While the continuity and familial feel of the Gonzaga coaching staff over the past 10 years has helped develop Gonzaga into the national program it is today, it could also be argued that sometimes the best thing to happen to a program is a change of style and approach. When Billy Grier left to take the USD job, Ray Giacoletti joined the staff and has helped improve the defensive production and toughness level of the program (I know we all want to see this continue to improve, but it is important to note the strides the program has made since Adam Morrison left). With Leon Rice taking over the Boise St. program, Coach Few took advantage of the opening on the staff and made an absolutely tremendous hire.
"We lost a phenomenal coach and person, but we've gained a phenomenal coach and person," Few said. "We were able to hit a home run with our hire."
"He’s been on the bench for four Final Fours," Few said. "He recruited those guys, developed them and coached them. He’s flat out one of the best assistants in the country."
I agree with everything Few said in his press release regarding Daniels. The first thing that jumps out about Daniels is the recruiting success he has had on the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest specifically. Daniels has long been considered one of the elite recruiters in the country (Rivals ranked him as one of the 25 best recruiters in college basketball), helping put together numerous Top 5 classes at UCLA. The recent history of commits to UCLA include Josh Smith (this could be huge in the recruitment of Gary Bell Jr and future Seattle Rotary Select guys), Mike Moser, and Kevin Love. Bringing in a coach with this kind of recruiting success and track record is huge for the staff in landing some of the elite talent on the West Coast. Also, it's important to note that both Kyle Wiltjer and GBJ (Gary Bell Jr) were being pursued pretty heavily by UCLA. I love this quote from Coach Few in the Spokesman Review about recruiting.
"Donny and I have had some great recruiting battles through the years," Few said. "And you’d always walk away, even when you lost, respecting the job he did. We’ve ended up recruiting a lot of the same guys, going back to when I was an assistant and even as a head coach. When Donny walked into the gym it was, ‘Uh oh, we have our hands full now.’
While I would have been ecstatic with this hire just based on the recruiting success he has had, it's also important to remember how great of job Daniels has done as a coach. Along with the rest of the UCLA staff, Daniels has taken some guards like Russell Westbrook, Darren Collinson, Andre Miller (while at Utah) and Arron Afflalo and developed them into NBA prospects. Daniels has been to four Final Four's as an assistant coach and comes with an excellent defensive background having worked for Rick Majerus and Ben Howland.
I know it's silly to get so excited about a guy who hasn't even arrived in Spokane yet, but I really can't get over how excellent of a hire this was. Coach Few has brought in an excellent recruiter and a guy with the best pedigree an assistant coach could possibly have. This is the type of hire that can take a program to another level in terms of talent, reputation, and coaching. This came at arguably the best possible time, as Daniels should be able to have a large impact this summer in trying to land what could be the best recruiting class since Austin Daye, Steven Gray, and Rob Sacre came to campus together.