TRACKING THE ZAGS
March 7, 2010
By Dale Goodwin
LAS VEGAS – Jeff Brown has never been good at taking a compliment. The three-time All-West Coast Conference basketball player and one of this weekend’s inductees to the WCC Hall of Honor, Brown reflected on his basketball career, post-Gonzaga.
“I played in Spain, Argentina, Belgium and Australia over a four-year span. It took each country about a year to figure out I wasn’t very good,” he said.
Au contraire. The 6-foot-9-inch gentleman from Spokane’s Mead High School led the WCC in scoring as a senior (21 points a game), drove Gonzaga to a 22-8 record and its first post-season berth in the NIT, and was named the league’s Player of the Year. During his three-year career the Zags won 61 games after not having posted a winning season in three previous years. He was also named academic All-American of the Year with a 3.68 GPA in finance/pre-medicine as a senior.
Upon completion of their basketball careers former Gonzaga teammate Jamie Dudley gave Brown a job in San Diego in a software firm. Brown moved to Spokane in 2001, and convinced 1982 Gonzaga alumnus Fred Brown (no relation) to hire him at his fledgling company, Next IT, in 2002. Jeff’s job was to help grow the company and find corporate markets for artificial intelligence. Jeff was employee No. 9, he thinks. The company now employees 135 people, about 40 of them Gonzaga alumni. Two recent hires have been David Pendergraft and Andrew Sorenson, straight off the 2009 men’s basketball team. Both are doing well.
This is the second class of WCC Hall of Honor inductees. Each year the league inducts a new class of eight members, one from each conference school. Frank Burgess was Gonzaga’s first inductee in 2009.
“I’m humbled to be a part of this Hall and this class,” said Brown whose Hall class includes basketball’s Bo Kimble from Loyola Marymount, soccer’s Brandi Chastain from Santa Clara and former Portland baseball coach and athletic director Joe Etzel, among others.
In addition to serving as vice president for marketing and sales at Next IT, Brown enjoys the companionship of wife Loriann and their two kids, Jack 6, and 4-year-old Luke.
Brown also enjoys following the Zags.
“This year’s team is light years ahead of the program when I was there,” he said. “It’s been a 10-year overnight success. Many schools have tried to model their programs after Gonzaga’s. It’s a lot harder to sustain success than it is to capture lightning in a bottle one time. 1999 was amazing (Gonzaga advanced to the Elite Eight) but to systematically grow this program, from recruiting to facilities to TV coverage, has been amazing.
“But what I am most impressed with is that the core pillars of this program have not changed in this chase for success. Seeing the size and scale of the program change, from ‘What is Gonzaga?’ to being one of America’s teams, has been heart-warming.”
Other Hall of Honor inductees are Zuzana Lesenarova, San Diego, tennis; Anja (Bordt) Suomalainen, Saint Mary’s, basketball; Gail Hopkins, Pepperdine, baseball; and Bob St. Clair, San Francisco, football.
TRACKING THE ZAGS is a regular daily feature of the Gonzaga University News Service during tournament play. This series, which runs throughout Gonzaga’s men’s and women’s postseason basketball action, provides a behind-the-scenes look at Gonzaga basketball for women and men. Catch games reports at GoZags.com. Check out alumni events associated with the West Coast Conference Tournament at Zagsonline.org.