Athletics: Michael Williams excited about AD job

Michael Williams didn’t want the athletic director’s job at Cal for more than a few months when he took over on an interim basis last June, but he said a series of up-close exchanges with football player Austin Clark last fall changed his perspective.

“After every game, Austin would give me the biggest, sweatiest, bloodiest, nastiest hug,” Williams said. “You don’t get that anywhere else.”

Williams’ interim tag was officially removed from his athletic director title Friday after a search that took more than 10 months but ended where it began.

Football coach Sonny Dykes and basketball coach Cuonzo Martin were in attendance at the campus news conference for Williams’ formal introduction as athletic director, and both coaches said they were pleased the choice.

Williams said he is excited about the arc of the school’s two most visible sports programs.

“Sonny has told me the third year is the great year in the Sonny Dykes system, so I’m looking forward it. No pressure,” Williams said, chuckling. “Cuonzo has brought something to Cal we haven’t had in years and years and years. (Through recruiting) he’s made Cal basketball relevant in the months of April and May.”

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Basketball: Bears open 2015-16 vs. Rice on Nov. 13

Cal’s 2015-16 basketball schedule is not yet finalized, but we do know some key dates:

Nov. 13 — The season opener will be at Haas Pavilion against Rice. The Owls were 12-20 last season.

Nov. 26-27 — The Bears will play in the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena in a four-team event also featuring San Diego State (27-9 in 2014-15), West Virginia (25-10) and Richmond (21-14). Matchups for the Thanksgiving week event have not been set.

Dec. 2 — Cal visits Wyoming (25-10), completing the home-and-home that began last season with a 45-42 Bears’ win in Berkeley.

Dec. 22 — The Bears travel to Virginia (30-4) to face a Cavaliers’ squad which began last season with 19 straight wins and finished with a third-round NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State.


Athletics: Michael Williams to be named AD on Friday

Michael Williams, who has held the interim athletic director position at Cal for more than 10 months, will be named to the post permanently at a Friday morning news conference.

“Since becoming the Interim Director last June, Mike has, at every turn, demonstrated the full complement of professional skills, personal attributes and deeply held values that are the recipe for success and accomplishment in one of the most challenging positions on this campus,” Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement released Thursday night.

“As an alum, a former student-athlete and successful leader in the financial sector, Mike understands, on both a human and organizational level, the unique set of interests, needs and challenges that must be addressed so that our exceptional student-athletes can thrive on the field of play and take full advantage of the educational opportunities our university offers.”

Williams was a wrestler at Cal before earning his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1982. He later received an MBA in finance from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA in 1988. He and his wife, Jeanne, have three children and reside in Lafayette.

Williams’ connection to Cal also includes 15 years of volunteer service. He was elected to the UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees in 2007, joined the Foundation’s Executive Committee in 2009 and has served as vice chair of the executive committee since July 2013.

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Basketball: Caleb Swanigan decommits from Michigan State — let the frenzied speculation begin

Center Caleb Swanigan, who made a recruiting visit to Cal and at one time was said to be conspiring with Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown to attend Berkeley as a “package deal,” is back on the market after decommitting from Michigan State.

Is he Berkeley-bound?

Who knows?

Or, as coach Cuonzo Martin said Wednesday regarding his successful recruitment of Rabb and Brown, why not?

ESPN, which first reported the news, said Purdue may be the frontrunner.

Swanigan surprised most people by committed April 10 to MSU, but had not signed a binding letter-of-intent.

Click here to read the Detroit News’ story.

Here’s more from MLive.com.

Stay tuned.


Basketball: How did Cal land Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb? Cuonzo Martin says, `Why not?’

Ask coach Cuonzo Martin how Cal landed two top-10 national basketball recruits and his answer is simple.

“Why not?” he said. “You’re talking about the No. 1 public institution in the world. Why not? You’ve got great academics as well as great athletics. Why not? That’s what people should say.”

Martin said Jaylen Brown, consensus five-star small forward from Georgia, did not simply drop in the Bears’ lap. Hard work, relationship building and circumstances combined to convince Brown to sign with the Bears over the likes of Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina, giving them a recruiting class that Rivals.com ranks No. 4 nationally.

Martin, in his second season at Berkeley, said he began recruiting Brown when he was head coach at Tennessee and Brown was a freshman at Wheeler High in Marietta.

He recalls seeing a 6-foor-3, 170-pounder who took the game seriously and got high marks from those around him. “His coach was saying he’ll be the next guy when it’s all said and done,” Martin said.

Brown is now 6-7, nearly 220 pounds and led Wheeler to Georgia’s 6A state title. He also played in all of the major all-star games, where his relationship with fellow Cal signee Ivan Rabb of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High began to blossom.

There was talk a month ago of Brown, Rabb and center Caleb Swanigan choosing a school as a “package deal.” Swanigan opted for Michigan State, but Rabb decided to stay close to home.

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Basketball: Midnight Madness in 2015? Your call

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, with a rising buzz around his team and its new recruiting class, was asked Wednesday whether he will consider staging a Midnight Madness-type event to kick off the 2015-16 season.

The Bears have held a late-night tipoff to the season at times in the past, but not for years.

Next year’s team, with a recruiting class ranked No. 4 nationally by Rivals.com, no doubt will generate great interest on campus and in the community.

Martin, beginning his second season at Berkeley, said he will consider Midnight Madness, but wants to hear from fans.

So here’s your chance to cast your vote: Reply here with a Yes or No, and your best argument either way, and I will pass on the results to the Cal basketball office.

By the way, within an hour of posting this, point guard Sam Singer responded on Twitter with this emphatic opinion: DEFINITELY.


Basketball: Rivals ranks Cal’s class No. 4

Topped by Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, Cal’s recruiting class is No. 4 in final 2015 rankings released Wednesday by Rivals.com.

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin — like most coaches — has said he’s not obsessed with rankings. Even so, this is rarified territory for the Golden Bears.

Consider the Rivals top-5: 1. Duke; 2. Arizona; 3. Kentucky; 4. Cal; 5. LSU.

Brown, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is rated No. 3 by Rivals, and Rabb, a 6-10 power forward checks in at No. 7. Shooting guard Tyson Jolly is ranked No. 73. Still-to-be-signed small forward Davon Dillard is No. 147.

The only other school with two signed players ranked in the top-10 is Kentucky, with No. 1 Skal Laissiere and No. 10 Isaiah Briscoe.

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Basketball: Want to see Rabb, Brown debut for the Bears? Starting making your plans to visit Australia

Fans who want to see the debut of Cal’s basketball team, with its newly signed recruiting class, will have to travel to Australia.

The Golden Bears will trek Down Under for a foreign tour that will begin Aug. 14 and will include four games against professional teams in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“It gives us 10 days to practice, so that part is great,” said coach Cuonzo Martin, who will be able to bring his entire team on the trip, including freshmen Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown, both rated as top-10 national prospects.

“Just to play against really good competition and to see a different part of the world. I think that’ll be fun for our guys.”

The NCAA allows college basketball teams to schedule foreign trips every four summers.


Basketball: Jaylen Brown’s signing is official

Cal officially signed high school All-America forward Jaylen Brown on Monday, adding to perhaps the most impressive basketball recruiting class in school history.

“Jaylen is one of the nation’s elite players and we are thrilled he is a Golden Bear,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. “He is a strong, athletic player with a tremendous work ethic. Jaylen has the skill and ability to play four different positions on the floor.”

A 6-foot-7, 220-pounder from Wheeler High in Marietta, Georgia, Brown was rated as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect by Scout.com, and is among the top five, according to every major recruiting service.

He joins fellow consensus top-10 prospect Ivan Rabb, a 6-10 power forward from Oakland, and four-star shooting guard Tyson Jolly of Oklahoma City in the class that will enroll at Berkeley next fall.

Brown averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds this season, leading Wheeler to a 30-3 record and the Georgia 6A state title. His two free throws with 0.6 seconds left were the difference in the state championship game, and helped Wheeler to a final No. 6 national ranking, according to USA Today.

“He’s one of the most talented kids I’ve had here at Wheeler, hands down,” said coach Doug Lipscomb, whose past players over 23 seasons include former Cal star Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who went on to a productive NBA career. “Both were very skilled-oriented kids, both rebound the ball, play defense and, most importantly, both are very good people.”

Lipscomb said Brown is versatile and unselfish on the court.

“He should definitely be a plus for Cal,” Lipscomb said. “He’s only going to get bigger and stronger.”


Athletic director search: Williams to get the call

I was on Warriors duty today, so staff colleague Jon Wilner has provided this report on Cal’s athletic director situation:

As expected, Cal will elevate H. Michael Williams to the position of permanent athletic director, according to a source close to Cal athletics.

The university was not prepared to make it official, releasing a statement Monday afternoon that said it was “indeed very close to making an announcement. However, a few details remain and those involved are doing what is necessary to complete the hiring process.”

Williams has served as the Bears’ interim athletic director since Sandy Barbour stepped down in June.

The 10-month search appeared to reach a conclusion in early April when the only other finalist, Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen, reaffirmed his commitment to Memphis. Cal’s chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, waited another month before officially promoting Williams.

A formal announcement is expected this week, according to the source, who called Williams a “safe” choice. The Bears’ head coaches were being informed Monday.