Attending the Cal Coach’s Tour in Sacramento one day after reading the Marshawnthusiasts’ intrepid reporting on the Pleasant Hill stop created a strange sense of déjà-vu about the entire night, and also helped highlight the interesting contrast between our two major program head coaches. Thanks to Monty’s off the cuff speaking style, and the question and answer segment, I think there are enough tidbits and anecdotes to share that will hopefully make this post less redundant than I feared it would be yesterday. Plus, Sacramento had a surprise guest from a past Cal legend. See if you can guess who while you read!
I got off work 15 minutes early to make sure my lovely companion Amber and I arrived at 5. The Old Firehouse is a surprisingly fancy restaurant complete with hoity-toity waiters and Pre-Raphaelite naked lady paintings (although I don’t have pics of the naked ladies, so I guess they didn’t happen). We were quickly directed downstairs, where we got our nametags and headed straight for the crowded food table. Unfortunately for me I think Back 40 probably beat The Old Firehouse in the food department, if only because we were served a bunch of appetizers and were given comically small plates that failed to satisfy a grown man’s hunger – or even 65 year old booster lady hunger.
The coaches all mingled as we waited for the show to start. I’m much too wimpy to actually approach one of our coaches, so I settled for camera stalking!
Finally the talk began with an introduction from a very peppy higher-up from the athletic department. He introduced Sandy, who spent less time talking because she ran too long in Pleasant Hill going over every major sport in the program. She did specifically bring up Rugby’s loss to BYU and how the disappointment over 2nd place highlights the high expectations we have at Cal now, and how proud she was of how the team handled themselves in defeat.
Our next speaker was the women’s swim coach, who was very personable, but being that I know nothing about swimming, I have nothing intelligent to say about her presentation. I did like one comment she made about the ease of recruiting elite athletes to Cal. When you can offer the chance to compete on the highest athletic and academic levels for four years and walk away with a great degree (very critical since very few swimmers go pro) you won’t have much trouble recruiting.
Finally, the Deity himself came to the platform. Now God knows I love Tedford, but he just can’t be anything other than a football coach 24/7. I don’t think that the alumni meet-and-greets are really his element – he’d rather be out on the practice field or in the film room. Based on the Pleasant Hill report I think he might have given the same speech, word for word. Same punter joke, same QB controversy joke, same scheduling comments, same injury report, same "I love Alex Mack" anecdotes. I think he approaches these events the same way he approaches play calling or game planning – organized, efficient, with no need for deviation. In his defense, Amber and I were probably the only people who read CGB and got the early report. Everybody else ate it up, and he of course got the strongest reception from the crowd.
Now, Monty on the other hand, you never know what he’s going to say. If I wasn’t aware of his multi-decade experience in major college basketball I would be worried that he’d eventually say something he’d really regret to the press. But I guess after 20 years he’s learned exactly how close to the line he can get without really offending anybody.
His first comments related what he’s learned from working around Tedford (I’m paraphrasing here): "Now, working with Jeff I’ve learned about how to create a position controversy. With Jeff, he can never pick his quarterback, always waiting for the last minute to pick a guy and having trouble making his mind. With me, it’s the center position, but it’s a little different. I don’t have one." Max Zhang, you’ve been roasted!
He got another great zinger in when he gave the injury report. After describing Harper and Theo’s leg injuries, he stopped and said jokingly, "I’m sure you all already know everything about them." He then paused before saying, "Actually this is an older crowd, I’m guessing you guys ARE pretty familiar with hip surgery issues."
Old Blues are old!
My personal favorite piece from his talk was when he talked about recruits (paraphrasing again). "We have a kid coming in from Kenya who we hope can play a little. His first name is Bak (long pause) and his last name…is also Bak. Bak Bak is his name."
At this point Amber leaned over and said "What is it you guys say about him?"
"Oh, you mean ‘Praise be to Bak Bak’?"
Like Pleasant Hill, Monty was very frank about inexperience and lowered expectations and said he’s concerned the team has too tough of an out-of-conference schedule, specifically joking that he wasn’t going to New York for the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge so he wouldn’t have to watch the team get destroyed by Syracuse or North Carolina. He did get more serious when talking about the media attention that Cal has been getting (Pac-10 favorites, preseason top 10, etc.) and talk about toughness and size and how Cal needed to get these attributes before we’re ready to compete for Final Fours, which still seems like a far off dream to me.
It was at about this point that one of the top 5 greatest Cal players of all time dropped in. He’s also something of a politician, which was made even more obvious from his snazzy suit.
That’s right, Sacramento major Kevin Johnson! Monty was probably the first person to spot him and immediately told the crowd about the time KJ dropped 31 points on Monty’s Stanford team in the 1st half. Actually, Monty only said 29, but KJ took the microphone for a minute to praise his Cal education for allowing his political success, and to remind Monty that it was, in fact, 31 points he scored in the 1st half.
So, on to the questions and answers! There isn’t too much to add here. Somebody asked if the Pac-10 tournaments will ever leave Los Angeles (No). One kid had a great question about if Tedford would let the guy who created the hook and lateral play used against Stanford call more plays (Yes, but perhaps a joking yes). One man asked the swim coach about Natalie Coughlin losing to Michelle Kwan (who was debatably eligible for the award) for trophy a few years back for the best amateur athlete in America. The coach surprised me by essentially saying that their criteria was kind of B.S., but hey Natalie has like a million gold medals so what does she need the award for?
Somebody asked the inevitable "Why are we playing Eastern Washington and not an SEC team" question, prompting Tedford to give his standard ABC response. He also added, "So…you want us to play Maryland, Minnesota and Tennessee this year?" More interesting, however, was Monty taking the microphone and passionately talking about how incredibly difficult the Pac-10 schedule is in both football and basketball, and how you need games that will approximate the talent level and atmosphere of Pac-10 games, but you also need easy games to build depth and confidence.
So we walked back home with a fun experience and an excellent highlight DVD (the football highlights seem particularly well done – some of the Jahvid highlights make his skills look even more absurd. If you live near the Sothern California stops I suggest you stop by – Monty’s worth the price of admission by himself. And who knows, you might win a signed swim cap!