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The Pac-10 just got tougher

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 4, 2008

This guy's return to the Pac-10 is good for the conference's stature, but bad news for the rest of league's teams.In a move that would have been akin to Mike Price taking over for Ty Willingham, Mike Montgomery is apparently going to become the next head coach at California.

While I’m surprised Montgomery made the jump across the bay after so many years at Stanford (most recently as assistant AD), frankly I’m more shocked that it took this long for Montgomery to get another job. I also wish it had been in a different conference, because he’s a heck of a coach that just made things that much more difficult for everyone else.

I was always surprised that his name didn’t surface more often in connection with job openings. Maybe it’s because he was content to keep drawing those massive checks from the Golden State Warriors for doing nothing and all the ADs knew it, or maybe it’s because he’s not a hot, young, up-and-coming coach in a profession infatuated by potential and “making a splash.”

Whatever it was, as the Bears have made an excellent hire that is sure to revive the dormant program. Montgomery won 30 games three times at Stanford, taking the Cardinal to the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 18 years. If he can do it under the kinds of restrictive admissions guidelines he worked with at Stanford, he certainly will bring a winner to Berkeley.

Bennett getting another raise

Back in Pullman, the WSU administration is doing everything it can to make sure the Cougs are contributing to that conference clout, announcing that they’re reworking Tony Bennett’s deal for the second consecutive year. It appears that Bennett wasn’t the one requesting it, and that we’re not really changing any of the terms other than compensation.

This just shows what a tremendous understanding President Floyd has of what athletics do for the stature of a university, no matter how much academics want to pretend it doesn’t matter. I love the aggression in terms of making sure our coach is happy (put well in this Daily Evergreen piece), but this is uncharted territory for WSU. I can’t help but wonder if we can keep doing this every year. 

Can we keep this up? And what kind of precedent are we setting if, say, Paul Wulff somehow puts together an instant winner on the gridiron?

Those questions aside, I love that we’re taking our shot now and being proactive, rather than waiting until later to try and do just enough to keep him, as we’ve been wont to do in the past. When you get lightning in a bottle, you better do everything you can to keep it.


5 Responses to “The Pac-10 just got tougher”

  1. Grady said

    The team who should be worried most is Stanford, who now has to recruit against the guy who put together some of their best teams. California is a sleeping giant with all the talent in the Bay Area.

    Of course our big concern for next year involves Ryan Anderson, who can still opt out of the NBA draft (he didn’t sign with an agent). That, oddly enough, is Montgomery’s first big recruiting task.

  2. Nuss said

    I don’t think that first part is entirely accurate. Stanford recruits nationally, which it has to do because of admissions standards and can do because of its academic prestige.

    Montgomery, for the first time in his career, can recruit just about any kid he wants, but as everyone knows, that can be a double-edged sword. Whether he’s effective recruiting the non-academic kid remains to be seen. It’s one thing to get really good at getting a kid who’s a good athlete and smart to buy into Stanford when his other option is basically Duke; it’s another thing altogether to get the kid who’s a really good athlete to buy into Cal when he also could buy into UCLA, North Carolina, USC, etc.

  3. A Bay Area perspective:

    I like the Montgomery hire for Cal, mostly because it’s a signal that the program is looking to upgrade from the consistent decentness of the Braun era.

    As Nuss notes, Stanford isn’t really a program that recruits the Bay Area heavily. With the departure of the Lopez twins, there isn’t anyone from closer than L.A. on the roster now, and the incoming group is not local either. In recent years a lot of Bay Area guys have gone elsewhere; Quentin Thomas of North Carolina is an Oakland guy, and Jamal Boykin started at Duke before coming back to Cal when it was clear Krzyzewski viewed him as a bench player. (Which was, incidentally, a mistake. You think they would have rolled over to West Virginia with his energy on the floor?)

    Of course, the real mecca for recruiting in California is the L.A. area, and that’s the key spot Montgomery is going to have to win over. He has some ties to the area– witness his constant linking to Loyola Marymount– but it’s up in the air whether he can get guys who would otherwise be going to USC or UCLA to come to Cal.

    I disagree with the comment about Ryan Anderson being his first priority, though. His first priority is rerecruiting D.J. Seeley, who’s a genuinely elite-level talent at guard, a position Cal desperately needs more players at. Anderson will do what seems best for him; I’d like to see him on TV for another season, but looked at from a certain point of view, there’s not that much more he can do at this level. He’s not likely to become a top-10 pick unless he wins national POY or something.

    So: Montgomery should be able to retain the current core, other than possibly Anderson; he should be able to get the Bay Area, such as it is (it’s not a great basketball region), and his big challenge will be getting top-tier guys out of the L.A. area. He’s not going to recruit complete academic jokes like USC can get away with, but the administration probably wouldn’t let him go there anyway. In terms of the current roster, he’s just going to have to instill more defensive intensity. Even without Anderson, there’s enough scoring lying around between Seeley, Christopher, Randle and the (still very deep) frontcourt.

  4. coug1990 said

    Montgomery is a good hire, as he has a well known name that will bring instand credibility to CAL. However, the landscape has changed a lot since he was at Stanford. With Howland, Sendeck, Floyd, Bennett, etc., the conference has much better coaches as a whole than when he coached here years ago. So, I think it will be hard to duplicate the success that he once had. All I can really say is the Pac 10 is going to be exciting for years to come.

  5. Grady said

    I hope I didn’t give you all the wrong impression. Stanford now has to recruit against Montgomery AND Cal is a sleeping giant with all the local talent. I didn’t really mean to imply the key to Stanford’s success has been players from California. Although, everyone recruits nationally these days (e.g. our Cougs and the one player from Washington, Charlie Enquist).

    Although, the Cardinal are definitely not the same without the Lopez twins, who were California natives.

    In response to cardinalprecepts, Anderson is still #1 on my list if I’m Montgomery. Anderson would have to be the early favorite for P10 player of the year assuming Love goes to the NBA. Seeley would definitely help the Bears, however.

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