DeCuire is expected to be interviewed Friday, sources said. The 43-year-old has recruited most of the players on the current Cal roster. He was mentioned on a list of up-and-coming young African-American coaches provided to Yahoo Sports that accompanied a story Tuesday on the lack of black head coaches at power programs.
Among others mentioned in speculation for the Cal job are former UCLA coach Ben Howland; current UC-Irvine coach Russell Turner, who was a former Montgomery assistant at both Stanford and the Golden State Warriors; and Arizona associate head coach Joe Pasternack, who was a Cal assistant under Ben Braun from 2001-07.
Sandy Barbour has had a good track record of hiring basketball coaches at Cal.
Women's: One of her first major hires as athletic director was in hoops. Barbour pulled the plug on the unsuccessful Caren Horstmeyer era and hired Joanne Boyle to lead the Golden Bears in 2005. Boyle immediately took Cal to four straight NCAA tournament appearances after a decade and a half absence from the Dance. This included two second place finishes to Furd and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2008-09. There were also two WNIT appearances, with a championship to boot.
Boyle would leave Cal for Virginia in 2011, and Barbour immediately found the right successor in Lindsay Gottlieb (Boyle's former assistant who had migrated to UC Santa Barbara for a few seasons). Gottlieb has guided the Bears to an NCAA Final Four and two more tournament appearances in her three seasons at Cal, capturing a share of the Pac-12 championship last season
Men's: When Barbour fired Ben Braun, the perfect candidate was just sitting around doing TV in the Bay Area. I'm not exactly sure why it took so long (I guess that 2006 season provided Braun a temporary reprieve), but it turned out just fine for Cal with Mike Montgomery. Barbour had the guts to hire a Stanfurd man and it led to the team's first conference championship in 50 years.
However, the pressure is on. Barbour knows that this next hire could determine whether she remains athletic director at Cal much longer. A bad decision could force others in charge to consider making a change.
It's obvious many donors are not happy with her football decisions. Extending Jeff Tedford was a necessary and important decision for Cal football, but the terms of the deal have put Cal into significant issues. The financial plan for paying off Memorial Stadium debt is far from being on firm ground. Hiring Sonny Dykes did not turn out so well in Season 1, and the Andy Buh debacle is just another difficult financial situation for a department that doesn't need difficult financial situations.
With Cal football's path uncertain for 2013, hiring a good basketball coach would take the pressure off her if the football team struggles yet again. Likewise, making a bad decision and hiring the wrong person could undo all the good that Montgomery has managed to piece together the last few seasons and set them on the wrong track.
She is using a search firm to narrow down the best candidates (just as she did with football to help identify Dykes as one of the potential candidates), then will head to the Final Four to probably find potential matches. It's hard to say which factors she'll put in play.
- Continuity: Will Sandy want to keep the tradition going, like she did when she brought Gottlieb back to Cal? That sort of approach would favor a candidate like Travis DeCuire, who is reportedly set for an interview later this week.
- Experience: Will Sandy look for a Monty-type that's already been proven and has the cache to win with coaching alone? That sort of approach would favor a candidate like Ben Howland.
- Unique: Will Sandy strike out for her own type of hire, like she did with Dykes? That sort of approach would favor a candidate like Russell Turner, which would probably send you, me, and everyone we know into PANIC.
- Up-and-coming: Will Sandy try and get a coach who is well-connected, knows the recruiting circuit, and help Cal bring in local Bay Area talent? That could favor a candidate like Joe Pasternack.
I'm not exactly sure what Barbour will decide to do here. What I do know is that she is an athletic director under siege. The faculty are out for blood regarding the athletic debt. The donors want success of some sort in either football or basketball. She might have to please a lot of people with this hire. Then she'll have to hope that it pans out.
A lot is at stake with this coaching decision. In many ways, the success of Cal men's basketball the next few seasons could determine the fate of its athletic director.