Gonzaga introduced a basketball program during the 1907–08 basketball season. During that season, they had no coach, but managed to achieve a record of 9–2 (.818). In the 1908/09 season, George Varnell became the first official coach for Gonzaga, earning a 10–2 (.833) record during his only season with Gonzaga. Varnell was replaced by William Mulligan the following season, who acquired an 11–3 (.786) record. Frank McKevitt took over for Mulligan during the 1910–11 basketball season, acquiring an 8–1 (.889) record. From 1944 to 1994 the Bulldogs compiled a record of 628–531 (.542), earning regular season titles in 1965–66, 1966–67 and 1993–94. 1993–94 also saw the team qualify for its first postseason tournament, the NIT. A year later, the 1994–95 team would make the school's first appearance into the NCAA tournament, under coach Dan Fitzgerald.
In 1997, Gonzaga assistant coach Dan Monson, the son of veteran Oregon and Idaho basketball coach Don Monson, became head coach of Gonzaga as Dan Fitzgerald wanted to focus on his athletic director's duties. During his first season, Monson led the Zags to a 24–10 record and a WCC regular-season title, which was not enough to land Gonzaga an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. However, the Bulldogs would earn a bid into the 1998 National Invitation Tournament, where they beat Wyoming 69–55 in the first round before falling to Hawai'i 78–70 in the second round.
During the 1998–99 season, the Bulldogs finished with a 28–7 record and the conference tournament championship, which gave Gonzaga a 10-seed into the 1999 NCAA Tournament. In what would be the tournament's "Cinderella" run and Gonzaga's "coming out party" (Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament each year since) the Zags beat seventh-seeded Minnesota 75–63 in the first round and followed it with an 82–74 win over second-seeded Stanford to advance to the regional semifinals. The Zags would go on to beat Florida 73–72 to advance to the regional finals after Casey Calvary tipped in the winning basket with four seconds remaining. They trailed eventual national champion UConn by one point with a minute remaining before losing 67–62 in the regional finals.
After Dan Monson took the head coaching position at Minnesota, assistant coach Mark Few was named the new head coach on July 26, 1999. In his inaugural season, Few led the Zags to a 26–9 record, which was highlighted by winning the WCC Tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the 2000 NCAA Tournament with wins over Louisville and St. John's.
In the 2000–01 season, the Bulldogs faced a tough schedule highlighted by games against Arizona, Washington, Florida, and New Mexico. Despite starting the season 5–1, the Zags dropped four of their next five games. Gonzaga rebounded and finished the regular season 15–1 before winning their third consecutive WCC Tournament title. The win gave the Bulldogs an automatic bid into the 2001 NCAA Tournament, where they were given a 12-seed. In the first round game against fifth-seeded Virginia, Casey Calvary put back a blocked shot with nine seconds left to give the Zags an 86–85 victory. Gonzaga would go on to beat 13th-seeded Indiana State 85–68 in the second round to advance to their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. The Zags would go on to lose to defending national champion Michigan State 77–62 and finished the season with a 26–7 record.
Before the 2001–02 season started, the Bulldogs were unanimously favored to win the WCC title in the 2001–02 WCC preseason coaches poll. Few led the Zags to a share of the WCC regular season title, as Pepperdine also had a 13–1 conference record. The Bulldogs would avenge their only conference loss of the season by defeating Pepperdine 96–90 for their fourth straight WCC title. The win gave the Zags an automatic bid as a six-seed in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, where they would face 11th-seeded Wyoming. Despite beating the Cowboys in the 1998 National Invitation Tournament, they would end up losing 73–66, marking the first time the Zags lost in the first round of the tournament in the Mark Few era.
In the 2002–03 season, Few led the Bulldogs to their fifth regular season title in six years with a 12–2 conference record. Despite this, Gonzaga lost to San Diego in the WCC Tournament championship game 72–63, marking the first time the Zags had lost in the championship game in four years. Gonzaga garnered a nine-seed in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, where they beat Cincinnati 74–69 to advance to the second round of the tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Bulldogs would go on to lose to Arizona 96–95 in double overtime to finish 24–9.
The 2003–04 season marked the first time that the team participated in the annual Battle in Seattle game. Gonzaga faced third-ranked Missouri, who was the highest-ranked regular season opponent that the Zags had played against up to that point; they would go on to win the game in an 87–80 overtime victory. This season marked the last time Gonzaga would play home games in the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre; their last game in the building took place February 28, 2004, where they beat Santa Clara 80–64. The win gave the Bulldogs their first undefeated run through the WCC in school history with a 14–0 conference record. Gonzaga would go on to receive an automatic bid into the 2004 NCAA Tournament with a two-seed, which was the highest seed they had received in school history in seven tournament appearances. The Bulldogs would go on to beat 15th-seeded Valparaiso 76–49 before being upset in the second round by tenth-seeded Nevada 91–72, where they finished the season 28–3.
Gonzaga opened up the 2004–05 season with a home game against Portland State in the new 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center on November 19, 2004. Despite losing five seniors, including second-round NBA draft pick Blake Stepp, Few was still able to lead the Zags to their ninth regular season title since 1994 with a 12–2 conference record. The Bulldogs would go on to win their second straight WCC Tournament title, giving them an automatic bid into the 2005 NCAA Tournament as a three-seed. The Zags beat 14th-seeded Winthrop 74–64 before falling to Texas Tech 71–69 in the second round, where they ended the season with a 26–5 record.
Before the 2005–06 season got underway, Gonzaga junior Adam Morrison became the first player in team history to be named to the preseason Associated Press All-America team. The Zags also received their highest preseason ranking in program history at number seven in the USA Today/ESPN preseason poll. The Bulldogs captured their third straight WCC Tournament title when they beat Loyola Marymount 68–67 in the championship game. They received an automatic bid into the 2006 NCAA Tournament as a three-seed, where they beat Xavier 79–75 in the first round. The Zags would go on to beat Indiana Hoosiers 90–80, where they would advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. Despite being ahead by as many as 17 points, the Bulldogs ended their season in the Sweet 16 by losing to UCLA 73–71, finishing 29–4.
The 2006–07 season marked the first time that the Zags suffered at least ten losses in a season since the 1997–98 season. Despite this, Few still led the Bulldogs to their seventh straight regular season title with a conference record of 11–3. Gonzaga would go on to win the WCC Tournament for the fourth year in a row, being the only Division I school to do so that year. They received an automatic bid into the 2007 NCAA Tournament, where they were given a 10-seed. The Zags would end their season by losing in the opening round for the first time since 2001, as Indiana beat Gonzaga 70–57.
In 2007 the Bulldogs went 25-8, but lost in the Round of 64 to a Davidson led by Stephen Curry.
After two disappointing seasons, the 2008–09 team would win both the WCC Regular Season Championship and the WCC Tournament Championship. Entering the NCAA Tournament as a #4 seed, the team would reach the Sweet Sixteen before falling to eventual NCAA Champions North Carolina.
For the next five seasons, The team would fail to advance past the Round of 32. However, the 2014–15 team would advance all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion Duke. This was the first time since 1999 that Gonzaga had advanced to the Elite Eight while also winning the WCC Regular Season and Tournament championships for the third consecutive season. The 2014–15 would also set the school record with wins in a single season with 35.
The 2015–16 team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only to fall to Syracuse by three points.
The 2016-17 team won it's first 29 games before falling to WCC rival BYU.
Basketball started at Gonzaga in February 1905 after a gymnasium was put in as an addition to the east end of the new college building that was being built. In 1955, the basketball team moved from the gymnasium, nicknamed "the cave", and began to play at the newly constructed Spokane Coliseum. On June 3, 1964, construction began for a new 3,800-seat athletic facility called the John F. Kennedy Memorial Pavilion. To raise money for the $1.1 million project, Gonzaga's student body had each student pay $10 per semester until $500,000 was raised. The university matched that amount, while the remaining $100,000 came from contributions. Gonzaga's first game in the pavilion took place on December 3, 1965 against Washington State, who beat the Bulldogs 106–78. In 1986, the facility was renamed the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre after an eponymous donor donated $4.5 million to finance a remodel of the arena that could hold up to 4,000 people.
After competing for over 39 years in the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre, Gonzaga trustees approved construction for a new 6,000-seat arena on April 11, 2003. The McCarthey Athletic Center was named after Gonzaga trustee Philip G. McCarthey and Gonzaga regent Thomas K. McCarthey, who contributed a significant portion of the funds needed to build the arena. The first official game took place on November 19, 2004 against Portland State, whom the Zags would beat 98–80 in front of a sold-out crowd. The Bulldogs opened the arena with a 38-game winning streak, which was the nation's longest active winning streak at the time. When combined with 12 wins at the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre, the overall home-game winning streak ended at 50 games with a loss to the Santa Clara on February 12, 2007. In February 2015, BYU snapped Gonzaga's 41-game home winning streak in the McCarthey Athletic Center, which was also the longest active home winning streak in the NCAA at the time.
Through the end of the 2016–17 season, the Zags are 177–14 (.927) in the building, which includes a 80–8 (.909) record in non-conference games, a 95–6 (.941) record in conference games, and a 2–0 (1.000) record in the WCC Tournament.
On December 13, 2003, Gonzaga participated in a neutral court game at KeyArena that would later become an annual event known as the Battle in Seattle. The event marked the first time that a regular season Gonzaga basketball game was broadcast nationally on CBS Sports, as Craig Bolerjack called the action while Clark Kellogg provided commentary. Ranked third in the country, Missouri was the highest ranked regular season opponent that Gonzaga had faced up to that point; the Bulldogs would go on to beat the Tigers 87–80 in overtime.
The 2005 Battle in Seattle is remembered for Adam Morrison's game-winning shot against Oklahoma State that sealed a 64–62 victory for the Bulldogs. Gus Johnson's call at the end of the game with Bill Raftery was ranked fourth on a list of 25 of his most "over-the-top calls" by Complex. Johnson's call at the end of the game:
In 2008, the game broke the state attendance record for a regular season college basketball game, as a sold out crowd of 16,763 watched the Bulldogs play Connecticut.
In the 2016–17 season, Gonzaga failed to schedule the Battle in Seattle, ending an annual tradition of participating in the event every December for 13 consecutive years. Representatives from the Zags cited an inability to find a quality opponent to schedule and wanting to maintain strong résumé. The Zags have compiled an 9–4 (.692) record in the event since they first appeared in it back in 2003.
Freshman enrollment at Gonzaga in the mid-nineties hovered around 500 students annually, including a total of 569 as late as 1998. In 1999, enrollment jumped to 701 five months after the Zags went to the Elite Eight. This trend continued after Gonzaga won five games in the 1999 and 2000 NCAA Tournaments, as freshman enrollment increased to 796 in 2000 and to a record 979 in 2001. A 65-percent increase in the size of the freshman class between 1997 and 2003 is part of a phenomenon called the Flutie Effect, the increase in attention and applications for admission that results after a particularly notable and unexpected sporting victory by a school's athletic team. Gonzaga University president Rev. Robert Spitzer said that the team's success was responsible for the school receiving the $23 million required to build the McCarthey Athletic Center, most of which was received through major gifts.
Under Mark Few:
The Gonzaga Bulldogs lead the all-time series vs. all of the nine other current WCC opponents.
Since the season of Gonzaga's 1999 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament run to the Elite 8, Gonzaga has played a total of 84 games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll. Gonzaga has a record of 33–51 (.393) against such teams. They have beaten a team ranked #3 on three occasions (2003–04 season against Missouri, and the 2004–05 season against Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State), and beat a 2nd ranked North Carolina in November 2006.
Teams in bold represent games Gonzaga played in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs have appeared in 19 NCAA Tournaments, with a 20th appearance set for 2017. The 2017 tournament will be the Bulldogs' 19th consecutive appearance. Gonzaga's combined record is 24–19 (.558).
The NCAA began seeding the tournament with the 1979 edition.
The Bulldogs have appeared in three National Invitation Tournaments (NIT). Gonzaga's combined record is 2–3 (.400).
The 4 McDonald's All-Americans listed below have signed with Gonzaga. Zach Collins is the first of which to start his college career at Gonzaga.Bold: players active in the 2016–17 season
Last updated March 7, 2017
Boling, Dave (2004). Tales From The Gonzaga Hardwood. New York: Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1582612722.
Bradley, Bill (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York: Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 0345513924.
Withers, Bud (2002). BraveHearts: The Against-All-Odds Rise of Gonzaga Basketball. New York: Triumph Books. ISBN 1572434996.