The 2012-13 Cal women's basketball team will have many legacies. I hope that this is one of them:
That first video was shot by CalBear81 at Pappy's on Sunday afternoon. The second video was shot by myself, as the Bears clinched their overtime win over Georgia. I had just attended the Tiny Bates Banquet in Sacramento, attended by Coach Dykes. When the dinner wrapped up, about half of the crowd piled into the bar to cheer on the Bears in overtime. I managed to capture the moment when the clock hit zero, though as you might imagine, it's a little shaky, what with my nonexistent filming skills and the rush of victory adrenaline.
Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell, Eliza Pierre and Tierra Rogers will be leaving, but they will leave with a Pac-12 championship, a Final Four banner, and the knowledge that they galvanized the Cal community behind a women's basketball team to an unprecedented degree. I never thought I would see the day that the Bears could fill multiple bars with rabid Cal fans, or that die-hard football fans would all be desperately checking their blackberries for the score of a women's basketball game.
Maybe all of the attention this team has received won't mean anything next year. Maybe season ticket purchases and attendance numbers will stay the same, and maybe everybody will wait until the post-season to tune in. But maybe, thousands of Cal fans were exposed to a fun team with a charismatic young coach, and maybe some will stick around for the entire ride next year. Maybe this is the start of something really special, the start of Cal transforming itself into a pillar program in the world of women's basketball, with the fan support to match.
We've talked many times about how Lindsay Gottlieb made no effort to hide the goals for this season: Cut down nets. Be elite. The Bears did that, in spades. Stanford was again the worthiest of adversaries, and their excellence prevented the Bears from cutting down nets when they clinched a share of the title on the last day of the regular season on the road up in Seattle. That didn't stop the Bears from celebrating with a trophy. And in the end, they still got their nets, cutting them down in Spokane instead.
A key aspect to the entire story? A Final Four appearance seemed downright impossible just two years ago. Viet Nguyen at Bear Insider did a great job reminding us just how far the Bears had to come:
Cal played out the string, even returning to the WNIT for an embarrassing second-round blow-out loss to future Pac-12 opponent Colorado.
The fallout was immediate. Leading scorer DeNesha Stallworth, the top recruit from that heralded 2009 class, transferred to Kentucky. Soon after, head coach Joanne Boyle also exited, moving to take over Virginia. Rumors swirled about who would transfer next.
The Cal program, which Boyle and company had built into relevance, was on a precipice and barely hanging on.
From there, all the way to the Final Four. Incredible.
There are lots of banners and history up in the rafters of Haas Pavilion. But two of them have stand out: Pete Newell's 1959 NCAA championship, and Cal's Pac-10 title in 2010. The Cal women will add the first Pac-12 title to the rafters, and they will add the first Final Four banner as well. Every time I go to Haas for the rest of my life, I'll be able to look up and remember moments from the 2012-13 season, the greatest season a Cal basketball team has had since 1959.
I don't know if this year will be a high water mark or the foundation of something even bigger. The potential is obviously there. Whatever happens next, this team's legacy is firmly cemented in Cal history already.