Good stuff on Gonzaga’s culture built over the last 25 years from Seth Davis. in The Athletic.
When Kispert took his official visit in the spring of 2016, the player who hosted him, Josh Perkins, drove him back to his hotel. Along the way, Perkins pulled his car over, turned to Kispert and said, “Ask me anything.” Their candid conversation sealed Kispert’s decision to come on board despite having received offers from most of the Pac-12 programs as well as Notre Dame and Virginia.
In his bestselling book The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle describes that kind of gesture as a “belonging cue.” Perkins wanted to make Kispert feel like he belonged because Kevin Pangos had once made the exact same offer to him. Once Perkins got to Gonzaga, Pangos continued to mentor him because that’s what his fellow Canadian Kelly Olynyk had done for Pangos when he arrived in the fall of 2011. And on and on it goes.
Coyle wrote that when he asks people from highly successful groups to describe their relationship with one another, “they all tend to choose the same word. This word is not friends or team or tribe or any other equally plausible term. The word they use is family.” That’s the essence of the culture at Gonzaga, and the players rigidly enforce it. It is not uncommon for guys to tell Few and his staff not to recruit a prospect who indicated during a visit he wouldn’t buy in (especially important as Gonzaga’s recruiting has come with more stars; it just welcomed the nation’s No. 13 recruiting class to campus, led by a pair of top-50 recruits). Three of Few’s former players are on staff, most notably assistant Brian Michaelson, whose dogged earnestness has been invaluable in recruiting. The practice gym is frequently populated with former Zags. They serve as a constant reminder to the current players of what it means to belong. “When they were recruiting me, I came here for a camp,” Raivio says. “They had all these NBA guys there. The pickup games started at 9 p.m. and went to 1 a.m. And they were highly competitive. I thought, I want to be here. It felt like a fraternity.”