For the first time since 2009 the Cal Coaches' Tour returned to Southern California. Mike Montgomery and Sandy Barbour spoke to Cal fans in San Diego on Wednesday and were joined by Jeff Tedford to meet with fans in Los Angeles and Newport Beach on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, respectively.
FiatLux attended Thursday’s dinner in Westwood at the Palomar Hotel and Berkelium attended the Friday luncheon which took place at Big Canyon Country Club. While the price tag was a little heftier than usual, they provided more goodies than in previous years. We received a Cal backpack, hardcover Cal notebook, and, of course, a tasty meal. While Berkelium liked his lunch, Fiat reports the dinner was just OK but – and this is a big but – there was an OPEN BAR! Fiat got his money’s worth on Mojitos. Having CGBers at each event is great because we can get more info to you and more importantly can see if the coaches recycle the same jokes!
At the dinner event Tedford, Monty and Sandy arrived during cocktails to meet with the fans. At lunch shortly after the food started rolling out, they made their way into the room to meet and greet with fans and grab a quick bite before taking the podium. They had played a round of golf at the LA Country club on Thursday and, Sandy in particular, had the red faces to show they had been in the sun. Fiat gently warned Sandy to apply more sunscreen which he hopes she took to heart as Berkelium reports that at lunch they all look like they just finished playing a round of golf, as they were decked out in their finest golf apparel (Sandy's face was still rather red, though!).
Join us after the jump to read about Sandy’s remarks as well as some insights from the always comedic Mike Montgomery.
First to speak was Sandy Barbour who reminded us of the tremendous success Cal has enjoyed this season, from the pair of swimming national championships to our fantastic softball team. After getting us sufficiently excited about the state of Cal Athletics, Sandy spoke about one of the topics at the forefront of our minds: the Memorial Stadium renovation. Sandy reflected on the long and bizarre process of finally getting the renovations underway. While she said she would have been tremendously disappointed if she knew back in 2004 that we wouldn't play in a renovated Memorial until 2012, she said that we did the project "the Berkeley way." Where else would a university have to deal with years of tree sitters and lawsuits? With all those obstacles finally out of the way, we will have a renovated stadium in the fall.
FiatLux captures a daguerreotype of Sandy Barbour
Sandy assured us that Memorial Stadium will be "game ready" on September 1st. Seats, restrooms, concessions, lights, sound, video, and the field will all be ready--basically fans will have a complete experience from the first game onward. Several minor issues will be finished over the course of the season, but it should be nothing that fans will notice (let's hope that means the visitor locker room is still a work-in-progress!).
She also mentioned the tremendous success of the Gold Standard program for boosting the sales of season tickets. As we have seen with Justin Forsett and Jeff Tedford calling fans to thank them for buying season tickets, the Cal ATO is stepping up its efforts to reach out to fans. Sandy also mentioned that this program will also be going on during the season. While she did not go into specifics, Barbour says they are striving to provide "the most connected experience for fans."
Sandy also said there is no place she would rather be. While it has its unique challenges, she loves Berkeley and moreover she loves the passion of our fans and importantly the balance they keep at their core in terms of athletics and academics / citizenship.
Before she let Monty take the stage, Sandy looked ahead to the 2012 London Olympics. Cal had 48 current and former athletes in the 2008 Olympics and they are on pace to exceed that number this year. Teri McKeever will represent the Bears at the coaching level as she will become the first female coach in women's Olympic swimming history. Sandy mentioned an amazing factoid: If Cal was a nation we would have come in 16th in the medal count, ahead of Brazil and just behind Canada! Beaming with pride at the quality of Cal athletes as competitors and as citizens, Sandy said the although she worries about plenty of things at 2am, she does not have to worry about getting a call that one of our athletes has gotten in trouble with the law. She credits leadership of great coaches and mentors like Mike Montgomery and Jeff Tedford. And with that, Sandy welcomed Monty to the podium.
Berkelium97: If you have not heard Monty speak at an event like this, you are missing out. If coaching basketball doesn't work out for him (though it's a little late to come to that conclusion), he certainly has a career in comedy.
FiatLux: I fully agree with this. One of the great things about Montgomery is you can tell he is a guy who doesn’t need to be politically correct and can just say things like they are. His humor can also be really sardonic… in other words PERFECT for Cal fans.
Berkelium97: Looking a bit exasperated, Monty came to the podium on Thursday and said he's looking forward to getting back to the office in Berkeley, as these golf courses have been beating him up. He then apologized for looking slightly unprofessional, as he was wearing a hat while golfing and had some hat hair going on. He said he was "worried about Coach Tedford having hat hair, but I realized he didn't have any hair."
FiatLux: Here I can proudly report he does not recycle his jokes (at least at consecutive functions). A shirt-sleeved Monty told our dinner crowd that he was going to make his comments short so that Coach Tedford could get his sport coat back to the rental place…
Mike Montgomery entertains the crowd
Having warmed up the crowd with some laughs, Monty transitioned to last season, our play down the stretch, and what to look forward to for next year. He acknowledged that the team "ran out of gas" at the end of last season. As we all know, depth was a huge problem after Solomon became ineligible last year. Going into the season they knew depth would be a problem, but Solo's absence magnified the issue. By the end of the year the team was physically and mentally exhausted. Interestingly, Monty mentioned that there was "a lack of trust" among players later in the year. And by that he meant for them to just trust what they knew they could do and at which they had worked so hard. I'm not sure many of us hypothesized that as one of the issues plaguing the Bears, so it was surprising to hear him mention it.
For those of us who have followed Monty for a while, the value of Jorge and Harper can be measured by how much the usually reserved-in-his-praise Monty really cares and almost gushes about them. Monty again talked about how much Jorge has meant to the team, and what an outstanding person he is. He said that honestly, he’s not the sort of player who should win a PoY but that shows you how much all the coaches in the league think of him. He really appreciates the work Harper put in and also the fact he stayed with the program when he had a chance to leave. Monty plainly acknowledged that it will be very tough to replace the character of Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez. He mentioned that he "has to develop a winning attitude" among the players to help offset the loss of leadership from the beloved seniors.
Fortunately, Monty says the team will be more talented next season. Richard Solomon will return and be eligible after passing 17 units this spring. Allen Crabbe will be back at full strength. He had a strained abdominal muscle that limited his production down the stretch last year, but he has been in the gym working out four days per week during the offseason. He said David Kravish is "a little undernourished" at 6'10" and 208 lbs, though they will work on bulking him up for next season. He mentioned that toward the end of the year David just got worn down. He says he is a terrific kid and that he has a 3.78 GPA! He also mentioned that Robert Thurman was a huge surprise last year and he did a great job as a walk on.
Monty is looking forward to the arrival of Sami Eleraky who, as a 7' Danish-Egyptian, is "what you look for in pedigree of these kids." He said he needs to take exit exams to ensure he is NCAA eligible. He’s fine with Cal. He also specifically called out Ricky Kreklow who said he has all the tools at the shooting guard position and is particularly excited for the addition of Tyrone Wallace. Monty also mentioned that we need to get the local kids. That we need to make them understand that this is a great place to get to the NBA. On that point Monty was straight forward. We may like to talk about getting a Cal degree but most elite basketball players (with notable exceptions) are only interested in getting to play professionally. That’s just the reality and you’re fooling yourself if you think differently.
Overall, Monty is pleased with the development of the program. In the four years he has been here we have come in 4th, 1st, 3rd and 2nd. He says we are "doing the things we need to do," such as graduating athletes, winning, and developing talent over the span of four years. As we all know, he said one-and-done athletes are not the kinds of athletes he wants to bring to the program. In fact he specifically called out Shabbaz Mohammad of UCLA, saying he would not be a good fit for what he is trying to do with the program. Of course, the Bears might have to deal with a pair of early entries into the NBA after next season, as Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs may elect to enter the draft. Monty said that he is fine with both leaving since they will have spent several good years with the program, especially if they are projected to be first round picks.
Monty also spoke about the looming professional careers of Harper Kamp and Jorge Gutierrez. During the Q+A session, one fan asked if Harper would be a candidate for an assistant coach position in the coming years. While Monty said Harper is an excellent student of the game and fully capable of coaching in the future, he will pursue a playing career for now, likely overseas. Like all college basketball players, Harper has always made a professional playing career their top goal, so they will do anything to play at the next level (unlike NBA players, he joked, as he found out during his stint with Golden State). Monty thinks Jorge has a pretty good shot at being drafted. In fact, he plans to talk to good friend and Spurs head coach Greg Popovich about Jorge. He says he'll tell Pop to consider drafting Jorge, because "one or two years down the road, you'll thank me." We'll see on June 28th whether Pop takes Monty's advice. I think a lot of you will also love this. After the season Jorge signed with an agent who wanted him to come down to LA, but Jorge said he would not be available until after he graduated! Is there any question why Monty loves that kid.
Monty then talked about how the Pac-12 has to do a better job in preseason play next season. He said losses like UCLA to Fullerton at home killed the conference. Having two teams in the NCAA tournament was unfortunate. As a side note, he believes the Bears may not have made it into the tournament if they didn't beat Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament. You could also tell he was annoyed that we had to be in the play-in game given our record and resume. With every single Pac-12 basketball game nationally televised next season, Monty believes the conference will get better exposure. This will require more Wednesday and Sunday games during the conference schedule, but Monty is more than happy to make that tradeoff.
Monty touched on recruiting and the evolution of it in regards to social media. I don’t think any of you will be surprised when you read he doesn’t like it. But, it is what it is. I don’t know if a lot of you are familiar with this, but for basketball the NCAA has changed the rules and you can now have unlimited contact with recruits. Monty thinks that is a terrible thing for the high school students. With the omnipresence of mobile devices, think about that kid sitting in his math class and he is getting texts from Roy Williams, Jim Boheim et al. You think that kid is going to be concentrating on class? Despite considering himself to be technologically advanced because he knows how to turn his phone on and off, Monty will have his staff making use of these new contact rules, whether they talk with recruits through email, text, twitter, or carrier pigeon.
As he was preparing to close, Monty talked about Haas. FiatLux swears he didn’t prompt this topic… Monty said they need to fix what they are doing from a marketing perspective. He says Haas is an incredible place when it’s filled. He actually loved coming in as Stanford’s coach. He says that once we get regular sellouts that would mean a lot to the program.
And with that, Monty ceded the stage to Sandy to introduce Jeff Tedford. But not before one last Montyism; "You know I’m not sure how to hand off to Jeff… We don’t have a QB controversy this year so I can’t use my old material…"
Join us tomorrow as we take a look at what Tedford said to the crowd.