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Bear Insider Podcast: Cal Basketball Associate Head Coach Adam Mazarei

September 8, 2023
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In today’s Bear Insider Podcast, associate head coach Adam Mazarei talks about his career and his path to Cal, how the roster is coming together and what Cal fans should expect this season. The audio podcast can be heard on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and any of your own preferred podcast services.

Jim: Adam, welcome to Cal. Great to have a chance to catch up with you here. So let's talk a little bit about your your background. You were a prep player and then you played at Redlands and you actually led the nation in an assist-to-turnover ratio, an impressive 5-to-1. That's crazy.

Maz: I did, I did. It's funny because Coach Madison's like huge on assist-to-turnover ratio. But yeah, 5-to-1. Played for Gary Smith at the University of Redlands. I actually played with my brother. My brother was an All-American, Amir Mazarei. He had a good point guard. No, it was fun playing with him. And it was a great experience playing at Redlands but being there, I knew kind of the whole time I wanted to coach. I just loved leading and teaching and getting guys better. So while I was there, I already knew I wanted to start a new program. So I started this like mom and pop program called Kings Basketball Academy. And it just grew and it blew up. I didn't do high school. It was only youth, it was only like 9 up to 14 youth and a lot of really good players came through. Kihei Clark, the point guard who was at Virginia. A lot of really good players, a lot of good college players.

From there, just real quickly just to go through it, Joe Abunassar who runs impacts basketball in Las Vegas, trains a lot of pros, does a lot of pre-draft. He brought his kid to my program and he really liked me and he hired me on the spot first day and he's like, 'Man, I really want you working with pre-draft. Terrence Ross kind of was my first one and Jamaal Franklin, who was at San Diego State was a huge one for my career. And then eventually, it kind of led to Serge Ibaka, which was huge. I was with him pretty much all summer of 2013, in Barcelona, Europe, and you know, I was just an AAU coach. I was coaching at Moorpark College as well at the same time for Remy McCarthy. And then I was working out Serge and had a really good summer with them, and then lucky for me, somehow, some way, the Memphis Grizzlies called. Stu Lash and Jason Levien. 

They heard I think from Serge's agent that there was this crazy little guard who could really coach and teach and I couldn't believe it when Stu called. It was a long interview process and I had to go out to Memphis and work guys out in front of everybody, the coaching staff. And you know, me from Thousand Oaks, California in Memphis, working guys out and from there I was fortunate enough I got the gig and was a player development guy. Dave Yeager, who was the head coach there really wanted to develop me and I did advance scout, I did personnel scouting, but still at the core, but I was always a coach. So when David Tisdale came, they kind of gave me an option, like, do you want to go into management or do you want to coach?' I said, 'I'm a coach, so Tisdale promoted me to assistant and he's from LA I'm from the West Coast. And then JB Bickerstaff came in for Dave and he kept me on and that's where I met Jerry Stackhouse. We brought him in and it's crazy how this world works. Me and Stack really connected. We had the same beliefs and stuff like that with basketball and he got the Vanderbilt gig and he asked me to join him and I did and then we had a good four years.

The first two years at Vandy was kind of a rebuild. But our last two seasons were really good. You know, we made it to the NIT twice. Had some really good players - Saben Lee, Aaron Nesmith and Scottie Pippen Jr. Liam Robbins was really good for us last year. I thought we should have gotten to the tournament last year. We really finished the season strong. played really well. Won 22 games and I was good there and then and then Coach called me. You know, I'll never forget because I'm in Nashville. I'm good. You know, we just had a good season. Coach called. You know, I grew up in LA. Everyone knows Mark and who he is and what he's about. And you know, he called and the connection was immediate. Like we talked hoops, we talked family, we talked about each other. We had this seamless connection, like even if we disagreed on something, Mark is so smart. He asked unbelievable follow-up questions and I could openly disagree and I didn't feel any way about it. I felt confident talking to him. But I think that's the first time I ever really had that connection with a head coach. Like, I felt like I was really free to express how I feel about the game and he listened and he's like, 'No' and he's direct and it was one of the best 45-minute conversations I've had, ever. It was awesome to experience it and getting off the phone, I was like, 'Man, I want this job. You know, like, I really want it. I want to work for this man and get better. And from there, we did the zoom and from the zoom thing he liked me enough where he offered me the gig and now I'm here."

Jim: So you've been a part of a process of essentially building this team because it's very different from last year's roster. Can you talk a little bit about how things came together in the portal and how you guys work together? 

Maz: "Quickly, very quickly," Mazarei said of how things came together. "It was like a makeshift unit in April because the portal dates - it's immediate, like drafting season and a lot of head coaches and transition, players are in transition, the portal is wide open. So we worked quickly. That's Coach - the urgency that Coach has. And that was one of the biggest draws with Coach was how bad he wants to win. Right? He wants to win. He wants to get better every day. He really wants to bring in the best players he can that fit both Cal and him, right? So it came pretty quick. We hired the staff and the staff jumped on these official visits. And bringing in obviously 'Daws, (center Fardaws Aimaq) I mean 'Daws is huge, right? He played for Coach (at Utah Valley), he's a big who's proven. He's a proven player on both sides of the ball. And that was like a huge pillar for us. That was a huge priority.

Jim: Gave you some instant credibility.

Maz: For him to leave Coach, because Texas Tech, it was Power Five and all and not have the experience that he wanted, he could have gone anywhere with a lot of schools obviously wanting him and for him to come back and commit to Coach the way he did and wanting to be here, that was huge. Right? And you know, Jalen Cone was huge, right? He played against Coach at Northern Arizona and obviously, his numbers speak for itself and his talent to shoot the ball, his offensive ability.

Jim: You're about the same size. Can you can you jump like him? 

Maz: I can't jump like him. I can post him up a little bit. No, his scoring ability's unmatched man. I wish I could. I wish I could shoot that ball like him. But the gravity that he has on the floor, getting those two pieces early, I think really set things in motion. And obviously, Jaylon Tyson and Keonte (Kennedy) coming in for those wing positions, switchable guards who can guard, who can really defend on the ball and defend off the ball, can defend bigger players. They're so versatile. And then offensively, pass, dribble and shoot. Keonte led the American (conference) in three-point shooting, over 40. Jaylon Tyson, in a situation that may not have been awesome, put up really, really good numbers. So getting those four guys and then you know, retaining the players that we that we like, right? You know, Devin Askew, obviously, really, really good player. You know, we really pride ourselves on development and really think he hasn't touched his potential yet. Obviously, he's bounced around.

Jim: He's been asked to do a lot of different things in those spots, too.

Maz: It's been tough on him. Kentucky, Calipari wanting him to do something then Beard wanted him off the bench and be a defender and now he's with Coach Fox and now he's got to be aggressive, shoot all the balls. It's not him. We want Devin. Grant Newall's All-Freshmen (team), like you walk into a gym and you see him you're like, Man, like this guy is 6'8/6'9, long, skilled, he's tough,’ you know? ND Okafor, very, very good big. Retaining these guys - Jalen Celestine, who's getting healthy, like we've got a really good team so blending them in all summer has been really really good.

Jim: Have they fit well together, because they've come from all over the place.

Maz: Yeah, they have. It's a testament to Coach. It really is testament to his leadership or staff and our guys. Our guys, I mean, they hang out. It seems like we've gotten tighter and tighter every week, which is really good, like the chemistry has gotten better. Everything is building. And since the break man, we've been we've been really clicking.

Jim: What you can fans expect to see out of these guys?

Maz: Fast, fun, right? Energy, urgency. Playing hard for each other, unselfishness. Defending at a high level, speed, running, scoring, really the ability to put the ball in the hole. You know, connected, engaged, engaged with the community, engaged with the students like that's what the fans should see. We want to pack this place. We want the energy going. We've got a good schedule. I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised, like this is not a rebuild, Coach made that clear. Right away, he made it clear, like he wants to win right away. And I think we've put the team together and we're really attacking this team and building this team to win right away.

Jim: Did you guys see the NIL campaign and how successful and ended up being? News broke today about what it totaled. They raised over 1.2 million just four days.

Maz: Wow, for the Cal athletes...

Jim: And over 1100 individual contributors. So it's a broad base, too.

Maz: Thanks to every single one of them. That's big time, though, for all sports and for all our athletes. That's awesome. Yeah, that helps tremendously. We have the support, obviously. It's unbelievable support and now we want to thank them by producing.

Jim: Attendance had dwindled a lot because fans had gotten frustrated over the years. And I think you'll see a huge level of excitement this year. Everybody's really hungry for a winner. And once they start seeing it and seeing exciting ball, this place is gonna rock.

Maz: Oh, I've heard, I've heard. I mean, I grew up in Southern California. Growing up here and like the JKidd era, and like all these eras of Cal, and it was Cal. You watch on TV, it's packed, it was packed, and it was loud and we want to get it back there. We really do. We want this community excited. We want everyone in the bay to be with us in support. And I think you're gonna really enjoy watching us play.

Jim: Well, you guys are always on the run so we appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk and looking forward to the season. Good luck!

Maz: Thank you.

Related: 

Bear Insider Podcast: Cal Head Coach Mark Madsen

Discussion from...

Bear Insider Podcast: Cal Basketball Associate Head Coach Adam Mazarei

3,735 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by Civil Bear
MoragaBear
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Staff
It's been a long time coming but we finally spoke with a Cal hoops assistant for the first time in years. Hoping to do one with each of the five new assistants. Next up is assistant coach Matt Scherbenske.
stu
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Thanks for that! Much appreciated!
Intuit
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Looking forward to the next one, Chapter 2
oskidunker
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Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
Go Bears!
MoragaBear
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Staff
oskidunker said:

Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
An assistant coach would never answer a question about a player's eligibility, especially on camera.
75bear
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MoragaBear said:

oskidunker said:

Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
An assistant coach would never answer a question about a player's eligibility, especially on camera.
Ask him to blink once if he's eligible.
KoreAmBear
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Seems super personable. He was at Maxfield Field some of the team as they did introductions of the men's and women's team, before the football game.
RedlessWardrobe
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oskidunker said:

Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
No need to ask. Tyson has been cleared.
oskidunker
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RedlessWardrobe said:

oskidunker said:

Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
No need to ask. Tyson has been cleared.
Good. Then we have something to look forward to.
Go Bears!
HearstMining
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MoragaBear said:

It's been a long time coming but we finally spoke with a Cal hoops assistant for the first time in years. Hoping to do one with each of the five new assistants. Next up is assistant coach Matt Scherbenske.
Maybe the previous assistants weren't allowed to be interviewed because they were in the Witness Protection Program. If so, they didn't do a very good job of impersonating basketball coaches.
calumnus
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HearstMining said:

MoragaBear said:

It's been a long time coming but we finally spoke with a Cal hoops assistant for the first time in years. Hoping to do one with each of the five new assistants. Next up is assistant coach Matt Scherbenske.
Maybe the previous assistants weren't allowed to be interviewed because they were in the Witness Protection Program. If so, they didn't do a very good job of impersonating basketball coaches.


Mark Fox is a control freak and was a horrible fit for Cal but was hired by an AD who is an even worse fit for Cal.
Civil Bear
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RedlessWardrobe said:

oskidunker said:

Ask him if Tyson will be eligible to play this year.surprised he wasn't asked. Time frame? Likelihood. Come on!
No need to ask. Tyson has been cleared.
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