Basketball: How big is basketball Big Game?

Mike Montgomery will coach in his 44th basketball Big Game on Sunday at Haas Pavilion. So he ought to know just how big the game really is.

Not surprisingly, Monty downplays the whole thing. He is not a hype and hoopla guy.

“Even across the Bay, I felt it was more manageable if you just allowed it to be a game than to make more out of it. Because then it hurts more if you lose,” he said of his 18 seasons at rival Stanford. “You tried not to get too over-the-top with the whole thing.”

Besides, Montgomery said, this is different than THE Big Game.

“It’s not like football. This doesn’t have the same attention, it doesn’t have the same significance,” he said. “It’s not the Big Game where you have luncheons six days a week. It’s just not. It’s two games, it’s in the conference and right now we’re both at the top and that makes it significant.”

But for fans — and even players — this isn’t just another game, just another opponent.

“I definitely feel it’s a big game for us,” Cal sophomore Allen Crabbe said this week. “It’s the rivalry. I’m pretty sure everyone’s going to be pumped up for this game.”

Like most coaches, Montgomery doesn’t want to deal with what makes no difference, and if they held luncheons all week before the Cal-Stanford basketball games they merely would distract him from the real work, the preparation.

And he’s been pretty good in this game, 26-11 while at Stanford, 4-2 so far at Cal. That’s 30-13, a .698 winning percentage. And that’s better than his overall career winning mark of .687.

So he is taking it seriously, he is making it a big game, just in his own way.

“I think Stanford’s real good. They’re talented. They’ve got good players, and they’ve got a lot of them,” Montgomery said. “I think it’s going to be a really tough game. We’ve got to hold our home court. That makes it significant in itself.”

Maybe even big.

Jeff Faraudo