UNC Greensboro Director of Basketball Operations Kyle Bankhead knows a thing or two about the dancing ways of his team’s first round opponent.
In 2001, when the Spartans made their last trip to the NCAA Tournament, Bankhead was a freshman three-point specialist for the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Zags went to the Sweet 16 that season —their third straight trip to the second weekend. By the end of his collegiate career, Bankhead had totaled 48 starts for Mark Few’s Bulldogs. He made the NCAA Tournament in all four of his seasons in Spokane.
With 169 made threes over his career, Bankhead ranked in the top-10 all-time at Gonzaga until Josh Perkins passed him earlier this season.
Bankhead’s ties to Gonzaga didn’t come to a close with the end of his collegiate career in 2004.
After a season of professional basketball in Germany, Bankhead returned to Spokane and took a job as an administrative assistant on Mark Few’s staff. He held that position for two years until fellow Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier took the top job at the University of San Diego.
In 2007 Bankhead followed Grier to the Toreros. Grier and Bankhead led San Diego to the NCAA Tournament in their first year, upsetting Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament final. They failed to make it back to the dance in any of the subsequent seven seasons, though, and were let go in 2015.
Between his two years on Few’s staff, eight years coaching against Gonzaga, four years as a player, and one year as a walk-on, Bankhead has well over a decade of experience dealing with the Zags. Equally important, Bankhead has been a part of seven NCAA Tournament teams.
UNC Greensboro made just two trips to the dance prior to this year.
The 13 seed Spartans got a tough draw against 4 seed Gonzaga. But Bankhead’s presence, and insider information, could be the secret weapon the Spartans need.
NCAA Tournament First Round
13 UNC Greensboro Spartans vs. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs
When: Thursday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern
Where: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho