Gonzaga College High School, located in Washington D.C, is one of the most historic programs in the world of high school hoops. Not only are they one of the best basketball programs in the DMV, but one of the top programs nationally as well.
Head Coach Steve Turner began at Gonzaga in 2004-2005. He has been running the program for over fifteen years, has over 400 wins as their head coach, and has helped multiple students reach the next level and receiving scholarships to play college basketball.
Guys like Kris Jenkins (Villanova), Nate Britt (North Carolina), Jared Turner (Northeastern), Devin Dinkins (George Mason), Terrance Williams (Michigan), Tyler Thornton (Duke), Chuck Harris (Butler), Chris Lykes (Miami/Arkansas), and others have came through the Gonzaga program.
I had a chance to speak with coach Turner regarding his success, culture set at the program, his USA Basketball experience, the WCAC, and much more.
This past season, Gonzaga finished with an 18-12 overall record while reaching the WCAC semifinals and playing another national schedule.
I asked coach Turner to just reflect and talk about this past season with his group he had to start off the conversation.
“Certainly for me it was exciting and fun to be able to get back to the court, being in the routine to get back to practices, and certainly getting everything that COVID almost took from us. Also being able to also do it with my son during his senior year. I had a team that I thought was relentless, put in the hard work, and came to work everyday ready to give their all.
We fell a little short of our ultimate goal of winning the WCAC championship, losing to the eventual champions (Paul VI) in the semifinals, but I thought overall we had an unbelievable successful run. We knocked off some early ranked national teams in Whitney Young, St. Frances Academy, and DeMatha in the early part of the year.
I thought this team really really left everything on the line and had some special moments and also had some tough moments, and that’s apart of basketball.” He explained.
Coach Turner has over 400 wins as they head coach at Gonzaga. He consistently proves he can win every single year, regardless of who is on his roster. I asked him about the culture he set with the program and what mindset he brings every season with his guys.
“I mean every year I feel like we treat ourselves with the underdog mentality, we think most people kind of sleep on us a little bit. We know we have the ability to play together, play hard, and compete to the best to our abilities and with that we will be in any and every game.
That culture has been created from the start. It’s about family, put your hard hat on everytime you step into that rectangle, every time you step into that weight room, and every time we step out to the track to do work. We are going to leave everything that we got, blood sweat, and tears, on the court, on the field, on the track, anything that we are doing to improve ourselves as individuals and as a team.” He answered.
For those who do not know, the WCAC is one of the toughest high school basketball conferences in the country. It is an elite grind when playing in the WCAC alongside a national schedule for some of those teams in the DMV. A bunch of historic programs are apart of the loaded conference.
“I think for me as a coach, it makes me understand how well prepared I have to have my team.” Coach Turner said when asking him to talk about how tough it is playing in the WCAC while playing a national schedule?
“I think we have a unique and different situation then most of the schools because of our academic standards. I don’t get to get every great basketball player into the school because you have to be able to be both a student and an athlete. We don’t always have the same guys or same depth of guys as these other teams. We have created a culture of hard work and consistency which has allowed us to always be able to compete and knock off some of the best teams in the country year end and year out.
There was no difference in the way that we approached that with the group that we had this year and that is why we had some of the success that we had and that is how we will always treat it. For my guys, they have just been so excited just to be back. COVID and all the crazy things that has happened in the world over the last couple of years, has taken away from these young men. It was great to see them to embrace being back, embrace understanding the culture that was laid ahead of them, and being able to pass it forward to the next generation of Gonzaga Basketball.” He continued to explain.
Steve Turner is not only the head coach of one of the best basketball programs in the country, but also plays a huge part with the USA Basketball Junior National teams. He recently was as an assistant coach last summer with our USA U16 Junior National team as they captured the gold. He will now also be apart of the USA U17 Fiba Americas team that is set for training in Colorado Springs, June 18-25th, before they head out to Spain July 2-10th.
“Last year was my first chance to travel as a coach, being an assistant on the U16s. Having that unbelievable experience, winning gold, it makes you hungry. We literally fly out tomorrow morning for the U17s training camp to Colorado and select the team and then try to win gold again in Spain.
But what I’ve learned and gained for that opportunity is to continue to be humble. I have an opportunity to be surrounded by unbelievable coaches from all over the country. Not only am I being able to go and help the young men that I feel like we serve, but I’m also being able to gain an experience and learning from other great coaches around the country and bringing some new things back to my program. It goes full circle, but it is an experience that I would never trade for any other because it is an opportunity to represent your country.” He tells me regarding the experience he has had with USA Basketball.
Gonzaga will be one of the better programs out of the DMV area once again coming into the 2022-2023 high school season and will be one of the favorites to secure the WCAC title.
I asked Steve Turner what are the expectations coming into next season with the group of guys that he has already?
“There is only and always one expectation for Gonzaga Basketball and that is to win a WCAC championship. Along with that, continue to be men for others, which is our school motto, continue to work hard in the classroom, and for me, continue to help kids use this vehicle of the game of basketball to create great opportunities for college and to be able to set themselves up for life.” He replied.