(4) Mike Montgomery
Bear in Mind: Mike Montgomery (via CalTV Berkeley)
NorCalNick shares his perspective from back during Monty's coaching days.
Mike Montgomery has been at Cal for five years now, which means he has now reached the threshold of CGB hall of fame eligibility. Thankfully, Monty has been successful enough that such an achievement is very low down on the list of things he should be celebrating.
It's way too early to get nostalgic about the Monty era, seeing as how it's still going strong. But I suspect that in a decade or two, I'll look back and remember how much fun his teams were to follow. Granted, that's in no small part due to the players themselves. But how much did you love watching Jerome Randle get unleashed for two years under Monty, or how he helped turn Jorge Gutierrez from a defensive specialist into a Pac-12 player of the year? How much did you enjoy watching Allen Crabbe these past few years, and how much fun do you think Jabari Bird is going to be?
Monty has made four NCAA tournaments, won a Pac-10 title, finished in the top 4 of the conference every year, and consistently made basketball games fun, win or lose. That last part tends to get short-shrift, but this is an entertainment business, isn't it?
We might not have Monty for much longer - if he decided tomorrow to spend the rest of his life sipping wine and occasionally sitting in a Pac-12 network studio with Ernie Kent, it would be well deserved. But we still have him and he's going to have some talent over the next few years. Monty may not make the CGB hall of fame this year, but I'd like to think that he will add to his resume very shortly.
Nick was wise to cherish the time Monty was with us, as the legendary coach has since retired. Will his retirement propel him into the Hall of Fame?
(13) Milica Vukadinovic
LeonPowe describes the impact that Vukadinovic had on both the Cal Women's Basketball program and its fans.
Nowadays we take big point guards for granted. But in 1991 and 1992, aside from Magic Johnson, there wasn't really any big player taking the ball off the rim, powering down the court on the fast break and then either pick out the open (wo)man or take it to the rim for a lay-up. But before players like Lamar Odom, Penny Hardaway, Diana Turasi, Alana Beard, Jalen Rose and Steve Smith were on the scene - Misha was the bridge between eras (okay, not really, but work with me).
Standing 6'1" but handling the ball and running the Bears offense with flair, the Belgrade native was nicknamed by the Cal atheltic department as "Lady Magic" - she was voted All Pac-10 twice and Kodak All American once - leading the veteran Bears (um, I'm going to guess as to who was on that team - Jackie Lear, Trisha Stafford, Ingrid Dixon, Keisha Martin, Kim Robinson?) to two straight NCAA berths.
Here's what the Cal Athletics site has to say about her:
One of Cal's only first team Kodak All-American (1993) in women's basketball history...Vukadinovic propelled the Golden Bears to NCAA postseason berths in each of her two seasons with the program...two-time first team All-Pac-10 choice led Cal to the 1992 and 1993 NCAA playoffs...a member of the Yugoslavian National Team, she would have competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics if her country had not been banned...Vukadinovic, also a GTE Academic All-American and two-time first team Pac-10 All-Academic choice, ranked as high as fourth in scoring average (15.7 ppg), sixth in assists (358) and third in three-point shooting percentage (.389) among Cal's career leaders...voted the school's women's basketball Player of the Decade for 1986-96.
Personal Memories - I made it to every woman's basketball game I could - especially when Misha was playing. I have this weird love for big point guards -Magic, Steve Smith, Penny, Billy Owens, Lamar Odom, TMac (2004-2006 only), are among my favorite players - and Misha joins them. I can still see her pulling the rebound down and "powering out" (like Magic used to) and then finding Jackie Lear with a one hand 30 foot bounce pass, or shaking her defender with a left to right behind the back dribble, before nailing the 3. Before the age of do-it-all women players - she was it. Could handle the ball, rebound, score, shoot from distance, pass and was a decent defender.
Ohio Bear chimes in.
I have some personal memories of Milica. (Her nickname on the team, BTW, was "Meets.") I did a lot of the women's games for KALX in 1992 and traveled with the team a lot. I had never before seen a woman do the things she could do with the basketball; she was incredible. In addition to everything you describe above, she also had a knack for the shot fake or the pass fake. And then BOOM: she was by you. Away from the floor, Milica was quiet, but seemed to get more comfortable as the season went along. If I'm remembering the story correctly, her basketball scholarship opportunities when she came to the U.S. were at either Cal or UNLV. Through her country's basketball federation, she was put in contact with then-Laker Vlade Divac to solicit advice. My memory is fuzzy on whether I got this information from Milica directly or hearsay from Coach Gooch Foster, but the story goes that Divac told Milica to go to Cal for the degree because "Vegas is just a basketball school." So thanks for the recruiting assist, Vlade.
One more note: not sure who called her "Lady Magic" first, but I distinctly remember Tara Vanderveer calling her "the Magic Johnson of women's basketball," unprompted.