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Boisean helped Zags get the ball rolling

Geoff Goss was there when Gonzaga reached its first postseason tournament. The Boise lawyer — and former point guard — is definitely going to be there if his beloved Bulldogs reach the NCAA Tournament's Final Four.

"It'd be real expensive. But it'd be worth it," said Goss, who played for Gonzaga from 1989 to 1994 and ranks fourth in career assists behind some guy named John Stockton.

It was during Goss' senior season that the Bulldogs first made a splash, setting all kinds of program records. Gonzaga, with Goss at the point, won its first West Coast Conference regular-season title and played in its first postseason tournament, the NIT.

Now that the school has established itself as the newest, and perhaps most unlikely, national basketball powerhouse, the 1994 season is often considered a turning point.

"Everyone up there gives us credit for that. Maybe they've had too many beers," Goss said. "It helped, and then the next five years the guys there totally jump-started the program."

Now the program is among the nation's elite. Since Mark Few became head coach in 1998, Gonzaga has won more games than anyone but Duke and Illinois. It has the second-highest winning percentage in that span.

No longer the Cinderella it was in 1999, when as a No. 10 seed it captured the nation's imagination with a run to the regional final, Gonzaga plays UCLA in the Sweet 16 today in Oakland in the sexiest matchup of the third round.

Goss will be there.

"It's one of those games that will supplant either team to the top of the West," he said with apologies to Washington.

No apologies needed. Washington is playing in consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history. Gonzaga is in the field for the eighth consecutive year.

They've made the amazing — and extremely rare — basketball leap from middling to national power, a transformation schools often cannot sustain longer than a few seasons or the eligibility of one great player.

Perhaps Memphis can do it.

But the Zags have already done it, weathering the natural progression of WCC players of the year from Bakari Hendrix to Casey Calvary to Dan Dickau to Blake Steppe to Ronny Turiaf to Adam Morrison, the best of them all and arguably the best player in the country this year.

"Back when we played, we had a really good group of guys that were good basketball players and highly competitive. Now they've got highly competitive guys that are great basketball players," Goss said. "I wish there was something to explain it better. It's bizarre how it's transformed over the last 12 years."

The Boise State football team has been able to put together an impressive string since 1999, amassing a 73-16 record.

The most striking similarity? A consistency in coaching staffs.

In 1994, Goss' senior season, head coach Dan Fitzgerald's staff included future Gonzaga coaches Dan Monson and current coach Few.

The Broncos' football position has passed similarly from Dirk Koetter to Dan Hawkins to current head coach Chris Petersen.

"It just started with the coaching staff and the vision that they had," Goss said.

But Gonzaga's growth has eclipsed anything anyone could have imagined. The team plays in a beautiful new arena and has the longest homecourt winning streak in the nation. It has attracted a rabid following in Spokane and around the region. There is now strong disappointment when the Bulldogs don't reach the Sweet 16, as they hadn't since 2001.

This year — with Morrison — only a Final Four berth will satisfy.

How far has Gonzaga risen? Opponents are complaining that the Bulldogs now get Duke-esque treatment from officials.

And to think in 1990, Goss' redshirt season, the Bulldogs went 8-20. At that point, no one was booking flights to the Final Four and wishing for a Duke-Gonzaga or, more to the point, a J.J. Redick-Morrison matchup in the national semifinal.

Now it's all CBS can think about.

And Goss, too.

"It's a little better than watching us in city league," said Goss, who was there in the beginning.

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