Mother Knows Best

September 01, 2015

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, and Father’s Day not far behind, Gonzaga Magazine salutes our students’ families. Here, we visit with Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., four-year starters for the men’s basketball team.

Vivian Bell warned Gary Bell Jr. as a youngster growing up in Kent, Wash., not to touch the curling iron.

“Of course, kids always want to touch things they’re not supposed to,” Gary shares. “So I had to touch it, and immediately regretted it. It’s just one of many examples that mom was always right.”
Kevin Pangos’ mom, Patty Pangos, put her foot down when her family went on vacation.

“During vacation, basketball is a swear word,” he mimics his mother saying. “Ultimately, she didn’t want me to get burned out on basketball, and wanted me to be able to enjoy it throughout my life.” There was method to his mother’s mindset.

“But he wasn’t always happy with me about this,” Patty says. “So on a trip to Europe we gave Kev a camera to occupy his time …”

His sister Kayla, a Gonzaga graduate student, interjects, “So he takes a picture of a mountain, and it turns out there’s a basketball hoop in the picture. We are cracking up in the backseat and mom and dad have no idea.”


Making Points

Bell and Pangos are definitely Bulldog brothers from different mothers. But their mothers shared similar roles in shaping two of the finest basketball guards in school history.

Together the senior guards combined for more than 3,000 career points, 775 assists and 300 steals. They led Gonzaga teams to more wins than during any other four-year span in Gonzaga basketball history. Both will go on to play professional basketball here or abroad. But they both know that when it comes to making points, family comes first.

“My mom is always about family first,” says Bell. “She has seen just about every game I’ve played either in person or on the computer. And school is very valuable to her. I’m not sure I would have been here if not for my mom’s influence. I saw her going back to school to earn her degree later in life and I knew it was important to her, so it was important to me.”

“Gary is going to walk away with something no one can take away from him, a college degree,” Vivian says. “I’m excited to see what the next step will be.”

“My mom is the one who will be honest with me about everything,” says Pangos. “She won’t sugarcoat anything. She always puts things into perspective.”

“When Kev was 8 or 9, I took him along on a canoe trip I had organized for some troubled older boys,” Patty recalls. “He was carrying a pack that was almost bigger than he was, and we had to walk up a hill about 400 meters, then come down. The mosquitos were out. The big, strong boys kept complaining. Kev sprained his ankle halfway through the hike, but didn’t say a word.

“I’ll never forget we got into the canoe on the other side and Kev said to me, ‘Mom, is that the most fun you’ve ever had?’ Work ethic was never an issue for him.”

Clearly, their dads, Gary Bell Sr. and Bill Pangos, both coaches, gave their boys a love of and respect for the game. But it was the matriarchs who helped form young men of such strong character.
Vivian was put on the spot by the church pastor one Sunday morning, who asked her to come up and sing for the congregation.

“I know she didn’t want to,” Bell Jr. recalls. “But she was brave enough to do it, and that’s helped me a lot going into hostile basketball environments when the fans were trying to intimidate us. I just think about mom in front of all those people, and I’m OK.”


For the Love of The Game

“My dad loves sports and that’s how I became a gym rat,” Pangos says. On his street in Holland Landing, Ontario, he’d go out after dinner and shoot “until mom would call me in at 10 because ‘the neighbors need to sleep.’

“To this day, being in the gym, late at night, working on my shots, continuing to make myself better, is a joy.”

Both his parents also played college ball. His mom pulled down the rebounds and his dad was a skilled shooter.

When Pangos and Bell left home to come to college, they didn’t leave the idea of family behind.

“Coming here on my recruiting trip, the guys welcomed me like I was already on the team. I knew this was my team, my choice from that point on,” Bell said.

Looking back, the two seniors can’t remember where the time went. The four NCAA Tournament runs and the home games in the Kennel will be among their favorite memories, but some of the most meaningful times were when Bell and Pangos were hanging with the team. “Walking across campus is like being a part of our own little family here,” Pangos said.

That would come as no surprise to their moms, who knew years ago that their sons were something special.