You probably know someone like us. Our weekly Thursday meeting was moved to Wednesday. A Friday conference call was scheduled for the Creighton game’s halftime. The mood at Saturday’s dinner was funereal, West Virginia having just massacred Notre Dame. Agony passed into ecstasy as Gonzaga punched their sweet sixteen ticket later that night.
Those who’ve never seen their alma mater at the Big Dance gawk at our fanaticism in a mixture of awe, confusion and pity. The NCAA basketball tournament is underway and March has turned us mad.
And this madness brings us together. Hardly anything can more quickly conjure a sense of family like a bar filled with monochromatically-clad patrons drinking a beloved team to victory. But that instant and fleeting sense of community pales in comparison to the fellowship found on the other side of the screen. Because hardly anything can more deeply conjure a sense of family than playing on a sports team.
Nigel Williams-Goss is Gonzaga University’s starting point guard. See why:
Williams-Goss is that rare combination of Wooden Award finalist and charming writer. He goes from court to pen to share an insider look at what it’s like to be a member of one of those sixteen families going to battle this weekend. Take this from his latest Players’ Tribune essay:
Everyone knows Mark Few by reputation: 18 years as coach at Gonzaga, 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, 15 conference titles. But beyond those stats, Coach Few is also known as the guy who put a Jesuit college in eastern Washington with 5,000 students on the national basketball map. He’s one of the reasons I came here.
I get to see a side of him most people don’t. So I’m going to try — as a psychology major — to give you my impression of him.
Coach Few has a lot of different sides to his personality. He’s a family man. He’s ultracompetitive. He delivers fiery speeches and he’s not afraid to be a disciplinarian. But at the same time, he also has sharp sense of humor — bordering on sarcastic — that caught me off guard at first.
In December we were in L.A. to play Arizona at Staples Center — a big game. Coach Few was getting really fired up in the locker room beforehand. He seemed to be freestyling his pregame speech. He was letting a bunch of expletives fly.
“We’re not here as a %&#* courtesy!”
He went on and on like that. He was much more animated than usual.
When he finished, we all sat there in silence. Even though we were ranked eighth, and the Wildcats were 16th, we hadn’t beaten them since 2011.
And then Coach said, “Oh man, and I just came from church right before this,” Coach said. “You better make that speech worth it.”
He was shaking his head, but we thought it was hilarious. We all busted up.
We won 69–62 that day. I don’t know if the mood he set before the game had anything to do with it. But I don’t think it hurt.
In that moment, I knew that coming to Gonzaga was the best decision I could’ve made. It felt like a family.
As you watch the Sweet 16 whittle themselves to a Final Four, enjoy the rest of his essay on how life on the campus of a Jesuit university feels like being part of a family. Read it here.