Gary Bell Jr. heads to the desert to be an assistant coach for the Northern Arizona University men’s basketball team. The former Zag star joins Shane Burcar’s staff after spending the last three seasons on the Gonzaga bench as alumni assistant and basketball management coordinator.
“I am so excited to be here at NAU,” Bell said. new version. “The culture that (Coach Borkar) is trying to build here is where I come from; the family atmosphere and the hard work to get better every day.”
Bale returned to GU in 2019 after his stellar four-year stint as a Bulldog from 2011-15. The Tacoma native was named WCC Defensive Player of the Year in his first season and was nominated to the All-WCC Second Team while helping the Zags in Access to the Elite Eight. He’s a shooter of 41% from depth, and the total of 219 three-pointers he’s made is seventh ever in the program’s history.
Bale played professionally in Poland, France and Greece before GU assistant coach Tommy Lloyd recruited the alum to return to Spokane and learn under coach Mark Vue. From there, the Bulldogs made it to two National Championship games and three Sweet 16 games in that span.
Now, Bill has the opportunity to apply all the knowledge he has absorbed from two of the most respected coaches in the country.
“Playing for (a little coach) for four years, leaving and then coming back to start my coaching career, I learned a lot from these guys,” Bale said. “Picking out their minds every day prepared me for this job at NAU.”
Bale will be working with the NAU guards and the team’s overall offense, which could use some work depending on how it went last season. The Lumberjacks shot 41.8% from the ground, finally died in the Big Sky Conference, and were among the worst scoring offenses despite the constant shooting from the depths. Pushing the pace was also a challenge, ranking 284The tenth in the nation at an adjusted pace according to KenPom.
Bell’s experience with fast-paced schemes may help improve some of the shortcomings of the NAU offensive. Gonzaga has consistently had one of the best offenses year after year, especially when it comes to scoring quick and easy baskets in the transition. Under Bell’s watchful eye, the Lumberjacks’ offensive identity could receive a major change.
He will also work closely with prolific scorer Galen Cohn, who came off an impressive campaign after moving from Virginia Tech. The rookies averaged 18.8 points, three rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, and earned the third All-Big Sky team honor. He also became the first Hattab in 19 seasons to score three games from 30 points in one season.
Bale is certainly keen to work with Cone to be a complete and all-around player, especially if it can translate into wins. The NAU finished 9-22 in 2021-22 despite the rookies shining.
Along with Kohn, Bell will work with Coach Lloyd’s son Liam, a Gonzaga Prep graduate who spent two seasons at Grand Canyon University. After not getting much playtime as a freshman and sophomore, Liam transferred to NAU at the end of March with three years of eligibility remaining. It will be interesting to see his development under the guidance of a familiar coach again.
Bale’s first regular game as an assistant coach will be against Michigan State College Basketball on November 7.