SPOKANE, Wash. — Jack and Dan's tavern sits a few blocks from the Gonzaga campus, the sort of place where Dan Dickau's parents stop for a sandwich when they're in town and college kids gather to watch their Zags.
It is most remarkable in what it doesn't announce.
"You walk in and you have no idea John Stockton's dad owns the place," said Dickau, the Gonzaga point guard. "I think there's maybe two Utah Jazz pennants up. I think there's maybe one neon Utah Jazz sign, then a portrait of John and Karl Malone. I think that's probably all there is. And it's not like those things are right in front where everyone can see."
The biggest nod to basketball on a recent night, in fact, was a board that read "Watch the Zags here! See Dan Dickau [move up] on the all-time assist list."
"It's a place that doesn't call attention to the family or anything like that," Dickau said. "I think that's how John Stockton approaches the game of basketball."
Dickau is the latest heir to Stockton at Gonzaga, and he has taken the Bulldogs to a height Stockton's teams never reached, a No. 7 national ranking. They'll defend it in the West Coast Conference tournament beginning today in San Diego--for once, in no desperate need of winning to make the NCAA tournament.
No one is suggesting Dickau will ever become the NBA's all-time assist and steal leader, but already he has followed in Stockton's steps, finding a rare opportunity to learn from the player he admires more than any other.
As a youngster in Vancouver, Wash., Dickau collected Stockton trading cards. He even wore Stockton's No. 12 in high school and for two seasons at the University of Washington before he let go of the idea he had to play in the Pacific 10 and followed his heart and a high school teammate, Zach Gourde, to Spokane.
It was a move that seemed puzzling then and looks brilliant now, but it was where Dickau had to leave No. 12 behind, even though Gonzaga has yet to officially retire Stockton's number.
"I never actually asked for his number because I knew I wasn't going to get it," Dickau said. "I knew 12 wasn't going to be handed out. So I just basically asked if I could get 21. I figure that was the closest thing I could get, just reverse the numbers and make it 21."
It has been a lucky 21 for Dickau, almost matching the 20.6-point scoring average that has helped make him a Wooden Award candidate.
He's no pure gunner, but a savvy point guard who runs the offense and hands out almost five assists a game. He also shoots the lights out from three-point range--a distance from which he approaches 50%, making 102 of 214 this season.
He is a gym rat and a basketball purist. And when Stockton is in town preparing for training camp in the fall, that makes two of them.
"You know, I knew he helped out the guys a little bit and he played pickup, but I never imagined I'd be coming down in the mornings and hanging around with John Stockton and shooting around," Dickau said.
But that's the way it went, particularly last fall, when Dickau--a graduate student who already has earned his degree--had a light class schedule.
Together, they got ready for the season.
"He loves to play. He'll stay in the gym all day long," Stockton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He's a leader. He's tough. He's a competitor. Guys with those qualities, they usually keep getting better and better."
In the mornings, Dickau and Stockton met at the gym, where they'd shoot for about an hour, then just talk hoops.
In the afternoons, Stockton joined the Gonzaga players for pickup games.
You could say Dickau had a heavy class load after all.
"Any time you get a chance to play against the greatest point guard ever, you can't help but learn," Dickau said.
"Every pass of his is in the right spot. It's almost unbelievable how [Stockton] enters the ball into the post and it's exactly in the right spot to lead the player into the move.
"If a guy comes off a screen, almost every time, it's right in the shooting pocket so it's almost effortless to shoot.
"If he's driving into the lane penetrating, he always knows where his 'outs' are if his lane to the basket gets cut off. He sees everything. He's just an amazing player."
The comparisons are inevitable, and they are silly.
One player is one of the 50 greatest in NBA history. The other is a college senior.
"I don't think in those terms--never have," said Stockton, the only first-round draft pick Gonzaga has produced, in 1984. "But I know we never went to the Elite Eight or the Sweet Sixteen when I was there.
"We didn't play the kind of schedule they play now. So I think it's fair to say he's doing what he's doing against better competition."
The seeds for Gonzaga's success were sown before Dickau arrived.
Matt Santangelo and Casey Calvary were the stars of the teams that made it to the Elite Eight and the Sweet Sixteen in 1999 and 2000.
Dickau sat out the 1999-2000 season under transfer rules, then helped Gonzaga back to the Sweet Sixteen last season.