Gonzaga’s Mike Nilson is 'just in awe' of the Bulldogs’ success over the last 25 years

“I’m a little bit like the rest of the community — I’m just in awe for 25 years they’ve just been able to maintain this level of excellence. I’m just studying both the men’s and women’s programs and just finding out what is excellence, how do you get there and how do you maintain it for this long, is amazing,” Nilson said.
Photo by Erik Smith, Myk Crawford
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Few stories in American sports rival that of the Gonzaga men’s basketball program. 

The once small, Catholic Jesuit school in Spokane was put on the college basketball map over a quarter-century ago, and it hasn’t gone anywhere since. The Bulldogs are fresh off their 25th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and have been to nine straight Sweet 16s under head coach Mark Few, who boasts the highest winning percentage in men’s Division-I basketball history. Few and the coaching staff’s consistency and vision have denounced the “mid-major” title, as the Bulldogs have cranked out numerous All-Americans and NBA prospects en route to two National Championship game appearances and many more conference championships.

With success, however, comes expectations, followed by pressure. The Zags are well aware of that domino effect given the program’s last 25 years of consistency in the West Coast Conference and NCAA Tournament. But while outsiders share their viewpoints, some of which are negative, the internal focus has never wavered.

“The only thing that matters is what we talk and focus on,” Gonzaga’s Director of Performance & Nutrition Mike Nilson said. “The highs of the No. 1 seed weren’t that high for us … the most important thing was having a good practice that day. The lows were not that low either.”

Nilson, who played at Gonzaga and was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year in 2000, has worn many hats within the men’s and women’s basketball programs over the last 20 years. From sports nutritionist, strength and conditioning specialist and leadership coach, Nilson has enveloped himself in how the Bulldogs approach each and every day.

“[Gonzaga has] been such a huge part of my life. It’s where my family loves being, it’s where I spend time with my friends,” Nilson said. “It’s where I continually educate myself not just in strength and conditioning, but in life. It’s just such a great place.”

Nilson shared more about his roles with the men’s and women’s basketball program, the importance of leadership in sports and much more on an episode of Gonzaga Nation.

Watch the full episode on Gonzaga Nation's YouTube channel.

Produced by Thomas Gallagher.


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Cole Forsman


Cole Forsman is a reporter for Gonzaga Nation, a member of Sports Illustrated’s FanNation network. Cole holds a degree in Journalism and Sports Management from Gonzaga University.