LAS VEGAS – Ed Dzama absolutely does abrasion his affection for Gonzaga basketball on his sleeve.
The Bulldogs boom on his appropriate arm was declared to be the admeasurement of a quarter. Instead, it’s as outsized as Dzama’s affection for the Zags.
A craps banker on the Las Vegas Strip, Dzama ability be the bigger Zags fan who’s never set bottom in the Kennel.
He’s never absent a GU bold aback the West Coast Conference clash landed in Vegas added than a decade ago. In Dzama’s home there’s a Zags cavern abounding with GU bold jerseys, bobbleheads and a DVD accumulating of every GU men’s bold aback 2007.
And admitting Dzama has never apparent a bold in Spokane, he was there in spirit during Adam Morrison’s jersey retirement commemoration aftermost week.
The two addled up a accord added than a decade ago, and it has endured through triumphs, tears and afresh a case of pre-speech jitters.
“Now we bulletin anniversary other,” said Dzama, who acclaimed some all-overs from Morrison as the big day approached.
“I could acquaint he was nervous,” said Dzama, who accomplished out to his old friend.
Morrison texted back: “Just aggravating to acquisition the appropriate words.”
With some advance from an old friend, Morrison did aloof that. Added tears followed.
“I alone ambition I could accept been there,” said Dzama, who has bent abounding added big Zags moments.
A Southern California native, Dzama (pronounced “Duh-ZA-muh”) fell in adulation with Las Vegas during vacations with his parents and confused there at age 24.
By the time he had acclimatized into his new home town, Las Vegas was alert with the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV, who won an NCAA appellation in 1990.
Dzama never bent that bug, alike admitting his wife Christina abounding UNLV. Instead he was captivated by the newcomers from Spokane, who assuredly fabricated the clash in 1995.
“I started afterward it because it was a baby academy – you got what you got,” said Dzama, who affectionately recalls above amateur John Rillie and drillmaster Dan Fitzgerald.
“I watched every adventitious I could,” said Dzama, who endured the abutting few years of near-misses until the bewitched year of 1999.
A few weeks afore Dzama stepped up to a job at the aboriginal Venetian, the Zags stepped into the limelight.
“I bethink Richie Frahm and Matt Santangelo, and anticipation something’s activity on with this team,” said Dzama, who additionally recalls the array and the stats of every big game.
Dzama additionally recalls with affection the jerseys of ’99, the missing allotment of his jersey collection. He’s on a first-name base with Santangelo, but got a abruptness aback he asked area those jerseys ability be.
“I don’t alike accept one,” Santangelo replied. “They fabricated us accord them back.”
Dzama is still looking.
Buoyed by his admired players – Matt Boldin, Jeremy Pargo and Kelly Olynyk, to name a few – Dzama’s activity grew.
It was almost abject by the casual heartbreaks, the abridgement of account from the big-boy conferences, alike the beauteous accident to Wichita State in 2013, aback GU was ranked No. 1.
“I could see that one coming,” said Dzama, who still recalls the Shockers’ cutting stats – 14-for-26 from 3.
Most of all, he acquainted Morrison’s affliction afterwards the Sweet 16 accident to UCLA in 2006.
They assuredly met in 2009 at the NBA summer alliance in Vegas.
Later, Morrison gave Dzama his aftermost summer alliance jersey. “That meant a lot,” Dzama said,
That was the year the WCC clash assuredly begin its home in Southern Nevada. In some means so did Dzama, who’s never absent a GU clash bold in Vegas.
If Orleans Arena is a home bold for GU, it’s alike added than that for Dzama. It’s a adventitious to adhere with admirers and rub elbows with GU players old and new.
One day, Dzama was alive at the Palazzo aback a chump accomplished the craps table and began to allocution basketball.
It was Phil McCarthey, the GU benefactor who helped body the new Kennel.
“I started talking to him, and he said, ‘Have you alike apparent a bold in Spokane?’ ”
The tickets are still waiting, but Dzama hasn’t had a adventitious to snag them.
He and Christina accept fabricated the odd cruise to tournaments in Maui and elsewhere. The Final Four in adjacent Phoenix was a can’t-miss opportunity, abnormally with a beginning tattoo.
The amateur he can’t see are recorded. Colleagues at the Palazzo, area he’s formed aback 2008, apperceive bigger than to blab out a GU account aback he’s nearby.
One day soon, they achievement to assuredly accomplish it to Spokane.
“That would be the greatest affair ever,” Dzama said.
Except conceivably his tattoo.
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