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Cal Basketball

Fox, Brown and Thiemann Kick Things Off at Pac-12 Media Day

October 26, 2022
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Basketball season officially kicked off today with today’s Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day at Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco -the final media day at that venue after the conference declined to renew their lease in their expensive SF digs.

Cal head coach Mark Fox, point guard Joel Brown and center Lars Thiemann represented the program at today’s event.

“It's good to be back to see everybody, and we're excited about our team,” said Fox. “Our summer wasn't perfect, but I think we challenged them to continue to grow. So we improved throughout the off-season. We have a lot of new faces that I think have impacted our team already. We're excited to get started.

“I have two terrific representatives today with me. They've been a pleasure to coach, and I'm excited for their fourth year this year. So we'll open it up to questions.

Fox was asked where he expects the scoring to come from in what’s been in recent years a scoring-challenged team.

“We have to be a team,” said Fox. “I think that we have essentially six new players, five that did not play last year and then one that played very little. I think all six will impact our rotation. Our scoring is going to have to be as a group. It's going to have to be by committee. I think that in a rebuild, sometimes you can appear a little one-dimensional because you don't have enough guys who can score. The best teams spread it out, and I think hopefully we'll be a team that can spread our scoring across the lineup.”

Last season, the team was often challenged in their ability to keep players healthy and available. They hope this season to have a deeper rotation to help alleviate many of the issues they faced last season.

“These guys will echo this,” said Fox. “We have a lot more guys, so the competition in practice has been tremendous. I'm not going to say that we're going to play 10 or 11 guys, but in practice, we have 10 or 11 guys that are getting after it, and we've had to play obviously a little slower since we came because we didn't have the depth. The guys who we did have were undersized, and now we have, I think, legitimate size at every position. We have depth at every position. So we would like to play a little faster, but as all the ex-coaches know, you can only play as fast as you can play well.

“There's days that we play a little faster than we can play well in practice. But I think it's a group that can pick up the tempo a little bit, and we're excited to have more guys.

Thiemann and Brown were asked what improvements they’re hoping to see this season.

“it's been like four years with Coach Fox now,” said Thiemann. “We've been working hard, and this is our senior year, me and Joel, Kuany as well, who's been here for four years, and now it's our time. I'm very confident in our team. I'm very pleased with how things are going. Obviously, the goal is always to win the NCAA Tournament. We just hope all goes well.

“To follow up, with the new guys we brought in, like Coach has spoken about, it's definitely helped our team depth-wise and what we can do and bring on a daily basis, both offensively and defensively. 

“In regards to leadership, definitely taking that new step, especially in my fourth year helping out the younger guys understand the offense, just kind of understand just the little things and the importance of how to get onto the floor and win games. So I've definitely taken that upon myself this year to be that guy.” 

Fox was asked about the growth of both fourth-year players coming into this season.

“I say first, every player needs a great example to learn from, Noted Fox. “I think that the value of having a great example to learn from is often understated. The other day we finished practice, and we have two freshmen -big kids, and I ask them, ‘Hey, what are your thoughts?’ Well, Lars has been terrific in helping show us the way. I don't know if they necessarily had those examples when they came in, Joel and Lars, but they've continued to open themselves to coaching.

“They have both changed physically. They're both obviously more mature as people. But their games have improved. What did you make, 48 out of 50 free throws the other day (speaking to Brown, who has struggled mightily from the line)? They've improved incrementally from year to year, and that's one of the things that's important in any program, is to have development.

“I think Lars showed last year at the end of the year how much he's improved, and he's a way better player today than he was then. So really proud of their commitment to the process, because it's not an easy road when you go through a rebuild. Somebody has to go through the hard years, and these two guys, along with Kuany have signed up for that, and never wavered in getting our program back to where we want it to be.”

The Bears added new faces in transfer portal combo guards Devin Askew and Dajuan Clayton and both are expected to be important contributors this season.

“In regards to our transfers, we did add Dajuan Clayton, who played most of his career at Coppin State,” noted Fox. “Dajuan is a very versatile guard who can play a couple different places. He scored over 1,500 points in college. He has great instincts on the floor and is mature, and I think has been a terrific addition.

“Devin Askew joins us, and Devin is a big guard who can play a couple different places. He has versatility also. I felt like Devin, we needed to get him in peak physical shape. I think he probably added too much muscle and was playing a little too big. So we've slimmed him down a little bit. And both of them have joined our team with the attitude that they're joining the team, not that the team is joining them. It really has created a real harmony within our group, and it is probably the most enjoyable team I've had to coach on a daily basis in well over a decade.”

Thiemann, a nutritional science major and Brown, a business major were asked about their academic choices.

“I always loved science classes,” said Thiemann. “I always loved cooking. I think it's very important, especially as an athlete, that you know how to fuel your body. To get that UC Berkeley education, which is not easy -- I've had a lot of rough classes, a lot of days when I was studying from the morning to the evening. But I'm very happy, I still enjoy it, and I think that's some knowledge I'll be able to transfer to my personal life to me being an athlete and obviously when I finish college here.”

“For me with the business major, I've always kind of been a math guy,” noted Brown. “So I've always wanted to stick around numbers. I understood that being a part of Haas is very special and kind of hard to get into. So that was a barrier as a student-athlete I wanted to break, especially on the men's basketball team. So I was able to accomplish that, and it's definitely helped me because I've been able to network outside of basketball, outside of people who are student-athletes. So I've actually grown a lot and actually learned a lot in a lot of the classes I've been in.

“Like Lars said, there's been a lot of studying and whatnot, but at Cal it's just great because we have a lot of resources we're able to use as long as you ask questions. For me personally, in my four years, it hasn't been too hard as many would probably expect, but I've enjoyed it the whole time since I've been there.

“Joel's brilliant, so school is not as hard for him as maybe it would have been for me,” cracked Fox. “And Lars, as a nutrition major, has still not cooked me one thing. He hasn't even brought me a snack.”

With the season kicking off in their exhibition opener vs. Chico State next Wednesday, Fox was asked what he expected to be their starting lineup to start the season.

“Well, I think Lars would like to play a little bit at the two, which we're not going to let him do that (much during the season) although he did fire a three up yesterday which looked pretty good,” said Fox. “I would tell you this; every day is different. Like today, Joel was the best point guard on the floor yesterday. I think he was terrific. He'd probably start at the one. Lars would probably start at the five, although the day before he wouldn't have been.

“We have great competition. So I think we would lean towards the guys who have experience, but I'll tell you, it's been a lot of fun to have the balance in lineups where every guy has to show up and fight every day otherwise he's getting beat out. I think that competition has really elevated our team. I don't want to dodge your question because I don't know the answer. If we had to play tonight, I'd probably put the most experienced guys out there.”

The Bears also added frosh players Grant Newell and ND Okafor in the offseason.

“I don't want to put too much pressure on either one of them, but they've been terrific. Grant Newell had the best summer of anyone on our team. He was outstanding. He has a real poise and maturity about him. So he's been off to a good start. He's gotten everyone's attention on the team with how he played, so now it's harder for him because he's getting the focal part of everyone's effort.

“ND Okafor is a guy who has a lot of athletic ability and talent, and we're trying to challenge that. Lars has been a great example for those two young guys to learn from, and I think they both will impact our team and be in the rotation.” 

The Bears were picked 11th in the preseason Pac-12 poll after finishing 10th last season with a 5-15/12-20 record.

“The preseason rankings, it's nothing new. Everyone has their own opinions. The one thing is that people don't know about the guys that we now have. To Coach's point, we have a lot of depth and versatility. We have a lot more athleticism. In my four years, this is probably one of like the better teams with talent and IQ.

“At the end of the day, it just comes down to playing hard each night and playing defense, which is what's going to help us separate from other opponents, which is getting stops on that side of the ball, and the offense itself will take care of things.”

 “We've got the depth this year,” said Thiemann. “We brought in a lot of new great guys. I feel like the fortitude has helped us really develop a brotherhood and develop the team chemistry we need. We all have belief that we're going to win. So just this mindset, this winning mindset, I feel like it's going to make a big difference for us.”

Fox was asked about references he’s made about it being a difficult summer in some ways, despite the feel-good trip to Europe.

“It's about changing the maturity of a group,” noted Fox. “Everyone gets up and says, ‘Oh, we had the most glorious summer ever. How many times was I -- I pushed you this summer. It wasn't all just ice cream and balloons. We got after it, and I challenged them because I think they have ability. But we needed to mature, some of them as young people, some of them as competitors, but we pushed them. We pushed them to a place where they were uncomfortable at times, but that's how you get good.

“These guys haven't been afraid of a challenge, and they've really welcomed the expectations that we have for them because no one rises to low expectations. So we have high expectations within our locker room, and this summer we held each other to that.”

With Okafor’s arrival from Ireland, he’s just the latest international addition to an international-heavy roster.

“Well our institution has a very international flavor, and there's a lot of successful international students on our campus. So these guys, I think, as we recruit them, feel immediately comfortable. A lot of these guys come in with terrific upbringings in the classroom, so the transition to the Berkeley education, it's challenging for everyone, but a lot of these guys have been so well versed as they came up in their home countries, that the transition has been smooth for them. But it's a place where international guys fit, and these guys have been terrific.

“I think we have six international players on our team, and you wouldn't know it if you didn't have the roster in front of you, but the game has become very global. The game has a lot of good players in a lot of places. As we rebuilt, guys that could qualify to get in and were good enough players that bought into what we were doing, there was certainly an international flavor to some of that.

“Just knowing when I was going to come, just growing up as a kid, I've always wanted to play at the highest level collegiately, and that was Division I,” noted Brown, who hails from Canada. “So growing up watching guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray kind of take that step up, leaving Canada and playing prep school was something I always followed. So I was able to do that. I knew that coming to America was kind of the best decision. Obviously, at a young age, it's different having to leave your friends and family, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Luckily it's brought me here, and I'm blessed. I'm getting a scholarship at a great institution. I'm playing basketball in a great conference with great players under a great coach. So for me, it's just always been a dream. Now I'm just kind of living it right now in the moment.

“Yeah, my journey has been a little different because I've never really been to the U.S. before I came to college, before my visit actually,” said Thiemann. “So the NCAA wasn't really on my radar for a lot of my youth playing basketball, and I made a big step in the last year before I came to college. So that was really when I got recruited by these coaches. I took the visit. I really loved it. Getting a Berkeley degree here and playing in the Pac-12, having this great competition is a no-brainer for me, and I've been really enjoying it.”

Size is an element the Bears have lacked in recent years but between a more experienced Theimann and fourth-year center Kuany Kuany along powerful new power forward ND Okafor, the Bears should be able to mix it up more under the basket.

“We have a much better feeling I think going into every game because we actually have a legitimate size center,” said Fox. “We have wing players who have legitimate size and athleticism. And we have some depth. So instead of having a 6’3 small forward, we have a 6’3 point guard. We’ve just gotten a little bit bigger and more athletic so I think our matchups should be much better across the board.”

Brown is bullish on this year’s team, as well.

“I see a very diverse and deep team like coach just said, at each position,” said Brown. “Very athletic, versatility, high IQ. We should be able to impose our will on opponents -something we haven’t done too much in the past due to the lack of size and whatnot. But I think this is a great team with great chemistry that’s been built because of this past summer that we’ve had.”

The team had the benefit of being able to start practice early in preparation to play in France, Belgium and Germany over the summer and Brown feels that the extra preparation time and time for the new additions to the roster to get better acclimated has paid dividends heading into the season.

“The practices leading up to the trip were super important,” said Fox. “We have a lot of new guys and it gave them a chance to learn how we’re going to play. And then the chemistry you build. The first thing we did was go to Paris. Some took a right and some took a left and we said we’ll see you in two hours. They developed some chemistry and they had some fun together. It was really a phenomenal trip.”

“I think the new guys have done a great job of just buying into what Coach Fox has talked about, especially this last summer,” said Brown. “We’ve done a lot of basics and a lot of the little things we do going into the season. Just having this past season has helped us collectively as a group to get a better feel for each other. So I don’t have any doubts we’ll be able to work together as a team.

“This summer was great, especially for guys who hadn’t been to Europe. It’s a different experience, especially being in Lars’ home country, Germany. He was able to show us where he’s from, his roots. That was a cool experience. Off the court, we were able to bond, something we probably hadn’t had a chance to do in a while, especially going through the covid phases. But there’s a lot of memories that we made that we’ll never take for granted.”

If the Bears are to succeed this season, much will depend on the continued development and consistency of Thiemann in the middle.

“I’d say Lars crossed a big bridge at the end of last season,” said Fox. “At the end of the year, he played a ton of minutes. He was able to get that game confidence that’s so necessary for all players.”

The Bears will kick off their season next Wednesday in an exhibition against Chico State at 7 pm in Haas Pavilion. Non-conference play kicks off the following Monday in a home matchup vs. UC Davis at 8 pm.

Related:

Fox Breaks Down Roster, New Additions Heading Into Season

Discussion from...

Fox, Brown and Thiemann Kick Things Off at Pac-12 Media Day

1,969 Views | 17 Replies | Last: 22 days ago by sluggo
SFCityBear
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After reading this article of Cal's day with the media, along with the link at the end to Coach Fox's breakdown of Cal's individual players, anyone who can't generate some feeling of hope, or at least some interest in the upcoming season, is someone with an agenda.

Go Bears!
SFCityBear
Civil Bear
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SFCityBear said:

After reading this article of Cal's day with the media, along with the link at the end to Coach Fox's breakdown of Cal's individual players, anyone who can't generate some feeling of hope, or at least some interest in the upcoming season, is someone with an agenda.

Go Bears!

Or someone that's been burned before.
Golden One
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SFCityBear said:

After reading this article of Cal's day with the media, along with the link at the end to Coach Fox's breakdown of Cal's individual players, anyone who can't generate some feeling of hope, or at least some interest in the upcoming season, is someone with an agenda.

Go Bears!
The biggest reason for hope is that our basketball team can't be any worse than our football team.
annarborbear
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I would feel poorly not supporting kids like this, so I will attend many of the games. Liked all of their comments about their total experiences here at Cal.
SFCityBear
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Civil Bear said:

SFCityBear said:

After reading this article of Cal's day with the media, along with the link at the end to Coach Fox's breakdown of Cal's individual players, anyone who can't generate some feeling of hope, or at least some interest in the upcoming season, is someone with an agenda.

Go Bears!

Or someone that's been burned before.
You are right, of course.
SFCityBear
SFCityBear
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annarborbear said:

I would feel poorly not supporting kids like this, so I will attend many of the games. Liked all of their comments about their total experiences here at Cal.
It seems like the players like each other and they like the coach, in general. I am less interested in winning than I am interested in how they develop and mature as men and if they can be there for each other during all the hard work and ups and downs of a season. If they can have fun, I think we will have fun as fans, or at least I will.
SFCityBear
4thGenCal
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SFCityBear said:

annarborbear said:

I would feel poorly not supporting kids like this, so I will attend many of the games. Liked all of their comments about their total experiences here at Cal.
It seems like the players like each other and they like the coach, in general. I am less interested in winning than I am interested in how they develop and mature as men and if they can be there for each other during all the hard work and ups and downs of a season. If they can have fun, I think we will have fun as fans, or at least I will.
I like the majority of fans/alums/ticket holders, want a winning program or change the HC/staff. So while I am holding to that fair standard(and this is the make it year to me) or go in a different direction, its also valid to mention that the players definitely are tight with their teammates, I see it and hear it - unsolicited. Coach Fox who a few have questioned how can a older "white coach' /mid west background relate to today's roster of nearly all black players (be it USA or international)? I can say with 100% validation, the players across the board have a high respect level and trust in His leadership. In fact the players I have point blank asked about ethnic coaching preference, (11 of 13 asked ) were consistent in being totally fine with "white coaching". The common theme was that their earlier experiences with Black AAU coaches often were much more confrontational and occasionally demeaning. The point they emphasized was that its the Man/expertise/ability to develop skills, not his age or skin type that was most important. By the way I loved Cuanzo because He related extremely well to the players and was a great role model. I believe their sincerity. A telling and frankly heart pulling recruiting story, backs up the post above about the players being tight. A recruit that was visiting recently with his Father, had the Dad pull aside the HC and said "unfortunately I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I have at most one year to live". Its therefore Very important to me, to know that my Son will be with supportive teammates and the HC can be looked upon as a father figure". What I have observed and feel is that my Son will get that support here". Pretty powerful statement from a recruits Dad. No guarantee that He will end up at Cal, but the feeling is positive that He will. I do not know who the player is in question. So this post is just to keep some objectivity in the disdain for Coach Fox and staff and while the performance thus far warrants the criticism, its also important to know that there is respect for the HC and staff,
PtownBear1
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The team certainly seems cohesive, and Fox only mentioned Covid once in all that dialogue, which is a good sign that he's setting aside the excuse machine. I just don't know where scoring is going to come from though. At least when playing top 100 competition.
BC Calfan
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I am cautiously optimistic about our guard depth. Senior PGs are usually a recipe for success and we have 2 of them. Joel, Clayton and Askew could provide a nice solid rotation with each bringing a different specialty.

Sidenote: Really enjoyed this quote by Fox. "Joel's brilliant, so school is not as hard for him as maybe it would have been for me," cracked Fox. "And Lars, as a nutrition major, has still not cooked me one thing. He hasn't even brought me a snack."

Fox has jokes! Hopefully he loosens up this year.
evanluck
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Like seeing Coach Fox out in the spotlight with a team he likes and believes in.

Like the optimism from SFCityBear and 4thGenCal.

Let's get behind the team! What a great group of young men doing their best to represent a school that we all are proud to share connection with.

Go Bears! Onward and upward!
stu
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SFCityBear said:

It seems like the players like each other and they like the coach, in general. I am less interested in winning than I am interested in how they develop and mature as men and if they can be there for each other during all the hard work and ups and downs of a season. If they can have fun, I think we will have fun as fans, or at least I will.
To me this is great news. I think everyone getting along and graduating is a big deal. It may not be the fastest way to winning records but I'd say it's a good start.
KoreAmBear
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Best news is Joel making 48 out of 50 FTs. Joel just has been a kid with a solid demeanor even before coming to Cal, sticking to his commitment. You can tell he'll be successful in life. Despite our criticism esp of the coaching, I really want any of these kids who didn't bail when things got too tough - to have some success. I felt bad that Grant left without winning. Hopefully kids like Joel and Lars get to do so.
4thGenCal
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KoreAmBear said:

Best news is Joel making 48 out of 50 FTs. Joel just has been a kid with a solid demeanor even before coming to Cal, sticking to his commitment. You can tell he'll be successful in life. Despite our criticism esp of the coaching, I really want any of these kids who didn't bail when things got too tough - to have some success. I felt bad that Grant left without winning. Hopefully kids like Joel and Lars get to do so.
So true and spot on comment - these guys are truly solid/respectful/focused student athletes. Given the difficulties/record etc they have faced, would be very rewarding to them, to have a positive season. The new guys have really created a vibrant energy and a sense of optimism, though it will be a big challenge this season, given how the league is very good.
sluggo
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My favorite part is that Fox used the word "rebuild" twice and "rebuilt" once. How far along is the rebuild? His excuses get me very excited!
sluggo
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4thGenCal said:

SFCityBear said:

annarborbear said:

I would feel poorly not supporting kids like this, so I will attend many of the games. Liked all of their comments about their total experiences here at Cal.
It seems like the players like each other and they like the coach, in general. I am less interested in winning than I am interested in how they develop and mature as men and if they can be there for each other during all the hard work and ups and downs of a season. If they can have fun, I think we will have fun as fans, or at least I will.
I like the majority of fans/alums/ticket holders, want a winning program or change the HC/staff. So while I am holding to that fair standard(and this is the make it year to me) or go in a different direction, its also valid to mention that the players definitely are tight with their teammates, I see it and hear it - unsolicited. Coach Fox who a few have questioned how can a older "white coach' /mid west background relate to today's roster of nearly all black players (be it USA or international)? I can say with 100% validation, the players across the board have a high respect level and trust in His leadership. In fact the players I have point blank asked about ethnic coaching preference, (11 of 13 asked ) were consistent in being totally fine with "white coaching". The common theme was that their earlier experiences with Black AAU coaches often were much more confrontational and occasionally demeaning. The point they emphasized was that its the Man/expertise/ability to develop skills, not his age or skin type that was most important. By the way I loved Cuanzo because He related extremely well to the players and was a great role model. I believe their sincerity. A telling and frankly heart pulling recruiting story, backs up the post above about the players being tight. A recruit that was visiting recently with his Father, had the Dad pull aside the HC and said "unfortunately I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I have at most one year to live". Its therefore Very important to me, to know that my Son will be with supportive teammates and the HC can be looked upon as a father figure". What I have observed and feel is that my Son will get that support here". Pretty powerful statement from a recruits Dad. No guarantee that He will end up at Cal, but the feeling is positive that He will. I do not know who the player is in question. So this post is just to keep some objectivity in the disdain for Coach Fox and staff and while the performance thus far warrants the criticism, its also important to know that there is respect for the HC and staff,
And that is why he recruits at the very bottom of the conference every year. Players and their families love him, he is almost too good to play for! Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly would have loved to play longer for him, it is just that, well, he is so well respected!

Have you heard of sampling bias?
calumnus
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sluggo said:

4thGenCal said:

SFCityBear said:

annarborbear said:

I would feel poorly not supporting kids like this, so I will attend many of the games. Liked all of their comments about their total experiences here at Cal.
It seems like the players like each other and they like the coach, in general. I am less interested in winning than I am interested in how they develop and mature as men and if they can be there for each other during all the hard work and ups and downs of a season. If they can have fun, I think we will have fun as fans, or at least I will.
I like the majority of fans/alums/ticket holders, want a winning program or change the HC/staff. So while I am holding to that fair standard(and this is the make it year to me) or go in a different direction, its also valid to mention that the players definitely are tight with their teammates, I see it and hear it - unsolicited. Coach Fox who a few have questioned how can a older "white coach' /mid west background relate to today's roster of nearly all black players (be it USA or international)? I can say with 100% validation, the players across the board have a high respect level and trust in His leadership. In fact the players I have point blank asked about ethnic coaching preference, (11 of 13 asked ) were consistent in being totally fine with "white coaching". The common theme was that their earlier experiences with Black AAU coaches often were much more confrontational and occasionally demeaning. The point they emphasized was that its the Man/expertise/ability to develop skills, not his age or skin type that was most important. By the way I loved Cuanzo because He related extremely well to the players and was a great role model. I believe their sincerity. A telling and frankly heart pulling recruiting story, backs up the post above about the players being tight. A recruit that was visiting recently with his Father, had the Dad pull aside the HC and said "unfortunately I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I have at most one year to live". Its therefore Very important to me, to know that my Son will be with supportive teammates and the HC can be looked upon as a father figure". What I have observed and feel is that my Son will get that support here". Pretty powerful statement from a recruits Dad. No guarantee that He will end up at Cal, but the feeling is positive that He will. I do not know who the player is in question. So this post is just to keep some objectivity in the disdain for Coach Fox and staff and while the performance thus far warrants the criticism, its also important to know that there is respect for the HC and staff,
And that is why he recruits at the very bottom of the conference every year. Players and their families love him, he is almost too good to play for! Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly would have loved to play longer for him, it is just that, well, he is so well respected!

Have you heard of sampling bias?


Sampling bias is just one of the many logical fallacies and biases in that post. I couldn't even respond. It just makes me depressed.
sluggo
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SFCityBear said:

After reading this article of Cal's day with the media, along with the link at the end to Coach Fox's breakdown of Cal's individual players, anyone who can't generate some feeling of hope, or at least some interest in the upcoming season, is someone with an agenda.

Go Bears!
I had an agenda.
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