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Cal Basketball

Cal Men's Basketball Program - Looking back in order to look forward

January 29, 2023
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Despite the historical levels of losing over the past four seasons, the team continued to play hard.  Unsurprisingly, the emotional resilience of the Bears has reached its limit.  After a near 30-point loss to Stanford last night, Cal has now lost three games in a row by more than twenty points, including embarrassing performances vs. two of the Pac-12’s worst teams in Oregon State and Stanford.

Five short years ago, it appeared that Cal had hired a coach who would staunch the bleeding that occurred after the capricious and ignominious hiring of Wyking Jones by then Athletic Director, Mike Williams.   While the decision to bring Mark Fox to Berkeley was not met with excitement from any corner, it appeared to be a safe hire.   Fox’s “success” at a basketball-impaired Georgia program and his resume from Nevada implied at the very least a reasonably high floor.   He brought what appeared to be a cultural and personality fit with Cal.  A cerebral and well-spoken head coach with high character, Fox shared many of the attributes that have made Justin Wilcox popular in Berkeley.

Yet, almost immediately, Mark Fox struggled.   And it became clear that what at first appeared to be an appropriate if uninspired hire, was in fact a mismatch of need and talent.   Mark Fox is a very capable basketball coach.  He earns the respect of his players and is an effective teacher and game planner.  To anyone who has had a chance to spend time with him, he’s hard not to like as his authenticity and character are obvious.   

The mismatch is simply that Cal, coming off two disastrous seasons under Coach Jones, needed an injection of energy, and excitement to go along with the rebuilding of a roster whose talent level had fallen off sharply following Cuonzo Martin’s decision to move on to Missouri.   Fox is not a lively personality, his relationship with the press can best be described as distrustful and distant and he’d rather have a roster built around harmonious humility rather than the type of dynamic talent that is essential to winning basketball games.  

While he didn’t have much of a window to re-recruit the returning talent he inherited on the roster, he was unable to hold on to leading scorer Justice Sueing and promising big man, Conner Vanover, both of whom transferred out to more promising situations.  Despairingly, his first recruiting class proved to be bereft of Pac-12-level starting talent.   A trend that didn’t change until the class of 2022.    And to add serious injury to the insult of Fox’s recruiting ineptitude, he not only failed to retain but to varying degrees pushed out the two most productive players of his tenure - Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly.  The idea that Fox put out discreetly to donors, was that these would be additions by subtraction.   Instead, it proved to be subtraction by subtraction.

Based on numerous conversations with AAU and high school coaches, opposing assistants, and long-time recruiting pundits, the picture of Coach Fox and his staff’s approach to attracting new talent became clear.  They strongly preferred not to cast a wide net, eschewing the relentless and nearly ubiquitous approach of attending every recruiting event in order to be seen and build the Bears’ brand, choosing instead to focus on a small handful of players they believed could help them AND that they believed they could land.  They relied on their belief that they could scout well enough to find hidden gems who would relish the opportunity to get a Cal degree and play at the Pac-12 level.  It’s not a huge leap to assume they were insecure about their ability to outsell other programs for players who were coveted.   The children of former Cal stars who had grown up fans of the program were ignored, seemingly because they would be highly sought-after players.  The comments that were consistently used to describe Fox and his staff on the recruiting trail from leading local and West Coast AAU and HS programs were, “We see the Cal staff far less than any other P12 program.” “They’re simply not very visible on the recruiting trail,” and, “My kid (almost always a future P12 player)  is interested in Cal but we haven’t heard from them”.

The scouting prowess Fox seemingly wanted to rely on proved to be illusory.  Not only did it lead to the creation of what is arguably the most talent-deficient roster among Power 5 programs nationally, but it also had glaring misses.  None more pointed than local star Aidan Mahaney, who as a true freshman is the best player on an always solid St. Marys team.  Creating energy for a program starts with recruiting and finding local talent would have been an instant win and provide a reason to attend games for an increasingly disinterested Bears fan base.  According to multiple sources, despite growing up in Cal’s backyard, Fox slow-played Mahaney as he was unsure he was a Pac-12-level player.  Only when Fox missed on two other combo guards he coveted more highly than Mahaney did he turn his attention to the Campolindo star. It was too little, too late as Mahaney felt far more comfortable with Randy Bennet who had made him a priority going back to his sophomore year in high school.  One source close to Mahaney shared that had Fox gone all in on Mahaney just 6 months earlier, the Gaels' leading scorer would now be in Berkeley.  And lest folks get confused about the “inherent” challenges of recruiting quality basketball players to Cal, a re-read of this data will be enlightening.

Despite the historical level of losing, to our knowledge, Fox hasn’t changed a single thing about his approach.  Zero turnover on a staff that has failed to recruit successfully or produce wins on the court sent the message to fans and donors, that he would rather fail epically on his terms than adjust or modify his approach.  As for the press, Fox has never allowed his assistants to be interviewed and limited access to his players to a degree that if not unprecedented in college basketball is close to it.  He was so overly controlling or paranoid or both that he would not even allow Cal’s own radio personalities to attend practice or talk with players.  

And the idea that Fox has somehow dealt with an unprecedented level of injuries during this 2022-23 season is misleading at best and unfortunate propaganda at worst.  Ask any coach in America whether he’d love to have a team with three 5th year returning starters who rarely if ever miss a game and the answer you’ll get back is, “Hell Yes!.”  Fox has had Brown, Kuany, and Lars (all of whom he recruited and developed) available for 95%+ of this season.   The notion that DeJuan Clayton’s lack of availability earlier this season had a material impact has been shattered by his 29% FG shooting since returning seven games ago.  Jarred Hyder’s clearly shown over three years he’s not a Pac-12 level guard with his career 26% 3pt FG% and 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  And though Celestine’s injury was unfortunate, it’s far from surprising given his health history even prior to coming to Berkeley.   And it’s not as if other college basketball programs haven’t faced injury challenges, it’s an issue for the vast majority of programs.   Summarily, it would take a very creative imagination to believe that even with Clayton, Askew, Hyder, and Celestine available that Cal would have been anything more than a .500 overall team finishing in the bottom third of the Pac-12.   Far easier to objectively evaluate a fully-healthy Cal roster as no better than the 11th best in the Pac-12.  

As the Fox era winds down, it’s time to look forward.   Cal needs a coach who can be a change agent.  Who can galvanize donor and fan support to build the long-needed practice facility and bring Haas Pavilion back to its historical levels of attendance.  It requires a dynamic personality who will inspire hope and someone who will make the recruitment and retention of talent their top priority.    Someone who can see the Bears program as a glass that is half full.  Emphasizing the location, P5 conference, historical success, and academic prowess rather than lamenting the less-than-ideal (though improving) admissions situation and the lack of a practice facility.  Moreover, they need to take a page from Justin Wilcox’s playbook to systemically improve and increase the quality of financial and administrative support of the program from the University.

Cal has to make Men’s Basketball a priority and reach into its potential for revenue generation which though modest is important and its impact on the broader health of the overall athletic program.   Basketball is a gateway for students to bond with the school for the long term, and a hugely important connection point to alumni and significant donors.   While the Chancellor and Athletic Director play a critical role in aligning with this mission, it’s the new head coach and the head coach alone that can catalyze the necessary changes.

As we move on from the Fox era and look forward to rebuilding the Men’s Basketball Program at Cal, the opportunity and challenge starts and ends with finding the right head coach.  

Related Articles:

Bears Lose by 29 to Stanford

Embarrassing loss at home to Oregon State

Discussion from...

Cal Men's Basketball Program - Looking back in order to look forward

6,573 Views | 20 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by calumnus
GoOskie
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This belongs in cal's monster offensive line thread.
calumnus
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The first part is FAR too complementary to Mark Fox and Jim Knowlton.
concordtom
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Is this in the football folder of threads because of a mistake, or because that's where most readers are and bear insider wants them to read this call for an end of the Fox era?
bearsandgiants
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Off Topic
concernedparent
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That's why we didn't land Aidan Mahaney? I thought it was because Mark Fox has about as much charm as dog***** I didn't realize it's because he has much charm as dog**** AND the scouting ability of it too. There could not be a more obvious fit. A homegrown, skilled, poised, lights out shooter for a team where everyone runs around in circles and clanks jump shots.
calbear80
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Yes, we all know and agree that it is time for changes at the very top of the Cal Athletic program (yes, both Fox and Knowlton).

I have closely followed Cal Athletics for 47 years and this is absolutely the worst that we have ever been in FB, MBB and WBB. There has been periods that we have been bad in one or two of those three sports, but, there has always been a sliver of hope for at least one of those three sports. Now, four years of horrible losing MBB and WBB combined with three consecutive years of losing FB record, has made us the absolute worst.

Knowlton is the one who hand picked the current MBB and WBB Coaches (and then gave them contract extensions despite the horrible losing records) ) and gave a contract extension to the FB Coach.

I blame Knowlton.

Bring Back Respect To Cal FB, MBB And WBB!

Go Bears!
calumnus
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calbear80 said:

Yes, we all know and agree that it is time for changes at the very top of the Cal Athletic program (yes, both Fox and Knowlton).

I have closely followed Cal Athletics for 47 years and this is absolutely the worst that we have ever been in FB, MBB and WBB. There has been periods that we have been bad in one or two of those three sports, but, there has always been a sliver of hope for at least one of those three sports. Now, four years of horrible losing MBB and WBB combined with three consecutive years of losing FB record, has made us the absolute worst.

Knowlton is the one who hand picked the current MBB and WBB Coaches (and then gave them contract extensions despite the horrible losing records) ) and gave a contract extension to the FB Coach.

I blame Knowlton.

Bring Back Respect To Cal FB, MBB And WBB!

Go Bears!


Any news on the investigation into McKeever?

Back in May Knowlton announced an investigation "could take up to six months" which was meet with dismay, with one parent saying "the general take away from the meeting (with Knowlton) is the lack of urgency on something that should have been taken care of a long time ago." Another parent said Knowlton's response "seems inconsistent with truly taking the steps that lead to getting to the truth, resolving this issue and moving on as quickly as possible." "The pace and speed doesn't bring a lot of confidence to the parent group that (Cal) is willing to do a true investigation and get to the truth."

Six months, which seemed an inordinately long time period at the time, would have been November of last year. We are now heading into February.
KoreAmBear
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concernedparent said:

That's why we didn't land Aidan Mahaney? I thought it was because Mark Fox has about as much charm as dog***** I didn't realize it's because he has much charm as dog**** AND the scouting ability of it too. There could not be a more obvious fit. A homegrown, skilled, poised, lights out shooter for a team where everyone runs around in circles and clanks jump shots.
Mahaney was like a no brainer for us since he was a high school underclassman, and really Fox' last chance at turning this around -- but now we're hearing Fox was not all in? I want to throw up. I didn't think I could dislike Fox more than I already did, but after that article, I found out it was possible.
HearstMining
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Shocky1 said:



the real question is: when is the bear insider gonna have a comprehensive non censored interview with james arthur knowlton?
Oh stop. A comprehensive non censored interview with Knowlton would go something like this:

BI Interviewer: What are the key performance measures for a basketball coach at Cal?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: Can you explain the role that major donors have in the coach selection and hire process for major revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: What do you see as the major barriers for Cal when recruiting top players in the revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

And on and on ad infinitum.

The BI staff are well-meaning folks who are not doing this to make a living, thus they have nothing to gain by antagonizing the Cal Athletic Department and Knowlton has absolutely no reason to be candid with them. BI is not the Washington Post. Nobody on the staff would be confused with Bob Woodward and there is no Deep Throat to spill the beans.

I think the real question is: will anybody at all care about Cal football and basketball in three years?
tequila4kapp
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HearstMining said:

Shocky1 said:



the real question is: when is the bear insider gonna have a comprehensive non censored interview with james arthur knowlton?
Oh stop. A comprehensive non censored interview with Knowlton would go something like this:

BI Interviewer: What are the key performance measures for a basketball coach at Cal?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: Can you explain the role that major donors have in the coach selection and hire process for major revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: What do you see as the major barriers for Cal when recruiting top players in the revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

And on and on ad infinitum.

The BI staff are well-meaning folks who are not doing this to make a living, thus they have nothing to gain by antagonizing the Cal Athletic Department and Knowlton has absolutely no reason to be candid with them. BI is not the Washington Post. Nobody on the staff would be confused with Bob Woodward and there is no Deep Throat to spill the beans.

I think the real question is: will anybody at all care about Cal football and basketball in three years?
Did you read the article? It's not flattering toward Fox.

The question about interviewing Fox is a moot point. He doesn't do interviews for anyone. The one time we are aware of an interview happening he required the questions to be provided in advance. The lack of BI interview is not a BI issue.
HearstMining
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tequila4kapp said:

HearstMining said:

Shocky1 said:



the real question is: when is the bear insider gonna have a comprehensive non censored interview with james arthur knowlton?
Oh stop. A comprehensive non censored interview with Knowlton would go something like this:

BI Interviewer: What are the key performance measures for a basketball coach at Cal?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: Can you explain the role that major donors have in the coach selection and hire process for major revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: What do you see as the major barriers for Cal when recruiting top players in the revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

And on and on ad infinitum.

The BI staff are well-meaning folks who are not doing this to make a living, thus they have nothing to gain by antagonizing the Cal Athletic Department and Knowlton has absolutely no reason to be candid with them. BI is not the Washington Post. Nobody on the staff would be confused with Bob Woodward and there is no Deep Throat to spill the beans.

I think the real question is: will anybody at all care about Cal football and basketball in three years?
Did you read the article? It's not flattering toward Fox.

The question about interviewing Fox is a moot point. He doesn't do interviews for anyone. The one time we are aware of an interview happening he required the questions to be provided in advance. The lack of BI interview is not a BI issue.
What the heck is your point? If you thought my comment about BI antagonizing the AD was a slap at BI, you are mistaken. Of course I read the article. Paragraphs 2 and 3 were largely, and according to others on this thread, overly complementary of Fox's attributes. The balance of the article contains criticism based on, as far as I can tell, good research and analysis. I suspect the Athletic Dept,, if they are even aware of it, won't be pleased if they read it. But that's not the same thing as being antagonized. It is a good article.

Shocky1 asked for a "comprehensive non censored interview" with Knowlton. Actually, the correct word is "uncensored" and I'm not sure who he thinks would do the censoring, but any interview would be useless for the reasons you (and I) have stated.
GivemTheAxe
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tequila4kapp said:

HearstMining said:

Shocky1 said:



the real question is: when is the bear insider gonna have a comprehensive non censored interview with james arthur knowlton?
Oh stop. A comprehensive non censored interview with Knowlton would go something like this:

BI Interviewer: What are the key performance measures for a basketball coach at Cal?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: Can you explain the role that major donors have in the coach selection and hire process for major revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: What do you see as the major barriers for Cal when recruiting top players in the revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

And on and on ad infinitum.

The BI staff are well-meaning folks who are not doing this to make a living, thus they have nothing to gain by antagonizing the Cal Athletic Department and Knowlton has absolutely no reason to be candid with them. BI is not the Washington Post. Nobody on the staff would be confused with Bob Woodward and there is no Deep Throat to spill the beans.

I think the real question is: will anybody at all care about Cal football and basketball in three years?
Did you read the article? It's not flattering toward Fox.

The question about interviewing Fox is a moot point. He doesn't do interviews for anyone. The one time we are aware of an interview happening he required the questions to be provided in advance. The lack of BI interview is not a BI issue.


Let's see if I have this right.
1. Fox doesn't win because he has no quality players.
2. Fox can't get any high quality players because he doesn't want to spend too much time going after quality players he thinks he can't get. (But it doesn't seem that he can get even the lower quality players that he does try to recruit)
3. Fox has as much personality as a dead fish.
4. Fox is not willing to reconsider his style of recruiting ( maybe he doesn't see any problem with his style of recruiting or maybe he doesn't know how to change or maybe he just doesn't care)
5. Fox hates the media (maybe because he has given the media lots of ammunition to criticize him.)( maybe it's his personality)
6. It appears to me that Fox is NOT capable of turning this program around. It is up to the AD to get him to change or (PREFERABLY) to get rid of him

Not wanting to compare FB vs BB. But to me it is very clear that Wilcox got the message loud and clear. Improve the offense or you are gone. He brought in a new proven and exciting OC and two new young and exciting position coaches. All three know how to recruit and have the right personality for that. I have seen a great awakening on the offensive side of the team with lots of excitement and new spirit that is attracting a better quality of offensive recruits.

Whether it will prove successful is still to be seen. But if Wilcox followed Fox's example, Musgrave would still be our OC. And JW would be simply hoping for an improvement in the offense

(Admittedly this great a change has made some players uncomfortable and they have opted to leave. But the core of Cal's better players have remained. Apparently they have bought in to the new philosophy)

My only question is why the heck hasn't the AD sent the same message to Fox that he sent to Wilcox. And why he didn't do it long ago.
3146gabby
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this reads like an obit and seems to imply inside knowledge....the report is comprehensive, impressive and whatever might be viewed as showing some positives for MF, is absolutely clear in the total failure of his program.

does the author know more?
Bobodeluxe
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As written by Mr./Ms. Bear Insider, why afraid to attach a photo of the author?
calumnus
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GivemTheAxe said:

tequila4kapp said:

HearstMining said:

Shocky1 said:



the real question is: when is the bear insider gonna have a comprehensive non censored interview with james arthur knowlton?
Oh stop. A comprehensive non censored interview with Knowlton would go something like this:

BI Interviewer: What are the key performance measures for a basketball coach at Cal?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: Can you explain the role that major donors have in the coach selection and hire process for major revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

BI Interviewer: What do you see as the major barriers for Cal when recruiting top players in the revenue sports?
Knowlton: Blah blah blah blah

And on and on ad infinitum.

The BI staff are well-meaning folks who are not doing this to make a living, thus they have nothing to gain by antagonizing the Cal Athletic Department and Knowlton has absolutely no reason to be candid with them. BI is not the Washington Post. Nobody on the staff would be confused with Bob Woodward and there is no Deep Throat to spill the beans.

I think the real question is: will anybody at all care about Cal football and basketball in three years?
Did you read the article? It's not flattering toward Fox.

The question about interviewing Fox is a moot point. He doesn't do interviews for anyone. The one time we are aware of an interview happening he required the questions to be provided in advance. The lack of BI interview is not a BI issue.


Let's see if I have this right.
1. Fox doesn't win because he has no quality players.
2. Fox can't get any high quality players because he doesn't want to spend too much time going after quality players he thinks he can't get. (But it doesn't seem that he can get even the lower quality players that he does try to recruit)
3. Fox has as much personality as a dead fish.
4. Fox is not willing to reconsider his style of recruiting ( maybe he doesn't see any problem with his style of recruiting or maybe he doesn't know how to change or maybe he just doesn't care)
5. Fox hates the media (maybe because he has given the media lots of ammunition to criticize him.)( maybe it's his personality)
6. It appears to me that Fox is NOT capable of turning this program around. It is up to the AD to get him to change or (PREFERABLY) to get rid of him

Not wanting to compare FB vs BB. But to me it is very clear that Wilcox got the message loud and clear. Improve the offense or you are gone. He brought in a new proven and exciting OC and two new young and exciting position coaches. All three know how to recruit and have the right personality for that. I have seen a great awakening on the offensive side of the team with lots of excitement and new spirit that is attracting a better quality of offensive recruits.

Whether it will prove successful is still to be seen. But if Wilcox followed Fox's example, Musgrave would still be our OC. And JW would be simply hoping for an improvement in the offense

(Admittedly this great a change has made some players uncomfortable and they have opted to leave. But the core of Cal's better players have remained. Apparently they have bought in to the new philosophy)

My only question is why the heck hasn't the AD sent the same message to Fox that he sent to Wilcox. And why he didn't do it long ago.


1. Baldwin was the OC with the PAC-12's worst offense before Musgrave.

2. I doubt it was Knowlton that forced either OC change on Wilcox. Wilcox is capable of coming to that conclusion after 3 years of it hitting him in the face.
GivemTheAxe
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Now you are making me feel real bad about the AD if he did not lay the law down on JW to "improve the offense or you are gone".

If he did not give the ultimatum to JW. And waited for JW to come to that conclusion on his own. Why the heck do we need an AD. Just hire a HC for each team and let them do whatever they see fit to do.

Every Cal fan in my corner of CMS saw that Musgrave had to go. Any stragglers jumped on the Fire Musgrave band wagon not later than the Colorado game. Most a few games before that.
Chapman_is_Gone
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KoreAmBear said:

concernedparent said:

That's why we didn't land Aidan Mahaney? I thought it was because Mark Fox has about as much charm as dog***** I didn't realize it's because he has much charm as dog**** AND the scouting ability of it too. There could not be a more obvious fit. A homegrown, skilled, poised, lights out shooter for a team where everyone runs around in circles and clanks jump shots.
Mahaney was like a no brainer for us since he was a high school underclassman, and really Fox' last chance at turning this around -- but now we're hearing Fox was not all in? I want to throw up. I didn't think I could dislike Fox more than I already did, but after that article, I found out it was possible.


Fox also picks his nose at stoplights.
calumnus
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GivemTheAxe said:

Now you are making me feel real bad about the AD if he did not lay the law down on JW to "improve the offense or you are gone".

If he did not give the ultimatum to JW. And waited for JW to come to that conclusion on his own. Why the heck do we need an AD. Just hire a HC for each team and let them do whatever they see fit to do.

Every Cal fan in my corner of CMS saw that Musgrave had to go. Any stragglers jumped on the Fire Musgrave band wagon not later than the Colorado game. Most a few games before that.


At the end of last year Knowlton gave Wilcox a raise and extended him out 5 years. It would cost $20 million to fire Wilcox. He had no ability to threaten "or else" or else what? Besides, Knowlton is smiling at Cal basketball games where we are 3-18 and #350 in the country in scoring. At halftime of a football game where we scored no points he said our offense was "exciting." If Mark Fox is still our basketball coach you know a mid-season firing of Musgrave did not come from Knowlton.
GerryLopezBear
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I don't think it's very complicated. Third year, you go 0-11 in pre season, you have worst record in P5, you lose your best player to UCSB???

He could be the most charming man on the west coast and cured cancer. He is DONE.

calumnus
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Mattlowe said:

I don't think it's very complicated. Third year, you go 0-11 in pre season, you have worst record in P5, you lose your best player to UCSB???

He could be the most charming man on the west coast and cured cancer. He is DONE.




What is crazy is this is his 4th year. His first year recruits are seniors. This is 100% his team. He implied we would be better without Bradley and then better without Kelly. The only reason we are doubting is that the year after Fox set the Cal record for most conference losses in a season, Knowlton actually gave him an extension. Now, Knowlton needs to get donors to cough up the $millions to pay for his mistake.
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