By Peter Tormey
SPOKANE, Wash. – In the locker room after the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ third-round NCAA Tournament loss to Ohio State, senior center Robert Sacre fought the tears as he weaved and bobbed to avoid answering what he called “the question”:
“How does it feel to have played your last game as a Zag?”
Then, he relented.
“It’s sad. It’s sad, because you always think, ‘Ah, I can’t wait to be done with college, I can’t wait to be done with this.’ But when it actually gets here, it hits you like a wall. It’s sad, it’s frustrating, and it’s one of those things where you don’t want it to end, but when it’s here, it actually is heartbreaking.”
Sacre will be missed by all the Zags, from Coach Mark Few who called the 7-footer from Vancouver, B.C., a “once‑in‑a‑lifetime personality,” to junior guard David Stockton.
“You can’t replace Rob Sacre,” Stockton said after the No. 7 seed Zags fell to the 2 seed Buckeyes 73-66 on March 17 in Pittsburgh. “On and off the court, he’s been a great friend to everyone here and he will be there for anybody, no matter what.”
Earlier, Few called Sacre an important figure in Gonzaga’s program, which made its 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this year.
“He walks into our arena, I can hear from my office when he comes in, every person he meets I think feels like they’re a friend of his,” Few said. “He’s just been a joy to coach.”
Junior forward Elias Harris said Sacre the player – and the person – will be missed.
“We all know how great of a leader Rob is,” Harris said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the night you call. He would stand up and help you out. He helps the younger guys out. He helped me out.”
Before his final Gonzaga game, Sacre said he wanted to win most to keep playing with the team he loves.
“I just want to make this season go longer than it needs to be,” Sacre said. “I’m so proud to be with this team and I’m so proud to be with this great group of guys that I want it to go further.”
Sacre, who has already graduated, summed his time at Gonzaga, saying: “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”
After Sacre’s last Gonzaga game, Few said this season was the most fun he has ever had coaching.
Was fun, then, key to the Zags’ success this season?
“Oh, most definitely,” Sacre said without hesitation. “It’s a game, that why we played it. If you just play basketball to have fun, that’s the most important thing.”
For all of the many honors and accolades throughout his basketball career, people remain most precious to Sacre, who hopes to continue playing hoops professionally.
“I have buddies who flew from all over the country to come and support us,” Sacre said, smiling in the Pittsburgh locker room. “They lived across the hall from me in DeSmet (Hall). I still keep in touch with all my buddies. I keep in touch with all my teammates. That’s the best thing about this program and the school.”
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