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Basketball: Bears pursuing Xavier’s Chris Mack according to source, but another says no offer

By Jeff Faraudo
Thursday, April 10th, 2014 at 11:48 am in Basketball

UPDATED

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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Football: Dykes encouraged by O-line progress

By Jeff Faraudo
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 9:17 pm in Football, Spring practice

Coach Sonny Dykes is beginning to see progress in one area the Bears must show substantial improvement — offensive line.

“They’re obviously a lot better,” Dykes said after Wednesday’s workout. “They know what they’re doing. We’re having some continuity in some spots. There’s a semblance of depth.

“We’re a year stronger in the weight room, a year more physical, a year better shape. There’s a lot of positives.”

Positions are fairly set at several spots, including left tackle, where sophomore Steven Moore has settled in to protect quarterback Jared Goff’s blindside, with sophomore Christian Okafor and junior Brian Farley dueling for the right tackle position.

Dykes said 6-foot-3, 310-pound sophomore Chris Borrayo has been “a stabilizing force” at left guard. Senior Alejandro Crosthwaite is starting at right guard and junior Jordan Rigsbee is the center.

But Cal awaits the return in fall camp of senior Chris Adcock (knee) and sophomore Matt Cochran (shoulder), and they could change the equation. Both will get the chance to compete at center and/or guard.

Redshirt freshman Aaron Cochran, a massive 6-8, 355-pounder, has shown glimpses of his significant potential. “He’s the unknown,” Dykes said.

“It’s got a chance to be a group that’s going to play tough and develop some continuity if we can get some depth issues sorted out,” Dykes said.

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Basketball: Day 9 of the search and still no coach

By Jeff Faraudo
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 5:45 pm in Basketball

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.

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Football: Athlon magazine rates all of the nation’s 128 D-I coaches — where does Sonny Dykes fit?

By Jeff Faraudo
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 2:05 pm in Football

Alabama’s Nick Saban sits atop the list — no surprise there — and one-time San Jose State coach Ron Turner of Florida International resides at the bottom.

But where does Athlon magazine place Cal’s Sonny Dykes in its ranking of all 128 Division I coaches in the country?

Actually, pretty much right in the middle.

Dykes is No. 60 on Athlon’s list, which makes him last among Pac-12 coaches, but ahead of 68 others across the land.

Here’s what the magazine had to say about Cal’s second-year coach:

“It seems unfair to rank Dykes at the bottom of the Pac-12, but there’s not a bad coach in the conference. Dykes’ debut at California did not go well, as the Golden Bears finished 1-11 and winless in conference play for the first time since 2001. While the final record was not pretty, California had a handful of injuries to key players on defense, and Jared Goff was a true freshman getting his first snaps at quarterback. Dykes took steps this offseason to ensure last year’s 1-11 won’t be repeated. The defensive staff got a major overhaul and a solid recruiting class will help with the overall depth. Prior to his one season at California, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech, including a 17-8 mark over the final two years.”

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Basketball: Bears won’t be NCAA team next season, according to Lunardi’s first projection

By Jeff Faraudo
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 at 12:29 pm in Basketball, NCAA Tournament

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.

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Basketball: Why Cal coaching search is dragging on

By Jeff Faraudo
Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 at 10:35 am in Basketball

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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Football: Maximo Espitia, Ray Davison making waves at new positions on defense

By Jeff Faraudo
Monday, April 7th, 2014 at 11:32 pm in Football, Spring practice

Two players who made position changes are making positive impressions this spring.

After Monday’s closed workout, Coach Sonny Dykes cited the encouraging progress of new outside linebackers Maximo Espitia and Ray Davison.

Linebacker is a position where the coaching staff envisioned great depth entering last season. Then injuries caused it to become one of the club’s thinner spots.

So personnel changes were made to bolster the position.

Espitia, a junior from Salem, Ore., came to Cal as a fullback, was moved to tight end, then to wide receiver and safety. Now the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is a linebacker who “has surpassed my expectations to this point,” Dykes said.

“The good thing is he’s got the body to do it. He can carry weight, he’s long,” Dykes said. “I had concerns about how physical he would be, and he’s answered those concerns so far. He’s been more physical, he’s done a good job getting off blocks and tackling pretty well.

“He’s not ready to go by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s making progress and I think ahead of schedule.”

So he could be in the mix come the fall?

“I would expect him to have a chance to be a starter,” Dykes said. “Based on what I’ve seen and the improvement he’s made over five practices I would think he’d be competing for a job.”

Davison, who came to Berkeley last fall as a freshman defensive end, also is getting a shot at outside linebacker.

“A lot like Max, he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Dykes said of the 6-2, 220-pounder. “He’s a little undersized at (defensive end). We moved him to ‘backer this spring to give us some depth and see what he can do.

“He’s got some natural instincts and does some things you want linebackers to do. He is a guy I’m excited about and I think will be competing for playing time in the fall as well.”

*****

Dykes said players are adapting to new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and his way of doing things.

“I like what they’re doing — we’re doing a lot of fundamental things correctly,” he said. “We’re leveraging the ball correctly. We’re still learning how to run to the football — I don’t think we’re there yet.

“They’re playing faster as a result of of the certainty. I like where we’re headed.”

Dykes said Kaufman already has shown he can make adjustments and get his players to embrace them.

“He’s always trying to stay ahead as far as his teaching goes. Never misses an opportunity to talk about something that could happen in a football game and have an answer for it,” Dykes said.

Kaufman continues to work with one arm tied behind his back. DT Mustafa Jalil, DE Sione Sina, LB Nathan Broussard, Saf Avery Sebastian and CB-turned-Saf Stefan McClure all will do little or nothing this spring while rehabbing after injuries or surgeries.

*****

Wide receiver Bryce Treggs did some work on the side but otherwise sat out his third straight practice with a tweaked hamstring. His receiving mate Chris Harper is expected to do very little this spring after offseason shoulder surgery.

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Basketball: UCI’s Russell Turner has interviewed, but no word on Cal coaching search timetable

By Jeff Faraudo
Sunday, April 6th, 2014 at 5:31 pm in Basketball

A source confirmed that UC Irvine coach Russell Turner interviewed with Sandy Barbour this weekend at the Final Four in Dallas. But there is no word yet on when the nearly week-long coaching search will end.

Turner could not be reached for comment.

Turner joins Cal associate head coach Travis DeCuire as confirmed interviewees for the position that opened last Monday when Mike Montgomery announced his retirement.

How many other candidates Barbour talked with this weekend is unclear.

Likewise, there is no known timetable on when the process might be completed.

Turner, 43, coached UC Irvine to a 23-12 record this past season, including a 13-3 mark and regular-season co-championship in the Big West Conference. His 21-16 mark in 2012-13 was the school’s first 20-win season in 10 years.

He is 71-67 in four seasons at UCI.

Turner spent the previous six seasons on the staff of the Golden State Warriors, the first two of them under Montgomery. He was with Montgomery for four seasons at Stanford through 2004, during which time the Cardinal posted a record of 105-24, including 59-13 in the Pac-12. Stanford won two Pac-10 titles and reached the NCAA’s Elite Eight in 2001.

Turner also was assistant coach at Wake Forest for five seasons through 2000.

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Football: Bears using spring workouts to develop a tougher, more physical profile

By Jeff Faraudo
Saturday, April 5th, 2014 at 2:59 pm in Football, Spring practice

Coach Sonny Dykes plans to put his Cal football team through live scrimmaging more often this spring for the most basic of reasons.

“We’ve got to learn how to play football,” said Dykes, whose Golden Bears didn’t show much of an aptitude for the game last season while going 1-11 in his debut campaign.

“We’ve just got to get better at playing football and everything that goes along with live reps. So it’s important for us to get as much of that as we can get.”

The Bears dressed in full pads and engaged in live contact Saturday for the first time since spring workouts began Monday. The plan is to scrimmage in each of the eight fully padded workouts — rather than just three or four times during the spring — but for shorter duration.

“I like it,” junior center Jordan Rigsbee said of the greater emphasis on physical workouts. “There’s nothing like live football. You can practice, you can go half-speed, but nothing’s like going full go.”

The Bears ran 40 live plays Saturday and got a luke-warm grade from Dykes.

“I didn’t think it was great, It was OK,” Dykes said. “We’re trying to be more physical. It’s obviously a work in progress.”

Given the team’s severe injury situation last fall, Dykes said he’s wary of putting players in situations that leave them vulnerable. As a result, he’s not sure the Bears will engage in a full-length spring game on April 26.

“When you have that fatigue is when you have a lot of injuries,” he said.

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Basketball: DeCuire gets his interview

By Jeff Faraudo
Saturday, April 5th, 2014 at 12:54 pm in Basketball

Associate head coach Travis DeCuire got his interview for the Cal basketball head coaching position and got another strong endorsement.

DeCuire, 43, met with Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour on Friday at the Final Four in Dallas. “I saw him after his interview and he was relaxed, felt it went well,” said Blaine Taylor, who coached DeCuire at Montana and later was an assistant coach for Mike Montgomery at Stanford.

Five days after Montgomery retired as Bears coach, little tangible news has emerged from Cal’s secretive search process.

Former Cal assistant and current Arizona associate head coach Joe Pasternack has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but has not returned calls to reporters in the Bay Area or Tucson.

UC Irvine coach Russ Turner, a former assistant under Montgomery at Stanford and with the Golden State Warriors, has declined comment.

Former UCLA coach Ben Howland is keeping a low profile.

Dayton coach Archie Miller, the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller, said through sources he has no interest.

But Montgomery gave DeCuire, his assistant of six years, a ringing endorsement last Monday, and Taylor said he’s ready for the assignment. DeCuire started every game at point guard his final two seasons at Montana and still holds the school’s career assist record (435).

Later, he spent five seasons as an assistant to Taylor at Old Dominion.

“Travis has always had an intellect for the game, always had a passion for competition,” Taylor said. “In the huddle, you’re very aware of who has an aptitude for the game.”

Taylor said DeCuire’s experience at Old Dominion in Virginia gave him a national view and honed his recruiting skills. He also said DeCuire grades high on the academic and business side of college basketball.

“He’s more aware of things away from the court than some assistants might be,” Taylor said.

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