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The Cal Men's Basketball Head Coaching Search

March 26, 2023
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When the past six years mark the absolute nadir for not only your basketball program but arguably any Power 5 basketball program in history, the search for new leadership takes on extra weight.

When Mark Fox was let go on March  9th, it wasn’t a surprise for anyone and Cal’s Athletic Department was prepared to kick off a very different search process than what brought Fox to Berkeley back in 2019.   That was a quick process, in which Athletic Director Jim Knowlton operated in an autonomous fashion, aided by Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA), an executive search firm that specializes in AD, Football, and Basketball head coaching searches.

While CSA is again involved in this search (and that is surprising given the last result with their involvement), Knowlton took a very different approach to replace Fox.  This time, he was prepared with a list of targets, a list that grew with input from CSA as well as from prominent basketball experts close to Cal.   He fielded calls and sat down with a large number of donors who were galvanized to put the program on a stronger footing both to help attract a top-tier coach as well as to support that individual once they were in place.   

Knowlton further reached out to former players to let them know that he wanted a more inclusive program going forward and that their involvement was critical to get the Bears back to the level of solid though not spectacular success they had enjoyed for over thirty years.  

Before kicking off the search, Knowlton wanted to make sure that he had both internal and external support for more funding and resources to support a program that had struggled in part due to below-market salaries for its coaches, recruiting, team travel to go along with a lack of a dedicated practice facility (all of which are table stakes in today's Power 5 basketball world).   Reports suggest that significant University support is now in place to go along with potential donor pledges for both NIL and a dedicated discretionary fund (the equivalent of Cal’s Caliber fund for Football).    Cal’s notorious challenging admissions were reminded of the academic success currently being enjoyed throughout the Athletic Department and especially in football and basketball with an eye towards creating more flexibility.  While the practice facility remains a question mark, the other necessary ingredients had been brought together in advance of the search for a new leader.  

Much of that support hinged on hiring a head coach that would be able to cement donor interest and rejuvenate fan support for a team that had seen attendance fall to the very bottom of Power 5 programs.

Cal is in desperate need of a hoops leader who can invigorate the key constituencies from NIL donors to traditional boosters to former players and the fan base.   This is a turnaround and will require boundless energy, resilience and an ability to marshall support from every corner of Cal’s basketball ecosystem.   Winning is generally the fastest way to make that happen and in college hoops, the fastest way to win is to find talent.   Beyond the innate desire and talent to recruit top-tier players, NIL donations are an absolute prerequisite to creating the type of talent infusion so desperately needed at Haas Pavilion.

The criteria for the new Head Coach became obvious and clear:

  • A top-flight recruiter who had done it successfully at the P5 level AND who both embraced and could navigate today's NIL world
  • A proven head coach who had won consistently, competing and winning for conference titles and earning bids to the NCAA tournament
  • Someone who had the personality and make-up to both energize the fanbase and overcome some of Cal’s inherent challenges (admissions, facilities, a notoriously recalcitrant bureaucracy)
  • Ideally, someone with West Coast ties and an understanding of both Cal’s potential and challenges 

Armed with the momentum around increased resources and improved circumstances, Cal wanted to reach for the stars.   While Dennis Gates’ recently signed extension with Missouri took him out of the running (An $11M+ buyout), that didn’t mean the Chris Beards, Jamie Dixons, Randy Bennetts couldn’t be considered.   There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations.  

Randy Bennett did emerge as a possibility and became a favorite, perhaps the favorite.   The allure was understandable.  He had built a top 20 program from a tiny school only 25 minutes from Cal’s campus.   Bennett’s a future HOF coach whose resume as a winner is unimpeachable.   However, one can’t help but wonder at how well he lined up against the remainder of Cal’s criteria.   At 61, did he have the energy or appetite for a turnaround?   Could his style of recruiting and roster building translate to the Pac-12?   Would his laconic and reserved personality be able to successfully engage donors and fans?   Did he have any interest in delving into the world of raising money for NIL, much less navigating recruiting with this as the central theme?

Still, it appears he was the front-runner and likely received an offer last week.   An offer that he ostensibly turned down.   While Bennett represented the obvious, there was also the possibility Cal would look beyond the world of college basketball to find its new leader.  NBA assistants such as Damon Stoudamire and Jason Terry were rumored to have been involved.   Stoudamire had a history in college basketball, yet only four days after Mark Fox was terminated he decided to take the Georgia Tech head job.   Terry may have had some appeal as a former Pac-12 and NBA star though his college resume was empty.   And the track record of former NBA players and assistants in the NBA coming to college as a head coach is not confidence inspiring.  

That left a group of up-and-coming college coaches.  Younger, with the energy and ambition likely required to clean up the current mess at Cal.  These were led by UCSBs head man, Joe Pasternack, who had a proven ability to land top-tier Power 5 talent as an assistant coach at both Cal and Arizona.   Pasternack reportedly coveted the job and had the support of several large Cal donors, including a large pledge for NIL if he were to get the role.   Amir Abdur-Rahim, fresh off an NCAA berth at Kenesaw State and a former ace recruiter at Texas A&M and Georgia was available and his family ties to the Bears were clearly compelling to fans and potential donors.   Stan Johnson at LMU had found more success in Westchester than any coach since Paul Westhead left in 1990 including big wins this season over St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.  He has the youth and charisma that had to figure prominently in Knowlton’s mind.  However, neither Abdur-Rahim nor Johnson have much of a track record as head coaches and had not come close to proving they could be consistent winners as head coaches (an important element given the impact a single player can have on a program for a season).   Mark Madsen was another obvious candidate.   A former college and NBA star that had sustained success (he inherited a strong program) at Utah Valley including two conference championships in the past three years.   He was unable to bring them to the NCAA tournament but is currently competing for an NIT title.   Madsen’s young, high energy, and charismatic.   Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much of a track record as a Power 5 recruiter with only one year at Stanford (a school that has historically recruited well without much impact from their coaching staff).   NIT experience?   

All four appeared to be finalists, given at least one and likely two interviews.   The interview process this time around was essential.   Without it, it’s very difficult to assess the candidate's ability to galvanize donors, navigate NIL, and what their approach would be to staff building, recruiting, and the overall turnaround process.   

According to our sources, in the end, Pasternack pulled out, and Abdur-Rahim and Johnson were not offered the job.   While the exclusion of Abdur-Rahim and Johnson is not surprising given their limited HC resumes and lack of consistent winning success, what happened to Pasternack’s candidacy?   

Jim Knowlton, despite the outreach and gathering of input from experts and donors in the process, is almost certainly making this decision an internal one.   He and his team within the AD are the ones choosing Cal’s next head coach and to our knowledge did not reach out to any donors or external advisors before making their decision.  That said, one has to wonder how much influence former Cal head coach Mike Montgomery and current Cal Assoc AD Jay John had on the final choice.   John, because he’s the only true Basketball person residing within Cal’s Athletic Department and Montgomery because the thesis on finalists laid out above leads to the conclusion that Mark Madsen will be Cal’s next head coach.   What’s notable is neither has any experience with the transfer portal and recruiting in the NIL era.

Montgomery coached Mark Madsen and is undoubtedly close to his former star.   Further, it’s been suggested that both he and Jay John were not fans of Pasternack’s, having had to compete with him at both Cal and Arizona as recruiters and on the court.   Pasternack is known for his fiery intensity and passion and clearly has the ability to get under the skin of his competitors.   And his association with Sean Miller at Arizona may further have fueled the animosity of the former Cal head coach who was known to be outspoken about anyone operating in the gray areas of recruiting.   

Interestingly, in today's college basketball, what was once considered “shady” is now business as usual with NIL.   It’s also not clear that a turnaround of the proportions that currently exist at Cal doesn’t automatically require a coach with a certain extra edginess and competitive fire.   While the above is speculation, it’s hard to find another rationale for why Cal may have passed on Joe Pasternack.   His recruiting resume, his on-the-court success, his knowledge of Cal, and the support he had within the Cal donor base all made him objectively a stronger candidate than Madsen.

In the end, it’s important that we all support Cal’s new head coach and it’s essential to be reminded that Knowlton’s job isn’t to win the process or the press conference announcing the new head coach, it’s about what the new coach does after he arrives in Berkeley that matters.  Whether it’s Madsen or someone else, we will have early feedback on donor (particularly NIL) support and recruiting.   That will be a non-trivial task as Madsen will not arrive with built-in support and the juxtaposition of his qualifications relative to Pasternack is almost certain to create disquiet and unhappiness among the donor base.  One of the further challenges in the desire to have a more considered and thoughtful search process is that the transfer portal is already open and Cal is not able to capitalize.   If the choice is Madsen and he cannot start until after the NIT, the Bears are further penalized.  

One thing to watch is if, in fact, the hire is Madsen is who he adds to his staff.  Will it include former Cal assistant John Montgomery?   Former coaches who advise on coaching searches are notoriously loyal to their former players and assistants.  Could Cal’s process have been derailed by a former great having his views pervade to the benefit of those he knows and loves best?   What’s painful here is of all the folks providing input to Knowlton on this process, the one whose least likely to write a donation or NIL check is in fact, Mike Montgomery.   Time will tell.   

Discussion from...

The Cal Men's Basketball Head Coaching Search

22,615 Views | 110 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by calumnus
eastcoastcal
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Quote:

Jim Knowlton, despite the outreach and gathering of input from experts and donors in the process, is almost certainly making this decision an internal one. He and his team within the AD are the ones choosing Cal's next head coach and to our knowledge did not reach out to any donors or external advisors before making their decision.
Depressing
Shocky1
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golf clap greg, less "nuanced" & more real
CAL4LIFE
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Invest and Attack indeed.



OdontoBear66
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Very good update to keep us all coasting in the decision making process. It sure leans to Madsen, but then there is an outside chance it may be the interim coach at Texas---In that Texas folded at the end, we should know soon on him. With respect to his team playing well in the NIT (semis) we may not hear so soon with Madsen.

Meantime thanks for bringing us up to date even though nothing cast in concrete.
JimSox
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Ugh. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
GoCal80
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This following line from the writeup resonated with me: "Pasternack is known for his fiery intensity and passion and clearly has the ability to get under the skin of his competitors." When Braun was head coach, I attended his father-son camp with my son. During the camp I interacted with Pasternack a bit, including in a drill he ran for the fathers simulating the situation of drawing up a play with a few seconds left on the game clock. I found Pasternack's personality to be a bit annoying. When Pasternack was on the Arizona staff and the famous Jorge kick happened, I had no trouble believing that it might have been an intentional kick by Pasternack based on my up-close impressions of the guy's intensity and over-the-top aggressiveness.
bearsandgiants
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So we're going to let someone who should arguably be facing criminal negligence charges make a multi-million-dire hire all on his own?
stanfurdbites
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What kind of fluff garbage is this article? Pathetic
Pittstop
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This. ^^^
ncbears
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Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
BearGreg
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Staff
To underscore the importance of NIL donations in support of a coach

stu
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ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
This.

I was surprised, not in a good way, when Fox was hired but I was willing to give him a chance. But seeing that video turned me against him faster than immediately.
bluesaxe
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ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.
BearGreg
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Staff
bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.
What I hear about Madsen is very positive. Sounds like a wonderful person with the type of energy and engaging personality that Cal needs.
stu
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I'm fine with either AAR or MM. If we manage to hire one of them it will be interesting to see if and how he can overcome the institutional barriers.
calumnus
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bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.


We need to stop using Mark Fox as a comparison. He was just a horrible hire.

Madsen is a good coach and good person. I just don't think he is the best fit for Cal. Starting with being a Furd (at least we are not looking at Casey Jacobsen). I don't like that Monty is driving this and pushing his guys instead of Cal basketball alums with broader networks. Or even Ben Braun who loves and sold Berkeley well.
JimSox
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calumnus said:

bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.


We need to stop using Mark Fox as a comparison. He was just a horrible hire.

Madsen is a good coach and good person. I just don't think he is the best fit for Cal. Starting with being a Furd (at least we are not looking at Casey Jacobsen). I don't like that Monty is driving this and pushing his guys instead of Cal basketball alums with broader networks. Or even Ben Braun who loves and sold Berkeley well.


Well if he's a good coach and a good person I'm ok with him.
calumnus
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JimSox said:

calumnus said:

bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.


We need to stop using Mark Fox as a comparison. He was just a horrible hire.

Madsen is a good coach and good person. I just don't think he is the best fit for Cal. Starting with being a Furd (at least we are not looking at Casey Jacobsen). I don't like that Monty is driving this and pushing his guys instead of Cal basketball alums with broader networks. Or even Ben Braun who loves and sold Berkeley well.


Well if he's a good coach and a good person I'm ok with him.


I want to be more than "OK" with the next coach.
UrsineMaximus
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When furd fires Haase, Madsen can use his Cal experience to jump ship and go to his dream job.

HoopDreams
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This story rings true with the inner circle being JK, JJ and MM

So sad
Econ141
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bearsandgiants said:

So we're going to let someone who should arguably be facing criminal negligence charges make a multi-million-dire hire all on his own?


This is so Cal it isn't funny anymore. Screw this program because it loves to screw itself.
Bobodeluxe
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Look what the UC Berkeley basketball fans did to Conzo after he kept the NIT game against Bakersfield close.
randythebear
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Giant mistake if the Chancellor doesn't fire Knowlton and instead allows him to select the next men's basketball coach.
philbert
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BearGreg said:

bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.
What I hear about Madsen is very positive. Sounds like a wonderful person with the type of energy and engaging personality that Cal needs.
But will the donors put up big money for NIL? That's the biggest question.
calfanz
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If you recall the recent searches at Ucla and USC that netted them 2 awesome hoops coaches?

They were very drawn out, and neither got their top 3 choices.


MadDog is our guy. Let's rejoice.

Next out JK.
Next in?
Vandalus
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"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??
~Spectemur agendo~
stu
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Vandalus said:

"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??
I'm curious too.

bad dancing >> no dancing
HoopDreams
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stu said:

Vandalus said:

"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??
I'm curious too.

bad dancing >> no dancing
Madsen said swing dancing is his thing
stu
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HoopDreams said:

stu said:

Vandalus said:

"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??
I'm curious too.

bad dancing >> no dancing
Madsen said swing dancing is his thing
I'm guessing Shocky1 might say: no dancing >> swing dancing
bluesaxe
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BearGreg said:

bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.
What I hear about Madsen is very positive. Sounds like a wonderful person with the type of energy and engaging personality that Cal needs.
Let's just say that I have never liked anything that came from Stanford other than a couple of friends but I couldn't ever work up any kind of dislike for the guy as a player. If he'd have gone to California he'd be remembered with the reverence Jorge is.
bluesaxe
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calumnus said:

bluesaxe said:

ncbears said:

I Issue is does Madsen get a "not fox" honeymoon period? Regardless, he will need to go on a major charm tour. The video of Fox first meeting with players soured some immediately. Madsen (or whomever) cant make that same poor and put-offish first impression.
I don't like what this article suggests about the process at all, but Madsen has ten times the personality of Fox and better cred in some ways as a former player who played in a Final Four and in the NBA. I can't imagine him screwing up a meeting like Fox did, or in general being a sour, disinterested, thin-skinned waste of time like Fox was.


We need to stop using Mark Fox as a comparison. He was just a horrible hire.

Madsen is a good coach and good person. I just don't think he is the best fit for Cal. Starting with being a Furd (at least we are not looking at Casey Jacobsen). I don't like that Monty is driving this and pushing his guys instead of Cal basketball alums with broader networks. Or even Ben Braun who loves and sold Berkeley well.
I twas responding to something specific there. I agree Fox is not the right comp. I also hink Monty should have input. He's a hoops mastermind and there is no one in the AD office who comes close. Just like I think former players and donors should be heard. Any AD is going to end up making a call based on other input than his own. If that is who Jim Knownothing ended up listening to I don't think that's the worst choice.
calfanz
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Vandalus said:

"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??
CaliforniaEternal
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Madsen has a much more impressive basketball background than someone like Pasternack. That's not to say a non-player can't be a good coach, but I can see why a background as a player is a big plus in recruiting and coaching.
Arcadiabear
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This line was completely overlooked:

While CSA is again involved in this search (and that is surprising given the last result with their involvement).

I have TWO huge issues with this:


Lack of connections. Lack of paying attention.

Is there only one search firm in the whole country? Also, would it also be too much to ask Knowlton to have any connections on his own and pay enough attention to the college basketball landscape to understand who the up and coming head coaches are? Hell just turn on the TV right now and find the coaches of mid majors who made it to the Sweet 16.

Look, i am not expecting to the AD to know who the up and coming coaches are for gymnastics (no offense to that program), but as an AD for a power 5 program, is it too much to ask for them to keep abreast of the major coaching talent and candidates for both MBB and FB? Especially since he's GOT to know that he was firing fox 4 months ago and had 4 months to do his homework. Yet he has to rely on a search firm to make his list?

Lack of imagination. Lack of accountability.

I have never, in my line of work, seen incompetence like what CSA did last time around rewarded with yet ANOTHER Contract.


Yet another ho-hum day with Knowlton at the office. Asleep at the helm, potential criminal behavior with the swim team, and reactive rather than proactive. Thats his MO and its getting tiresome
HoopDreams
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calfanz said:

Vandalus said:

"There are rumors from multiple sources that a potential grand slam home run was briefly intrigued though apparently, that flirtation did not result in any material conversations."

Don't tease me like that BI. I am dying to know who the rumored intrigued grand slam hire was. You can't drop a nugget like that and leave it there for me to ponder.

Also, since it seems like MM is the guy; who knows anything about what kind of coach he is? Besides being the bad dancing kind. XO's / Philosophy??

watched the game. several things to like. they played relatively fast, but the two players who impressed was their PG and Center. They also used a lot of ally oop passes, which was something I've not seen much of from Cal in 8-9 years, including when we had Rabb and Jaylen. Watch at 12:20 mark for the best alley oop I've seen in college.

Their soph C is 7 foot, and although he's a little raw and needs to gain some strength, he's a bouncy shot blocker with some scoring ability (mostly dunks). This is something we've needed for a while, and will instantly make our defense look better (see the impact of UW's 7 foot shot blocker who has less scoring ability) and their 6-3 senior PG who is a savvy passer and shooter/scorer (hopefully he has a 5th covid year). He played 5 years, but only 2 games last season (due to injury? possible medical waiver?)

If both of them transfer to Cal, I'd feel a lot better we can get off to a good start
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