Don’t know about you, but I would be shocked — shocked! — if the Bears don’t make a concerted effort to hire Chip Kelly …
Err, sorry. Got my Cal coaching searches confused.
It’s not often, after all, that a school has vacancies in football and men’s basketball in the same academic year, much less in the same astronomical season.
But Cal is challenging, even for coaches who understand the landscape and embrace the culture.
How many other major college athletic programs are academic powerhouses with more Nobels than most Ivy League schools AND possess a vocal and influential faculty AND have challenging admissions standards for athletes AND must abide by state budget and bureaucratic framework.
How about zero?
Then add the West Coast culture and the Berkeley ethos and, well, Cal is different.
It’s great, but it’s different.
Bring in head coaches who are transplants — Sonny Dykes’ roots are in the Southern Plains, Cuonzo Martin’s in the Midwest — and they’re much more likely to have a wandering eye sooner than head coaches who know exactly what they’re stepping into on Day One.
Dykes was fired because he kept pursuing jobs in Texas, even after receiving a fat contract extension, and Martin left because he wanted to get back to his home region.
How will the Bears approach their basketball search?
I would fully expect athletic director Mike Williams — who did not hire Martin or Dykes, by the way — to follow the general model he used to identify Justin Wilcox in the football coach:
Someone with connections to Cal or, at the very least, to the west coast … who comes relatively (but not necessarily dirt) cheap … who will embrace the admissions standards put in place recently … who won’t be looking to grab the first Big 12 or Big Ten opening that comes along.
I doubt head coaching experience will be mandatory — it wasn’t with Wilcox, after all.
(That said, if Williams pursues any current assistants, he would be wise to focus on candidates who have served either at Cal or one of the top programs in the Pac-12.)
The news of Martin’s departure is less than 24 hours old, and I’ve checked with sources to form a short list of likely candidates based on early signals emanating from Williams’ office.
But here are five names (listed alphabetically) that I could envision being involved, to one degree or another, in the search. Please take the list for nothing more than that.
Before we get started, a few words on familiar names not listed below:
Steve Lavin: Please.
Ben Howland: Good coach, bad fit.
Lorenzo Romar: First-class guy, from L.A., played for the Warriors, terrific recruiter, looking for a fresh start (coach somewhere long enough, and you get judged against your own success). Not sure how Cal constituents would feel about about Romar right now, however.
Now, here are five to chew on …
Randy Bennett: The Saint Mary’s coach is one of the best in the west with a sharp eye for talent. (Added bonus for cash-strapped Cal athletic department: No moving expenses.) NCAA sanctions are well past. Would his Aussie-pipeline model work at Cal? Were he to beat Arizona on Saturday, the momentum would be significant.
Wyking Jones: Cal assistant under Martin is currently serving as the Bears’ interim head coach. Grew up in Southern California. Played at LMU. Coaching stops at Pepperdine, LMU, New Mexico and Louisville (under Pitino). If the Bears want continuity — and there was much to like about Martin’s approach behind the scenes — Jones would be the pick.
Eric Musselman: Former Warriors head coach has won 52 games in two years at Nevada and claimed the Mountain West title this season. Tireless. That he hired Yani Hufnagel in Reno could be an issue for the Bears, however. Hot name who could be a candidate elsewhere, and Cal’s not in position to win a bidding war.
Joe Pasternack: Has head coaching experience (New Orleans) under difficult circumstances (post-Katrina budget crisis/transfer policy) and is currently the No. 2 at a program of some distinction (Arizona). Oh, and this: Was an assistant in Berkeley under Ben Braun for eight years.
Russell Turner: Former Stanford and Warriors assistant who has been in charge at UC Irvine for seven seasons — and won the Big West regular-season title in three of the past four. Would walk in with an understanding of Cal’s academic and bureaucratic challenges.
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