Thirty minutes before tip-off of Kraziness in the Kennel, Zag fans around McCarthy collectively glanced down at their phones to find out head coach Mark Few would not be present for the scrimmage or the first three games of the season as punishment for his DUI arrest.
Few was pulled over in Couer D’Alene, ID after reported erratic driving on Monday, Sep. 6th and arrested before being released from police custody later that evening.
“I have had a month to reflect on the regretful decisions I made on Sept. 6," Few said in a statement. "I again offer my sincere apology and I remain committed to learning from this mistake. As a consequence of my error in judgment, I will not be present at Kraziness in the Kennel, and the first three games of our season."
The news means Few will not be in attendance for the teams first two exhibition games or the opening contest against Dixie State in addition to missing Kraziness.
Although the announcement may come as a shock to the Zag faithful, it certainly didn’t dampen the electricity inside the Kennel as fans returned in full force for the first time since Feb. 29, 2020.
The Kennel Club faithful made themselves right at home an hour before tip-off; chanting, dancing and screaming for anything that dared to be encouraged on the court.
In a change from prior years, players were introduced on a stage on the court instead of running down the stairs of the student sections. Fans were greeted by every rostered player on the GU team, but none were welcomed more loudly than freshman Chet Holmgren and junior Drew Timme. The big men on campus were treated to a celebrity welcome before Timme addressed every loyal Bulldog fan in attendance.
“We couldn’t be more appreciative for all that [the fans] have done for us,” Timme said. “None of this is possible without you guys… and we’re taking it all this year, so be ready.”
The national runner-up banner from last year was unveiled to the sold-out crowd before the festivities commenced. The fluttering blue drape serves as an homage to the team that went 31-1, and as a motivator for a program still seeking an elusive National Championship.
Nostalgia aside, Kraziness kicked off with a three-point contest between Matthew Lang, Nolan Hickman, Andrew Nembhard and Holmgren. Hickman and Nembhard met in the championship round and tied before Hickman was crowned the winner with a sudden-death swish to end the shootout.
A skills showcase between the front court forwards on the team followed, with Ben Gregg narrowly defeating Anton Watson in a matchup that could play out on the court this season as the two compete for minutes on a crowded roster.
Julian Strawther and newcomers Hunter Sallis, Rasir Bolton and Kaden Perry took to the floor next to treat the fans to a dunk contest. The freshman from Omaha, Nebraska, stole the show. Sallis took off from outside the lane before flushing a between-the-legs dunk off the bounce to steal the show and the contest.
Cue the Blue and the White.
The White team starting five included Sallis, Gregg, Nembhard, Watson and Martynas Arlauskas while the Blue team started Strawther Holmgren, Bolton, Timme and Hickman for the scrimmage.
Gregg won the tip over Holmgren and the Bulldogs were running.
Each side featured heavy doses of pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs like in years past. Defensively, the Zags hounded the ball handler in pick-and-rolls, jumping out to cut off passing and driving lanes.
Zag fans were most eager to get a first look the highly touted Holmgren. In his first game in a GU uniform, the 7-foot center struggled with turnovers and ball control but flashed his talent by stuffing a Kaden Perry layup attempt and following misses with tip-in finishes.
No one stood out more than Nembhard.
The senior guard finished with 10 points and three assists in a performance that illustrated just how indispensable the Florida transfer will be to the Zags.
The scrimmage ended in a 38-38 tie after Gregg hit a three with seconds remaining. In a play eerily similar to Jalen Sugg’s buzzer beater against UCLA, Hickman missed the final shot of the contest from beyond half court.
Timme did not walk back his championship comments from pregame, instead doubling down.
“Why wouldn’t I be confident?" Timme said. "I feel like we’re the best team in the country. I’m going to stand by that as long as I live."
More important than his own bravado is the absence of his head coach.
“Coach is a great leader," Timme said. “No one’s perfect and everyone messes up. He’s taking his punishment like a man and he’s owned up to it.”
“I think we’ve handled it well, but we’re more hear to talk about basketball,” Nembhard said.
No coaches were made available for comment, but assistant Roger Powell Jr. coached the Blue team while assistant Brian Michaelson coached the White.
The last time the men’s basketball program faced a suspension for DUI was when standout Josh Perkins received a two-game suspension for having physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. Perkins missed an exhibition game and the 2016-17 season opener.
The Zags next contest is against Eastern Oregon State on Oct. 31 in the Kennel.