Mike Silver. Need I say more?
Well, probably, ya. I want to maintain my reputation for fawning introductions that leave the both the reader and the interviewee both breathless with giddiness. Mike Silver is one of the most well-known Cal alums, currently writing for Yahoo! Sports. Now, I know exactly what you are thinking. Why is this fantabulous Golden Bear writing for an organization started by *gasp* opposable thumb-less Stanfurdites??? I'll let you in on a little secret, while I gently tap my nose.
He's taking them down from the inside! Who could forget his recent top secret message to Microsoft, co-written by Oski, entitled "Do not buy us!" Worked like a charm!
Fortunately for all that is right and good with the world, super secret double agent Mike Silver took time out of his busy "Trying To Keep His Double Agent Status Secretive" schedule to answer some questions for us! And he nailed it! Boy did he ever! I haven't seen anything nailed this hard since my all-expenses paid trip to Pontius Pilate's house. Mike Silver can call himself the King Of The Golden Bears anytime!
Unfortunately, my dear friends, it appears that our beloved Mike Silver might becoming slowly, but surely delusional. He believed that a question we asked was beneath us! Beneath us? He clearly has never read a single CGB post ever. Well, hopefully, you, my dear reader, take the time to read his answers to our questions after the jump. See, the sad and unenviable truth is that none of us will ever be as awesome as Mike Silver. However, if you read this post over and over and over and over again and send it to your friends and mail me cash directly, maybe a little bit of awesomeness will rub off. Just like last time, Mike Silver is a Golden Bear ready to roar!
Besides reading his article at Yahoo!, you can also follow him 140 characters at a time on Twitter. Many, many thanks to Mike Silver for his continued awesomeness at repping the Blue and Gold at home and abroad. Enjoy his answers. GO BEARS!1. Zach Maynard is the starting quarterback, for now. What do you think?
First, I'm excited that a decision was made this early-or, to clarify, that Jeff clearly felt comfortable enough to make a decision this early, rather than feeling like he had to see more this summer (and, possibly, to consider starting a true freshman by default). It told me that Maynard is a quick study and, possibly, that Jeff's insistence on a quarterback knowing his intricate offense inside and out has ebbed just a bit, which wouldn't be a bad thing, in my opinion. I have no qualms about admitting I was rooting for Maynard the whole time. He has played before. He's mobile. I think starting him will shake things up and allow our talented receiving corps some extra time to improvise and get open, when necessary. And I'm hoping he'll be our best quarterback since some dude named Aaron Rodgers. Hell, I'd kill for another Reggie Robertson, at the level Jeff had him playing before Aaron took over. Or my man Steve Levy in the bowl game-that'd be great, at this point.
2. Cal football gameday in Berkeley: where is your preferred pregame food and beverage stop?
Wait, you mean I'm not coming straight from one of my kids' soccer games? Sweet. First question: Did a student-athlete invite me and my age-inappropriate friends to a house party? Oh, wait, the Natalie Coughlin book was written years ago. Are we tailgating somewhere? Sounds complicated. OK, fine, Henry's... but it's absolutely mandatory that we chug our drinks, shut our pie holes and start heading up to the stadium a good 18 minutes before kickoff, or else.
3. What are your thoughts on the Pac-12 television deal?
First thought: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's a TV deal. Second thought: Lots of money for the member schools-that's good, I guess, considering we just did our once-a-century stadium renovation, built a high-performance center and saved five sports in a rough economy. If we could take $10 or $15 million of that money and build Diane Ninemire a softball stadium, I'd have a much more emphatic reaction, by the way.
4. We've started to see "Jeff Tedford" and "hot seat" used in the same sentence. Younger blues seem the most impatient. Older blues who remember Theder, Kapp, Gilby, and Holmoe are more inclined to be patient. In your view, how warm is Coach Tedford's seat?
I don't think it's a matter of being patient. I think it's a matter of understanding that we have the best athletic administration we've ever had, and trusting that our Powers That Be will continue to do what's best for the program. Remember, Sandy Barbour came in and immediately extended Tedford at a time when he was in high demand in NFL and NCAA circles, which was clearly the best call at the time. She fired Caren Horstmayer and ultimately got rid of Ben Braun, too, and hired much better replacements. I won't even get into how great things are for the non-revenue sports; let's just focus on those three for now. And while we're coming off a rough football season-and a six-year death march of in-season quarterback regression-yes, perspective is in order. Forget those other coaches; if you saw even a single game of the Holmoe era, you should get down on your knees and give thanks that our program is in a much better place. Jeff had a lot to do with that, in a variety of ways.
And if the football gods were a bit less cruel, he might have taken us to two Rose Bowls, either of which would have changed the parameters of this conversation: In '04, we were undone by a hurricane, a confluence of hellish BCS rules that have since been amended, and of course that whiny bitch Mack Brown and his voting cronies. In '06, if instant-replay hadn't just been added, then DeSean Jackson's long touchdown catch-and-run against Arizona wouldn't have been called back (because he stepped out of bounds at the 40 by inches), and we'd have been outright Pac-10 champions despite the subsequent loss at SC. None of this, by the way, would be an excuse for keeping a substandard coach whose effectiveness had passed, if that's what Jeff was. Trust me, I'm not one of those people who moans, "But could we get anyone good to replace him?" Um, hell yes, we could get a really good coach in here in a heartbeat. Our program's much different than it was a decade ago-again, most of that credit should go to Jeff, but a lot to the administration (beginning with the Gladstone Revolution and continuing with Sandy) as well. And I know we would have an incredibly impressive list of candidates, because I'd help assemble one, and I promise you Sandy would run a great search and make a strong choice.
All of this, I believe, should be moot for now, because I'm still confident that Jeff is going to take us to Pasadena and parlay that dream trip into an extended run of success that compels us to build a statue (sorry, Kareem) of him near where those sacred trees used to be outside the stadium. I know there is evidence to the contrary. As I said before, we've had six consecutive years of QB regression-this is troubling, but most of all it's bizarre. Realize that before Ayoob/Wrongshore/Wrongshore-Riley/Riley-Wrongshore/Riley/Riley-Mansion, Jeff Tedford had the most striking run of quarterback-coaching success the sport has ever seen. I'm serious-if anyone has ever had the stardust, it was pre-'05 JT.
Everything he touched turned to pro, and time has told us that in terms of raw talent and NFL potential, he wasn't exactly coaching a bunch of Peyton Mannings and John Elways, for the most part. Six No. 1 draft picks: Dilfer, Carr, Harrington, Smith (Akili Smith!!!), Boller, Rodgers, along with future NFL QBs Billy Volek and A.J. Feeley. Look closer, and you realize that what he did was positively surreal. Kyle Boller was an absolute train wreck when Jeff arrived, and Jeff completely transformed him in a single offseason. Yeah, he may have been blessed to find Aaron in the sticks of Butte County, but to repeat my earlier statement, think about the level at which Reggie Robertson was playing before Aaron took over. I know it has been six years, but you don't lose that. It's a supernatural gift, and I believe it will come back. I could delve deeper into what I feel has gone wrong and how I think Jeff needs to evolve as a head coach, but the bottom line is I don't really know why he stopped choosing the right quarterbacks and/or pushing them to amazing heights. I just know he was once Midas, and I still believe he can and will be Midas, and I'm convinced that Zach Maynard is 24 karats' worth of precious awesomeness waiting to happen.
5. There has been some buzz about moving the Big Game to earlier in the year for financial reasons. When do you feel the Big Game should be played?
Really? There's a moronic push to move Big Game into September or October, like it's Texas-Oklahoma or Michigan-Notre Dame? Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. The real answer is that Big Game should be played the Saturday before Thanksgiving AND be the final regular season game for both Cal and Stanford-but clearly, that can't happen in 21st Century America. So I'd settle for either/or, with a preference for it being the final game of the regular season, period. Big Game should be the climax, the game the kids get up for the most, and potentially with the most on the line. I know that's how I treat it as a fan. Playing Washington after you've beaten Stanford? Horrible. Playing Washington after you've lost the Axe? Even more horrific. This shouldn't be that complicated. Yet somehow, I suspect, people will insist on tweaking it until the tradition is irrevocably mangled.
6. With the new tv contracts, it looks like Cal is going to have some late night games and some weeknight games. What do you feel about this? Is it worth it for the exposure/attention/money?
Let me tell you a little story about 2004, when I was reporting the aforementioned Natalie Coughlin book, "Golden Girl," and embedding myself in the lives of Cal swimmers as part of the reporting process. (Tough job, someone had to do it.) We played a game at Memorial against ASU the night before Halloween, and my friends and I started partying at the Bears Lair while it was still light out and came to the haunting realization that we lacked costumes. Someone was dispatched to the drug store on Telegraph and came back with nametags and a Sharpie, and we morphed into the Berkelified cast of "Old School," giving ourselves nicknames about as inventive as Frank the Tank. We even picked up a "Blue" in the stands-this guy must have been pushing 75.
Oh yes, we were charming. We somehow snuck into the club room on the alumni side at halftime, and I remember someone handing me a beer bong in the middle of a crowd of mortified donors and some of our young friends joining in. After the 27-0 shutout was complete, we repaired to a house party hosted by some of the swimmers, and hilarity ensued. As with Vince Vaughn's character in Old School, it eventually dawned on me that I was happily married and should probably flee for my life, and I caught a cab-which I had a bit of trouble backseat-navigating through the Oakland hills. Eventually, I managed to get the key in the front door, where my bitter wife was there to greet me. She ordered me to take a shower before I got into bed with her, and after completing the task with otherworldly effort, I had barely put my head on the pillow before she said, "You still reek-you're sleeping on the couch."
You can guess the rest: Spins, vomit and kids waking me up at 6 a.m. as mom slept in, then took off for the next nine hours. At some point during that wretched stretch of parenthood hell I called my buddy Greg, who was in similar straits, and decreed, "Night college football-when you're in college, fantastic idea. When you're 16 years removed from college-terrible idea." With all of that said, what difference does it make how I feel about games at odd hours or on random nights? We took the money; we'll play when they tell us to play. I just want to win the conference and go to Pasadena. And given how blocked-up my Saturdays inevitably are, what with the kids' sporting events and travel assignments to NFL games across the country, maybe it's a GOOD thing for someone in my position. The obvious exception: I insist that they keep Big Game on Saturday, ideally with a start between 12:30 and 5 p.m. And I'm soooo sure they'll listen.
7. Whom do you want to punch in the face?
Ah, the punch-in-the-face question rears its ugly head once more. As I said last time, that's a totally inappropriate query to pose. I mean, I deplore assault of any kind, and as a professional journalist I obviously need to refrain from making explosive comments about people in and out of my business which could tarnish my brand and piss off my Yahoo! bosses. So, unfortunately, I'm going to have to pass this time.
Yet, thanks once again to the magic of role-playing, I will try to come up with an answer that someone with similar DNA, sensibilities and exceptionally large eyebrows, yet with a tad less self-restraint, might find sufficient: The first face that comes to mind is Lane Kiffin's-it kind of screams "Punch me," and now that he's coaching the Cheating Condoms that's a very tempting request to honor. For that matter, a right cross to the jaw of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wouldn't be tragic, nor would a shiner-shot at Glenn Beck. Last time, I told you I'd beat the living crap out of the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami, but I've matured since then-a sharp jab to the larynx seems more than sufficient.
Let's see, who else? The Chronicle's C.W. Nevius's face could use another pockmark, and there's a certain NFL PR director in the western part of the U.S. who could use a black eye or two. Tom Cable has a massive jaw; "accidentally" breaking it would be poetic justice, especially if the perpetrator were in drag. Then there's the guy who umped my son's little-league playoff game the other night (Kidding! I think...) and John Edwards, for being the only presidential candidate in recent memory to stick up for the poor, getting me to buy in completely and then turning out to be a complete douche. Finally, let's all give a huge roundhouse right to the front teeth of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, the guy who said in a speech that only those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior are his "brothers." Um, sorry about that bloody lip, bro. Actually, since we're role-playing, maybe I'll just call up Eli Roth and have him reprise his "Bear Jew" performance from "Inglourious Basterds."
There-I answered your very loaded question. But it was beneath you. You should be ashamed.
8. This Cal Softball team from Jolene, Jace, to the Reid twins have picked up the slack after the leg injury to Valerie Arioto. What is going to be the key to the team's success in the NCAA tourney?
Ah, I just went back to my happy place, and I'm confident that I'm also going back to Oklahoma City for the first time since 2005, when I was there with the Bears as they ended their seven-year run of consecutive Women's College World Series appearances. And I'll be SO happy to go with this particular team, because as you mentioned, Cal lost one of the best softball players on earth on the first day of practice in Val and somehow managed to ascend. The biggest reason is that Jolene Henderson, after a very promising freshman season, stepped up to the challenge and became the best pitcher in the country. We'll ride her arm as far as it can take us, and I'm very comfortable with that.
As with the great Kristina Thorson in 2006, it's Jolene the Machine or bust. That doesn't give us a lot of margin for error, but I think Jo will continue to get a bit more run support than Kristina did, and the defense-led by Jace Williams at third base; she's a human vacuum cleaner, not to mention our most clutch hitter-is much, much improved from the past few seasons. This is more like the ‘04/'05 teams, with incredible speed (the Reid twins and freshman shortstop Britt Vonk) coming at you early and often and a lineup that can hurt you from top to bottom. I'm a big Frani Echavarria fan, too; that kid has improved so much. What we don't have is a lot of power, but here's the good news for next year-we get Val Arioto back, which means we add the best hitter in the country, as well as a very strong No. 2 pitcher, and that will make Jolene's life easier. And we're adding three big-time recruits who can whack the hell out of the ball, including Jolene's little sister, Danielle. Oh, and we lose no one. Have I mentioned that we'll be even better in 2011? Like, preseason No. 1 better? In the meantime, we're good enough to beat anyone in OKC with No. 54 in the circle. Cal softball is back, baby.
9. The entire Softball team seems vivacious on and off the field. If you were to have a dance off against one of the team members after winning the NCAA Championships, who would you pick and why? What's going to be your go-to move?
That's not even a question-after Jolene strikes out the last sucker and the wild celebration begins, I am going to drop my Tecate can, hop over the barrier, charge on to the field and tackle Diane Ninemire. Then I'm going to bump and grind her into the dirt for all the world to see. And she will like it.
Among the many reasons I love Diane is that she does it the hard way, year in and year out: Because our facilities don't allow us to host, we get sent off to random locales for regionals, and we inevitably find a way to win, even when circumstances seem the most dire. From 2002-2005 we were at the very top of the softball world, with a championship, two second-place finishes and a No. 1 preseason ranking in '05 (we lost two tough games in OK City that year). We've hung tough during the ensuing stretch, and now we're finally kicking ass and taking names again. I don't expect that to stop, even though the Cal softball motto is "Never Easy."
10. It's clear you liked the Lindsay Gottlieb hire. Why do you think she will take Cal women's BB to the next level?
Well, first of all, I was bummed to see Joanne Boyle go, and I sincerely thank her for instantly transforming a moribund program and laying the foundation for sustained greatness in the decades to come. She's the best women's hoops coach we've ever had, by far. I expect her to kick ass at Virginia, and I'll never begrudge her that success. As far as where this program is right now, I think Lindsay's the best possible fit. Actually, that's an understatement. I think she's a rock star-and there are a lot of people in the hoops world a lot more knowledgeable than I am who agree with that assessment. She played a huge role in our success those first three years with Joanne, and to me her return gives us a great mix of continuity with Joanne's regime and new, youthful energy. (It's also excellent that Charmin Smith decided to stay on with Lindsay, which helps with continuity and gives us additional brainpower on the bench, despite Ms. Smith's unfortunate choice of undergraduate institutions.) I paid very close attention to Lindsay's UCSB teams, and what she did there was very, very impressive. Trust me, she has a vision, and that vision includes us in the Final Four more than once and-I'll try to say this politely, because she has so much respect for the legendary coach in question-Tara VanDerveer's head on a figurative stick. She will work relentlessly to accomplish these goals.
She's one of the smartest human beings I know, and she's incredibly personable and lovely in every way-but she's maniacally competitive, too. A story for you: Her final year at Cal the first time around, on the morning after we got annihilated by Stanford in the Pac-10 tournament final (what Joanne rightfully described as "a debacle"), Lindsay went for a run on College Avenue and had to pull over to the sidewalk and puke a couple of times. That's who's in charge of our program, and if this plays out the way I think it will, we can have her for years and years. She loves Berkeley. She gets it. Put it this way: Cal has some of the best coaches on earth, as you know. Jack Clark's only peer, in any sport, is John Wooden-only he doesn't have a Sam Gilbert funding his operation. Teri McKeever, as I've been telling you since "Golden Girl," is the greatest swimming coach in the world, and now that she has won two of the past three NCAA titles and got the Olympics gig for 2012, people are starting to understand that. Kevin Grimes-beast. Mike Montgomery, as good as it gets. Ninemire, Augustus, Onstead, Durden, O'Neill, McDaniel... should I keep going? We have great coaches here. I think Lindsay already fits in with that group, and she'll get better and better.
11. What kind of insight can you give us regarding Lindsay Gottlieb's style (particularly as it differs from Joanne Boyle). Does she want to pound it inside? More guard oriented? Up-tempo vs. the half court set?
From what I know, Lindsay wants to utilize the athleticism and skill set this group possesses and form an identity that other teams in the Pac 12 have to prepare for. I think that means aggressive defense, pushing tempo and using various scoring actions in transition, but also being able to execute in the half court when need be. Rather than being solely guard-heavy or post-oriented, she's excited to have multi-dimensional players who can play an exciting brand of basketball. There will be more of an emphasis on skill development, teaching and breaking things down so that the players feel confident and can be assertive on the floor. Also, whereas some of Joanne's teams wore down as the season went on (and this was understandable given depth issues), Lindsay's Gauchos played their best basketball down the stretch. We'll be fresher, I think, without sacrificing any of the indefatigable doggedness on defense that literally made Jeanette Pohlen cry during Lindsay's last year as Joanne's top assistant.
12. Cal WBB really needed a point guard last year. What are the prospects for fixing this problem next season?
First of all, I'm glad you brought that up-I believe the lack of a point guard accounted for a lot of our problems over the past two seasons, and as selfless as Layshia Clarendon has been in playing out of position, I absolutely can't wait to see what she can do as a true ‘2.' As for this year's prospects for fixing the position? In a word: tremendous. First, we have a freshman coming in, Brittany Boyd, who has a chance to be special. She's from Berkeley, and I think she's going to make a seamless transition to the big time. She's explosive, and she's also one of those point guards who creates first and shoots second. All of that is good. Meanwhile, we've got a kid named Avigiel Cohen, who came here from Israel last summer and was slated to be our point guard in 2010-11 before she tore her ACL. No one can be sure exactly what she is, but when you look at her highlights from international play you see a potential superstar.
I know Joanne was very, very excited about her, and I guarantee Lindsay will put her in the best position to succeed. If that position is point guard, that's wonderful. Either way, I think Lindsay will figure out ways to get Boyd and Cohen on the floor together. My sense is that whatever Avigiel's position turns out to be, she's a natural leader. During Lindsay's job interview, when she met privately with the players, I'm told that Avigiel was one of the kids who did the most talking-that's saying something given that she's a redshirt freshman who has yet to play a minute of college basketball. I got to talk to her after Lindsay's press conference, and she's got a very engaging personality. I haven't been to Hebrew school since 1978, but I'm hoping she can teach me a few phrases, beginning with, "In Israel, when we see a Tree dancing, we pick up a Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle and turn it into firewood."
As you can see, I'm very, very pumped up for the 2011-12 women's hoops season. I think we're going to win a lot of games and make some noise in March. And I haven't been this upbeat about the overall state of Cal athletics in... well, ever. Remember, we just saved five sports. That was a miracle-never before had a school in Division I which eliminated a sport had it reinstated before any games were missed-and it was classic Berkeley defiance at work. Yeah, money made the difference, and those donors should be thanked profusely. But getting loud and saying, "We don't accept this outcome"-that lay the foundation for the historic salvation of those five sports. We won titles in men's and women's swimming, and of course rugby, and finished second in volleyball and men's and women's water polo, and I believe there's more to come.
I'll stop now. This is distracting me from my primary area of focus: Practicing the dance moves that will rock a certain softball coach's world in Oklahoma City.