EDITOR’S NOTE: SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett is a graduate of the University of Oregon but also a native of Spokane, Wash., location of Gonzaga University. With both schools in this weekend’s men’s Final Four, the possibility exists for an Oregon versus Gonzaga championship game on Monday night. Everett has been bombarded with questions about which team he would support, and in this first-person piece, he explains the multitude of deep, personal and emotional ties he has to both institutions. Everett kindly shared a first look at the essay he’s prepared for tonight’s 1 a.m. ET SportsCenter, which will include extensive coverage from Phoenix, site of the Final Four.
I never root against Gonzaga.
I grew up in Spokane. The first college game I ever saw was the Zags. Big Dave, my stepdad and a high school basketball coach, took me. They called the Gonzaga gym The Kennel. Led Zeppelin once opened for Vanilla Fudge there. I gotta whole lotta love for Gonzaga.
My Mom went to Oregon. So did my father. So did his father. Grandpa Neil nicknamed my dad Laddie. . . after Laddie Gale, who played for Oregon when it won the first NCAA basketball championship. . . the Tall Firs. . . 1939. Grandpa Neil was on the 1920 Oregon Rose Bowl team. Oregon’s in my blood.
In 1999, Gonzaga started an NCAA tournament run that’s been uninterrupted. Dan Monson coached the Zags within a whisker of the Final Four. Years earlier I was the guy who kept the stats for the guy who called Oregon basketball on the radio. The Ducks were coached by Don Monson, Dan’s father.
Don Monson coached against Big Dave’s team in Spokane. They eventually entered the local hall of fame together. Big Dave once coached Luke Ridnour’s dad. Ridnour was the point guard on Oregon’s 2002 Elite Eight team.
Mark Few and I attended Oregon at the same time. Our friendship, however, was formed much later through our support for Coaches vs. Cancer. My mom died of cancer while I was in college. Her funeral service was at St. Aloysius on the Gonzaga campus. A week earlier, we buried Grandpa Neil, the original Webfoot.
I always root for Oregon.