GONZAGA COACH Mark Few's locker-room handstand prompted a discussion with Kyle Wiltjer after the star forward tweeted video of the stunt that went viral this week.
"What we do in the locker room, we had to re-explain to Kyle, stays in the locker room," Few said yesterday as second-seeded Gonzaga prepared to play 11th seed UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Houston.
But the handstand, so uncharacteristic of the reserved and dignified Few, also served a serious purpose: to help the Zags loosen up a bit.
Expectations have been high for this team, and Few wanted to make sure the Zags aren't crushed by them.
"The theme of this team is to celebrate wins," Few said. "There are so many expectations that they are supposed to do this that it was becoming like a job.
"We want to take time to celebrate wins," Few said.
Celebrate the Zags did after dismantling Iowa, 87-68, on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
Wiltjer's tweet starts with guard Eric McClellan doing a backflip in the locker room. Then Few does a brief handstand while the team cheers.
"We aren't done yet, fellas!" Few shouts.
Questions about Gonzaga's ability to go deep in the tournament had become pervasive after Gonzaga failed to reach the second weekend for five consecutive seasons. They were coupled with declarations that this might be the best team in Few's 17 years at the helm.
McClellan insisted this edition of the Bulldogs is having fun.
"We never let the moment get too big," McClellan said. "We are in the moment and having fun."
Center Przemek Karnowski said it wasn't the first time the 52-year-old Few, who has the highest winning percentage among Division I coaches, had done a handstand after a victory.
"It was just awesome," Karnowski said. "We are seeing that he is having fun too."
Players and coaches spend a lot of time together during the grind of a long season and they see different aspects of each other, Karnowski said.
"There are a couple of sides of Coach Few," Karnowski said. "He let it loose."
But Karnowski wasn't providing more details.
"What was in the locker room stays in the locker room," he said.
Fun aside, Friday's game against UCLA is a reminder of one of the most painful losses in the program's history. That occurred in the Round of 16 in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, when Gonzaga squandered a 17-point lead to lose, 73-71, in the final seconds.
The indelible image from that game is star Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison crying on the floor as the game ended. Morrison is now a member of the Gonzaga staff.
Gonzaga most recently faced UCLA in December, handing the Bruins their only home loss of the season.
* Forward Jalen Reynolds accompanied Xavier to Los Angeles for its Sweet 16 game while the school looked into a complaint filed against him by another student.
Coach Chris Mack said before the team left yesterday that the sophomore will play against second-seeded Arizona tomorrow. Reynolds had a career-high 21 points in a win over Georgia State that sent the Musketeers (23-13) to their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last 8 years.
A student filed the complaint against Reynolds with the school's police department overnight Monday. Mack said it will take several weeks to investigate. The university said it can't disclose the nature of the complaint because of student privacy laws.
"I will tell you that Jalen will be traveling with the team, Jalen will be playing just like every other player on our team," Mack said.
Thursday's game will be the first time that Mack faces close friend Sean Miller, who was Xavier's coach from 2004-09. Mack was his top assistant and moved up to the head coaching job when Miller left for Arizona.
Mack wishes they could have avoided going head-to-head.
"The part that's fun is we're playing for big stakes," Mack said. "To be one of 16 teams that's left standing in the country, that's not easy to do.
"But as far as the personal experience of Sean's on the sideline, I'm on the sideline - there is nothing that I enjoy about that experience because one of us is going to be devastated and one of us is going to move on."
The two of them traded texts on Monday night.
Xavier and Arizona are two of the nine schools that have reached the Sweet 16 at least five times since 2008.