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Basketball: Cuonzo Martin on recruiting, Jabari Bird, energizing fans and his coaching mentor

New Cal coach Cuonzo Martin got some radio time Thursday afternoon on 95.7 The Game with Damon Bruce.

Here are some highlights:

On what he looks for in a player he’s recruiting: “First and foremost, you want talent. But there are different things when you talk about a talented player. Everybody understands the runners and jumpers, a good catch-and-shoot guy. For me the talent I like to look for nowadays is a just guy that works hard. Back when we played 10-15-20 years ago, working hard was understood. That’s what you normally do.

“Nowadays, working hard is probably a skill because not many guys like to work hard and do the dirty work. A guy that wants to be part of your program, a guy that’s committed to being successful. There are a lot of talented players, but you’ve got to have guys who want to be a part of what you want to do, who want to win at a high level but also understand the importance of the academics.”

His early impression of Jabari Bird: “I saw him quite a bit on the AAU circuit, very talented basketball player. I watched him from afar. Very talented basketball player, but in my opinion probably a better person. I just had an opportunity to talk with him. Obviously he was raised well. I’m looking forward and excited to coach him.”

On how he will sell his program to fans: “My job between now and the time we start playing is to get out in the community, reach out to the fans, reach out to our student base and get those guys to be a part us so we’re all going to have have success. Before we get to the basketball side, we’ve got to get everybody generating excitement for football and get them all on board. I think they go hand-in-hand. If we all do this thing together we can have a great deal of success.”

On the influence of his former Purdue coach, Gene Keady: “He was always a tough, hard-nosed guy. A nice guy, a humble man. He was one of those guys who was very fair in his approach. If you worked hard, you had an opportunity to play. If you go to class and get a degree, you’ll be fine. With coach, he was one of those guys who stuck with it, do the right things, do the little things, be consistent with it all the time and we’ll have a chance to have ultimate success.”

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Under: Basketball | 14 Comments »
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Women’s basketball: Bears ink New Zealander

The Cal women’s basketball team has signed Penina Davidson, a 6-foot-3 forward who plays for the New Zealand national team.

A native of Auckland — the same hometown as former Cal player Sean Marks — Davidson joins a Cal recruiting class that already was ranked among the top 20 in the nation.

“We are thrilled to add a person and player of Penina’s caliber in the late signing period,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Nina comes from a ‘basketball family’, and that’s evident in her versatile game and high basketball intellect. She’s big and strong and will provide a solid post presence, but also has an array of skills facing the basket.”

Davidson is a member of the New Zealand women’s national team where she most recently competed at the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships, scoring five points and pulling down eight rebounds for the Tall Ferns in the championship series against the Australia senior national team that was coming off a bronze medal finish at the London Olympics.

Davidson also competed for New Zealand at the 2012 Four Nations Challenge in China where she averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in nine total games against China, the United States and Australia. She was named to the final all-tournament team, one of just two non-Americans selected.

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Under: Recruiting, Women's basketball | 1 Comment »
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Basketball: Getting to know Cuonzo Martin

Who is Cuonzo Martin? Here’s a primer on Cal’s new basketball coach.

What’s in a name?

Martin’s first name is pronounced KAHN-zoe. He said he was named after the Italian doctor who delivered his father. He later met several others with his first name while playing professionally in Italy.

Will Travis DeCuire have a place on Martin’s staff?

All of Cal’s current assistants will get a chance to talk with Martin, but he sounded like a man ready to bring his UT staff to Berkeley.

“I’ll bring quite a few of them,” he said. “The guys you have on your staff have to know you, have to understand your style.”

How do Cal’s players, who wanted DeCuire to get the job, feel about Martin’s arrival?

“I liked him,” freshman guard Jabari Bird said. “He preaches the style of play, basically up and down, fast-paced. But he also wants his team to play defense.

“He talked about love and family and a lot of guys have given great feedback on his personality as a coach, saying he’s going to be fun to play for.

“The bottom line today is everybody is happy about the decision and we’re ready to move forward. We’ve got a great coach.”

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Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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Basketball: Special delivery from Knoxville

Cal needed a new basketball coach, and 36,000 of Tennessee’s most overzealous fans helped push Cuonzo Martin to the Golden Bears’ doorstep.

Cal introduced Martin as its new coach Tuesday, following a 15-day search to find a successor for Mike Montgomery. Martin, 42, will get a five-year contract from athletic director Sandy Barbour.

At Tennessee, Martin guided the Southeastern Conference school to a spot in the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 this season only weeks after fans signed an online petition demanding that he be replaced by his predecessor, Bruce Pearl, who was fired in 2011 for lying to NCAA investigators.

Martin took the high road at his introductory news conference, declining to take any shots at UT fans.

“They woke up a hungry bear,” Martin said of his response to the petition, which he claims he wasn’t aware of until an opposing coach alluded to it after a game.

“It wasn’t a big deal. You still have 17,000 people at the games. You can’t please everybody.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.


Columnist Marcus Thompson II says Martin can take Bears to new heights.

Hall of Fame coach Gene Keady, others have praise for Cal’s hire.


Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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Basketball: Cal hires Vols’ Cuonzo Martin


If Cal was trying to hit a home run with the hiring of a new men’s basketball coach, the Golden Bears appeared to come close enough, announcing Tuesday that Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin would replace Mike Montgomery.

Martin, 42, had been the Volunteers’ coach for the past three years, and led the Vols to a 24-13 record this past season, including a surprise appearance in the Sweet 16, where they were eliminated by Michigan. He was 63-41 overall in his three seasons at Tennessee.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour’s announcement came on the 15th day of the search to replace Montgomery, who retired at age 67 after six seasons at Berkeley.

Martin’s decision to take the Cal job apparently caught Tennessee off-guard, according to a story on SB Nation. He flirted with Marquette right after the season, but when the Warriors decided to go in a different direction, Martin was expected to stay at Tennessee.

But the SB Nation story said he had come under heavy criticism earlier in the 2013-14 season, including an online petition signed by more than 36,000 fans who wanted him replaced with former coach Bruce Pearl.

Martin succeeded Pearl as coach after Pearl was fired for lying to NCAA investigators.

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Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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Basketball: Chris Mack staying put at Xavier; Eric Musselman no longer in the running, either


Xavier’s Chris Mack is out as a candidate to become the next Cal basketball coach, and two sources said that former Warriors coach Eric Musselman is not the frontrunner, either.

Mack, 44, decided Saturday to remain at Xavier, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, after guiding the Musketeers to four NCAA tournaments in his five seasons, including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances.

Musselman, who resigned as assistant coach at Arizona State on Monday, was immediately tabbed in a CBS Sports story as Cal’s latest target. This newspaper confirmed that Musselman was interviewed by athletic director Sandy Barbour.

But two other sources, one of them from within the Cal athletic department and the other with knowledge of the process, both said that contact was early in the search and that Musselman, 49, no longer is an active candidate.

Nearly two weeks after Mike Montgomery retired March 31, it’s unclear who the Bears will hire to fill the position.

Confirmed as having interviewed are Cal associate coach Travis DeCuire and UC Irvine coach Russell Turner.

Musselman’s coaching resume is dominated by experience in the professional ranks. His two seasons under Herb Sendek at ASU are his only two as a Division I college coach.

He coached the Warriors to a record of 38-41 in 2002-03, a 17-game improvement over the previous season and their best mark in 10 years. He was runnerup in NBA Coach of the Year voting.

A year later, he was fired after going 37-45.

Musselman coached the Sacramento Kings to a record of 33-49 in 2006-07, bringing his three-year NBA coaching total to 108-138.

Musselman earned 2012 Coach of the Year honors in the NBA’s developmental league with the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Posted on Saturday, April 12th, 2014
Under: Basketball | 31 Comments »
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Basketball: Bears pursuing Xavier’s Chris Mack according to source, but another says no offer


Cal’s latest basketball coaching target is Chris Mack, who has taken Xavier to the NCAA tournament four of the past five seasons, according to a source.

Multiple media outlets are reporting the story, but a separate source within the Cal athletic department told me at about 12:30 today the Bears have not offered the job to Mack and had not, to that point, discussed it with him.

Mack, 44, has guided the Musketeers to a five-year record of 111-57 since replacing Arizona-bound Sean Miller as coach for the 2009-10 season.

Xavier was 21-13 this season, including 10-8 in its debut in the Big East Conference, and lost to North Carolina State 74-59 in a first-round NCAA game at Dayton, Ohio.

Mack did not immediately respond to a voicemail message.

Cal is in its 10th day of a search to replace Mike Montgomery, who retired on March 31 after six seasons at Berkeley.

Mack is a native of Cleveland and a 1993 graduate of Xavier.

Xavier was 26-9 and tied for first in the Atlantic-10 Conference in Mack’s first season as coach in 2009-10. His team reached the NCAA’s Sweet 16, before losing to Kansas State 101-96 in double-overtime.

Mack’s 2010-11 team was 24-8 and outright champions of the A-10 Conference at 15-1, but lost its NCAA opener. A year later, the Musketeers were 23-13 and advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling 75-70 to Baylor.

In 2012-13, Xavier was 17-14 and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the only time in Mack’s five seasons.

Mack is signed to a contract through the 2017-18 season that is worth $860,000 per season, according to USA Today.

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Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Under: Basketball | 19 Comments »
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Basketball: Day 9 of the search and still no coach

The search for Cal’s next basketball coach continues.

Mike Montgomery’s replacement has not yet been hired, and even those who are part of the process aren’t hearing anything.

Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour canceled a guest speaking appearance at a sports innovation conference at Stanford on Wednesday. No doubt she is busy with other tasks.

Associate head coach Travis DeCuire and UC Irvine coach Russell Turner are confirmed as having been interviewed, but all else is speculation. Best as I can tell there is no confirmation that Joe Pasternack, the former Cal aide and current Arizona associate head coach, is a finalist.

Likewise, former Warriors and Kings coach Eric Musselman’s name has surfaced, but without confirmation he is part of the process. Musselman resigned his position as assistant coach at Arizona State on Monday.

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
Under: Basketball | 4 Comments »
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Basketball: Bears won’t be NCAA team next season, according to Lunardi’s first projection

Whoever winds up coaching Cal in 2014-15 won’t take the Bears to the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

Lunardi’s first 2015 bracket projection includes six Pac-12 teams, but not Cal.

He has Arizona as a No. 1 seed, along with Wisconsin, Kansas and Michigan. The No. 2 seeds are Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Villanova.

Other Pac-12 teams in his field are No. 8 seed Oregon, No. 9 Utah, No. 10 Colorado, No. 11 Stanford and No. 11 UCLA. Lunardi lists Colorado and Stanford among the last four teams in with a bye, and has UCLA playing in one of the “first four” games to enter the 64-team bracket.

Posted on Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
Under: Basketball, NCAA Tournament | 4 Comments »
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Basketball: Why Cal coaching search is dragging on

Week 1 in the search for Cal’s new basketball coach has passed and no one seems to know when the Bears will announce their new man. Or who it will be.

A campus source told me, “They’re trying to hit a home run,” but added, “If anybody tells you they know anything, they’re lying.”

That’s because it’s believed that perhaps only two people — athletic director Sandy Barbour and chancellor Nicholas Dirks – will be involved in the selection process. And they’re not talking.

The “home run” would be snagging an A-list candidate such as Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, VCU’s Shaka Smart or Dayton’s Archie Miller. By all accounts, Cal has gotten nowhere with any of them.

Why is that?

“Cal is not as good a job as it looks,” my source said.

He pointed out the lack of a dedicated practice facility, the need to share practice time at Haas Pavilion, the rising academic demands, even the lack of parking.

“There’s no land (to build a practice gym or add parking),” he said. “There’s no way to park and just to class.”

Admission to Cal is becoming tougher, just as the athletic department ramps up the pressure for its football and basketball teams to perform better in the classroom.

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Posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Under: Basketball | 25 Comments »
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