Ray Giacoletti new coach at Drake

Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti was named the new coach at Drake on Thursday.

Giacoletti replaces Mark Phelps, who was fired after going 77-86 in five seasons.

"This is a really big day for Drake athletics. We have a very bold vision. We want to be an institution that sustains competitive excellence in all of its programs," Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb said. "We searched the entire nation to find somebody with the experience, the passion and the desire to share in this vision."

Giacoletti was a former head coach at Eastern Washington and Utah. He spent four seasons at Eastern Washington, guiding the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 2004 before leaving to take the Utah job.

In his first season at Utah, Giacoletti led the Utes -- a team anchored by eventual No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut -- to a 29-win season and a Sweet 16 appearance. But he was surprisingly fired in 2007, finishing with a 54-40 record in three seasons.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who is a close friend of Giacoletti, immediately hired him, a move that rejuvenated Giacoletti's career. Giacoletti worked under Few for the past six seasons as Gonzaga won five West Coast Conference titles and reached No. 1 late this season.

"The last six years truly opened my eyes up as far as what it means to be a student-athlete, to do it the correct way with character, work ethic," Giacoletti said. "It's the same morals and values that I know Drake basketball envisions."

Giacoletti grew up in Peoria, Ill., and graduated from Minot State in 1985. He served as an assistant at Missouri Valley Conference school Illinois State from 1990-93 before jumping to the University of Washington. Giacoletti's first head coaching job was at Division II North Dakota State, where he worked from 1998-2000 before taking over at Eastern Washington for four seasons.

Though Giacoletti will use Gonzaga as a model for rebuilding Drake, he made it clear that he wants Drake to take on its own personality.

Let's "not try to be Gonzaga. Let's not try to be someone else. Let's be the best Drake can be," Giacoletti said.

Drake's best might take a while to find.

The Bulldogs haven't had a 20-win season since coach Keno Davis led them to the Valley title and their first NCAA tournament in 37 seasons back in 2007-08. Under Phelps, Drake teams showed glimpses of progress, but inconsistency and continued roster turnover kept the Bulldogs from becoming a Valley contender.

Drake finished 15-17 last season and tied for seventh in the Valley, and three of its top four scorers won't be back.

Giacoletti hinted at his opening news conference on campus that he'll lean toward developing high school players rather than seeking out college transfers as Drake has so often done in the past.

That will be just one of many aspects of Gonzaga's success that Giacoletti hopes to bring to downtrodden Drake.

"I had an experience that, at the time, was devastating," Giacoletti said of being fired by Utah. "But it has made me a better person and a better coach because I had a chance to learn a new system."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.