After stretching their record to 19-2 on Jan. 28 with a win over Cal State Bakersfield the previous night, Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle woke up in the morning, got out of bed, and reached for his local Phoenix newspaper. He turned to the sports section with the intention of finding some coverage of his team's victory, an accomplishment that gave them the most wins in the country.

As usual, the paper was plastered wall-to-wall with coverage of Arizona and Arizona State, each of whom had lost the previous night. He figured that would be the case, and totally understood. After all, they're the flagship universities in the state. However, Majerle then quickly scanned the pages of the section, figuring his story would be easy enough to pick out. But alas, he couldn't find it. 

He went through a second time. Same thing. Only on the third time through did he notice the little single paragraph dedicated to Grand Canyon's win the previous night on the sixth page of the paper. No narrative of the game. Just the result of the game and a little note stating that Grand Canyon now had the most wins in the nation.

Now, if you've ever seen Majerle on the sidelines or watched him play during his NBA career, you probably know that wouldn't sit well with him. After all, he takes the same fire and drive that he utilized on his way from Central Michigan to the NBA All-Star game and brings it into coaching his team. 

"Hey, I get it," Majerle said to CBS Sports. "We’re not eligible for any tournament. Our competition is not the greatest. I get all of that. But to do what we’re doing, no matter who you’re playing…and we’ve played some good teams. We won at San Diego State, we beat Houston, Central Michigan, Marshall, New Mexico (State). Those are good, solid, quality wins. Our guys deserved a little more from the local media than a sixth-page blurb about them being 19-2. Because you can go back and look at it, none of the last however many programs that have transitioned from Division II to Division I have had a .500 record, let alone one that's 19-2."

I did go back and look at it. Of the last 13 schools to transition to Division I, none have had a winning record in Year Three (although, South Dakota did in Year 2 before regressing a bit). Grand Canyon (and Incarnate Word, who is also making the transition for 2018) is the first since North Dakota State in 2008 to post a winning record in Year Three. But this level of success? With a winning percentage of 84 percent? 

Yeah, that's a different story entirely. And one that seems pretty worthy of attention. 

Dan Majerle has Grand Canyon surging in Year 3 of the program.(USATSI)
Dan Majerle has Grand Canyon surging in Year 3 of the program.(USATSI)

So how is Grand Canyon, now 21-4, having such a strong run so early in its Division I existence? Well, for one, Majerle is recognized as a strong teacher who has earned the trust of his players with his straight-shooting philosophy and honesty. But how did he get there in the first place?

Those outside of Phoenix may not realize it, but Majerle is as much of a basketball institution in Phoenix as anyone in the area. He's spent the better part of two decades there, first as a player, then as a television analyst, and now as a coach. After moving from the TV side to the coaching side, Majerle spent a little over four years as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns. But things changed in January 2013 when head coach Alvin Gentry was fired. Feeling he and fellow assistant Elston Turner had been wrongfully passed over for the interim job in favor of inexperienced player development coach Lindsey Hunter, Majerle resigned his position, leaving him unemployed. 

That's when Jerry Colangelo -- a benefactor to Grand Canyon and a friend of Majerle for years since Colangelo drafted him back in 1988 -- called. He asked if Majerle would be interested in sitting down with President Brian Mueller in regards to the coaching job. Majerle said sure, and once they laid out their vision in regard to the program he was all in.

Since that moment, from the outside it's looked like smooth sailing. But on the inside it's been anything but, as Grand Canyon has had some pretty significant hurdles to overcome in regards to recruiting given that they are not eligible for the postseason until 2018.

"It's tough recruiting," Majerle said. "High school kids want to play in the [NCAA] tournament, so it's very hard to recruit. That means you have to get players who really believe in what you want to do, and you have to, as most mid-major schools do, really develop guys and make them better players as they continue to be in your program. And I think that's one thing we've been pretty successful at."

That's about as accurate a statement as you'll find. The Antelopes have mined the margins of the recruiting world about as well as any school in America the past few years and helped their players improve throughout that time.

For example, the Antelopes' best player is a sophomore by the name of Joshua Braun. He's averaging 17.8 points while also being one of the best volume shooters in the country with a near 68 true-shooting percentage. Basically, he's an offensive dynamo in the image of his coach, an intense competitor on both ends who can really dial it up from distance.

So how does a kid like him end up at a place like Grand Canyon?

Braun is from outside of Phoenix and was someone a lot of mid-major schools wanted early in his high school career, then backed off following him tearing his ACL in an AAU event. He earned his scholarship offers back and even added a few high-major offers in his senior year, but then disaster struck as Braun tore his other ACL at the end of the season. A few schools stuck around with him, but in the end, Braun decided to stay home where he felt comfortable. 

"It was an interesting series of events, but thankfully I had this opportunity here at Grand Canyon," Braun said. "I couldn't have landed at a better place."

There are plenty of stories like Braun's on this roster. DeWayne Russell wasn't happy at Northern Arizona after being one of the more prolific young scorers in the Big Sky Conference, so he ended up transferring closer to home. Graduate senior center Grandy Glaze had played in the NCAA Tournament twice with Saint Louis and was looking for an opportunity with more playing time, which he has taken advantage of to the tune of 15 points and eight rebounds per game. Keonta Vernon is a JUCO transfer from Southern Idaho who spent his first season at Wyoming. Dominic Magee was at Memphis for a semester before transferring. Majerle and his assistant Chris Crevelone have also gone out of the country and pulled a pair of kids from Australia in Matt Jackson and Gerard Martin, both of whom play significant minutes for this team.

Basically, this is not your typical start-up still in Division I transition due to how they've been able to accumulate high-level talent. And it's translated to success that all starts at the top with their fiery coach.

"Coach Majerle's a little crazy on the floor, but that personality of him wanting to win so bad follows through to us," Martin said. "When we come in every day in practice, we are competing super hard and everyone wants to win. And from that, the competitiveness on the floor translates off the floor with how we get along together. If you're going into battle on the floor like that, you're going to be best friends off the floor no matter what. We've grown as a group this year with everyone being connected. Winning helps but that grind of everyone going through the same thing makes us want to have each other's backs and we love each other because of it."

So where do they go from here? What's their goal for the next two seasons while still transitioning to the NCAA? It's basically just to improve and keep moving in the right direction so that when they are eligible, they can play in the tournament in Year One. Majerle is ecstatic with the kids he has in the program now, and thinks that trajectory is moving forward about as well as it possibly could given everything that's stacked against them. But having said that, the long-time sharpshooter also has an idea of when he'll know that the program has arrived.

"I have a great time with it when I recruit kids, be it if we're having dinner or just generally recruiting, I always say to them 'all right, there's one thing we have to do. We have to go out and play a game of PIG or a game of HORSE.' " Majerle says. "And they all give me the same look and roll their eyes and a lot of them don't understand and are just like 'OK, I'll beat you. It's not a problem.' Well, the problem is I haven't lost once. These kids are younger. They don't know my reputation of what I did in the league. And you're always a better shooter after you retire because running up and down the floor is hard and I can't do any of that anymore.  So if I'm just out there standing still and shooting, I'm pretty good at it. So they don't get it, and I always beat them and they always talk about it. I always say that I'll make it as a coach when I start recruiting kids who can beat me in shooting."

Given that Majerle twice led the NBA in 3-point makes in a season, it seems like he might be waiting for a while on that one.

But for the attention on the program that he craves? He doesn't have to wait for that anymore. He's got it now.