that in his first 10 years at North Carolina he brought in 26 McDonald's All-American recruits. In the last three years, North Carolina has landed one McDonald's All-American.
"I don't think I got that dumb that quickly," he said. "So it was the doubt that people could put in — some of them directly, some of them indirectly. But still bringing up the doubt was something that was hard to deal with."
Williams on Meeks: 'He keeps coming back'
Williams says he's only been harder on one other player than he has on current 6-foot-10 senior Kennedy Meeks.
Meeks matched his career high with 25 points to go with 14 rebounds in Saturday's 77-76 win against Oregon in the national semifinals, a dominant performance inside that the Tar Heels desperately needed on a rough offensive night. Williams said he's only been tougher maybe on Brice Johnson — who arrived a skinny forward and left as a double-double machine and Associated Press All-American last season.
The 6-foot-10 forward was heavier than 300 pounds when he arrived as a freshman but is now around 260, which has long been a point of emphasis for Williams.
"He keeps coming back, keeps coming back, keeps coming back," Williams said. "And I keep pushing and keep pushing. And hopefully at the end, we'll both look back on it and think it's been a great partnership."
Final Four sees 44 percent increase in TV viewership
Saturday's Final Four on CBS drew 44 percent more viewers than it did last year when it was aired on TBS.
CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced Sunday that the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament averaged 16.8 million viewers, making it the second-most watched in the last 19 years. Only the 2015 Final Four that featured Wisconsin beating undefeated Kentucky drew more viewers.
CBS benefited Saturday from two close games. Gonzaga beat South Carolina 77-73 in the first game and North Carolina beat Oregon 77-76 in the nightcap. Last year's national semifinals were both blowouts, with a combined 61-point margin.
Zags, Tar Heels begin preparation for championship game
Gonzaga and North Carolina have turned their attention toward Monday's national championship game.
The teams are holding news conferences and a closed practice at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon after both earned tough wins in the national semifinals the night before.
The Zags beat South Carolina 77-73 in the first game. Then the Tar Heels beat Oregon 77-76 in the nightcap.
Gonzaga (37-1) is in the Final Four for the first time, while North Carolina (32-7) is in the Final Four for a record 20th time. That includes last year's run to the national championship game, where the Tar Heels lost to Villanova on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.