Ray Giacoletti is used to winning.
In his previous three head coaching jobs — North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and Utah — he posted winning records at each school.
As an assistant on Mark Few’s at Gonzaga from 2007 – 2013, he won 20+ games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each year.
Now, as he embarks on his first year on the job at Drake, Giacoletti hopes to transform the program into the next Gonzaga. Ambitious? Perhaps. But, he ostensibly knows what it takes to win and have success at smaller schools.
It’s more than just Gonzaga, though. Giacoletti has seen what Butler and Davidson have accomplished in recent years, and believes Drake — as an institution — is capable of finding that success.
“Maybe 10 years ago people didn’t believe you could do both,” he said Tuesday during the team’s media day. “You can do both. There’s enough people out there that have proved it. That’s something Drake needs to be, in the same sentence with Butler, Davidson and Gonzaga. That would be our hope and vision.”
Giacoletti understands a program cannot be transformed overnight: it takes an institution that is committed to success, a rabid fan-base behind the program, a good head coach, and strong recruiting — all traits of Gonzaga’s program.
He said: “Gonzaga’s been playing basketball for over 100 years. It’s the last 15 years that are prevalent. Before that, one thing rings out: John Stockton. That’s the only thing you can think of for that basketball program before 15 years ago.”
For the better part of 40 years, Drake has been stuck in neutral; many 14-18 wins seasons, but never truly becoming a fixture in the college basketball landscape. Aside from the 2007-08 season under Keno Davis where the Bulldogs went 28-5 earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament — a truly magical year that can aptly be categorized as a fluke considering their record in years before and after that season — Drake hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1971.
To make a parallel between Gonzaga and Drake, prior to Mark Few taking over as head coach in 1999, Gonzaga went to a mere two NCAA Tournaments in program history. Since then, 14 straight years — they have gone to the NCAA Tournament every season Few has been head coach.
Probably unreasonable to expect Giacoletti to have that kind of success right away, especially seeing as Few was a long time assistant with Gonzaga and knew the program inside and out, but it does demonstrate building a program is possible when the right people are in place and the school is committed.