Former Gonzaga women's coach and current Oregon head coach Kelly Graves will always be considered as the architect of the rise of the program. He spearheaded the Zags first ever tournament berth in 2007, and since then Gonzaga has either made the big dance or the NIT each year since.
The peak for the program was 2010-12 with three straight sweet sixteen appearances, with the highest ever run to the elite eight in 11. However, Graves always wondered whether the Zags reached their ceiling as a mid major program, and in 2014 he jumped to the PAC-12 to rebuild a struggling Oregon team. This past season he managed to take them to the NCAA tournament for the first time in awhile.
But his departure now left a void that needed to be filled with a great hire. With the exception of VCU in men's basketball, we see all the time the small school return to irrelevance after the coach left, so the next hire was vital. Gonzaga elected to stay in house, elevating assistant coach Lisa Fortier to first in charge.
If you haven't already purchased Bud Winters Glory Hounds book I recommend you do. He had a chapter specifically concerning Fortier and the humble beginnings she and her now husband Craig faced as the ventured into the coaching world. One of the reasons she got the head coaching gig was the recommendations from the players on the team. She worked from the bottom to get the gig, and her first season had as many high moments as possible.
The 26 wins in her first year was one of many school records broken in her short reign. She won WCC coach of the year, and the sweet sixteen appearance propelled her to the Women's Basketball Coaching Association Division 1 Rookie Coach of the year award. In her first three years, she has amassed a 71-29 record (40-14 in WCC) and became the fastest coach to reach 50 wins ever for the women's team.
But not only is she an excellent coach, but a mother of three young kids as well. And similar to Few, she brings them to practice and have them interact with the players. She also moved the practice schedule around for Elle Tinkle, who had 12 hour shifts as a nursing student, who had the complete support of the coaching staff.
But let's also give some credit to the husband, Craig Fortier as well. He was an assistant at another basketball program when Lisa got the job, then left to join his wife at Gonzaga to serve under her. That's not something that a lot of men might do because of egos and insecurities, so what seems like on the outside to be a strong and stable marriage has reflected on the quality and consistency of the basketball team.
Between her time as an assistant and head coach, Fortier has been in Spokane for over a decade and doesn't appear to be leaving anytime soon. With the FBI investigation ongoing and the UNC cheating scandal coming to light, it's good to have a school who has honorable and ethical coaches around (who wins a bunch too).
In just three seasons Fortier has accomplished a ton already, and with top 100 players starting to come on in, the feats aren't likely to stop. A lot of athletic directors can't make even one good hire in their tenure. Looks like Gonzaga AD has made two, one in 2014 and the other way back in 1999.