Earlier this week, as part of a series on the “Future of College Basketball,” Brian Hamilton of The Athletic posted a piece on 30 up and coming assistant coaches to keep an eye on. A Gonzaga assistant coach made Hamilton’s list, but it wasn’t Tommy Lloyd, who has popped up on such lists before and has seen his name thrown around the coaching carousel. No, this time it was Brian Michaelson, the former Gonzaga walk-on and co-captain who has been an assistant since July 2013 (though he’s been an assistant in some capacity with the program since 2008).
Here’s what Hamilton had to say about Michaelson:
So the instinct would be to put top Mark Few lieutenant Tommy Lloyd on this list, but the ascension of Lloyd as Few’s successor is a contractually guaranteed thing. So it’s unclear that Lloyd needs watching, because we already know where he’ll end up. Meanwhile, that leaves the 37-year-old Michaelson, a lifelong Pacific Northwest guy, with no option but to head elsewhere to run his own shop. Michaelson has been integral in recruiting the likes of Johnathan Williams, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, among others, so he has an eye for talent and a knack for salesmanship.
Hamilton’s not off the mark about anything in that paragraph. It has been known for several years now that Lloyd is the head coach-in-waiting and Few’s successor at Gonzaga whenever Few decides he wants to fly fish full time. But, Michaelson’s role in aiding the program’s continuous growth and evolution hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Gonzaga's Tommy Lloyd getting the recognition he deserves. Don't sleep on Brian Michaelson either. https://t.co/mx7Ol48MRp— Keith Ybanez (@slipperyky) September 20, 2016
Naturally, that begs the question of where Michaelson’s future lies since he probably (though I admit I can’t read his mind) wants to run his own program too one day.
As Gonzaga’s success on the court and the recruiting trail stretches into another decade, Michaelson’s profile should only continue to grow, and deservedly so. That’s simply how it works, and is a reward for his significant role with the successful recruitments of Kyle Wiltjer, Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams, Silas Melson, Byron Wesley, Zach Collins, and Corey Kispert. As a young coach with those kinds of names on his resume, and the relationships he’s developed on the recruiting trail, it should only be a matter of time before athletic directors start knocking on his door with head coaching offers in hand.
Over the years, Few has seen a handful of assistants leave to be the head man on other campuses. Michaelson took over Ray Giacoletti’s assistant coach position when Giacoletti left to be the head coach at Drake University from 2013-16. After 11 years as an assistant at Gonzaga, Leon Rice took over at Boise State in 2010 and has been there since, leading the Broncos to two NCAA Tournament appearances and two NIT appearances. Bill Grier took over at San Diego in 2007 after 16 years as an assistant at Gonzaga. Assistant coach Donny Daniels also has head coaching experience from a 3-year stint at Cal State Fullerton.
Unlike those men, however, Michaelson’s Zag roots run deeper considering he played at Gonzaga and has spent the entirety of his adult life in Spokane. Whether he becomes the next branch of Mark Few’s coaching tree at another college campus, or serves as the Tommy Lloyd to Tommy Lloyd’s future Gonzaga staff will be an interesting storyline to keep an eye on during the next few years.