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Tuesday Thoughts: Talkin’ BasketWHOA COACHING VACANCY OUTTA NOWHERE

I really just wanted to talk about another win at the Galen Center, but noooooooooo

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 08 California at USC
You don’t want another article with Sonny’s face, so here’s a picture of Ivan Rabb beating USC in front of 100s of idiotically dressed USC students.

Well goodness, how quickly things go from dull to breathless. I guess we have to talk about it, huh?

Wait, Cal fired Sonny?

Boy did they. And as much as the timing might perplex, and as painful as the transition might be, I think it’s clearly the necessary move, right?

Ask yourself honestly - with Sonny Dykes in charge next year, bringing on an entirely new defensive coordinator, without a clear starting quarterback, with only half of a recruiting class currently signed . . . what’s the likely end game here? Probably another 5-7ish season. Maybe a little bitter, maybe a little worse, but most likely about the same as what we’ve seen from most of the Dykes era.

And another season like that would probably result in some sort of parting, which would lead to another transition recruiting class, and another rebuild. And so if that kind of pain is inevitable, it’s in Cal’s best interests to get it over as soon as possible so that we don’t have one more year of ticket sale declines and general fan base malaise than we have to.

Maybe the only surprise is that the powers that be realized their situation and managed to collectively act.

OK, but why wait 6 weeks?

Plausible reasons why Cal waited to make this move:

  1. They were planning on keeping Sonny in 2017, but something* happened between now and then that changed Cal’s mind.
  2. They wanted to make the move a while ago, but internal obstacles (raising money from donors, getting permission from UC bureaucracy) held up the announcement.
  3. They didn’t want to get rid of Sonny unless they knew for sure they could get The Right Man For The Job™, and that person will be announced shortly.
  4. Cal’s administration is incompetent.
  5. Some combination of all of the above.

Put me down for 1 & 2, with a hope & prayer that it’s actually #3

*Michael Williams was really bothered that Sonny was supposed to be filling out his December time sheet but an IT audit of his internet history revealed that he was constantly inputting “head coach football texas college vacancy” into Google.

Does waiting 6 weeks materially hurt the Cal football program?

Well, that very much depends on who you hire, doesn’t it? If Cal DOES get the right candidate, then who cares when the last guy is fired, especially if it means no lame-duck 2017.

The one area this might hurt is recruiting - whomever gets hired has one less month to finalize their recruiting class. That is less than ideal, but this recruiting class was probably going to be sub-par anyway, no matter if it was Sonny or a transition class under whomever Cal hires.

Right now, Cal has 14 commits for a class that should probably number at least 24 somewhere in the high teens? I dunno, can you tell I don’t follow recruiting until signing day? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of those commits were able to read the writing on the wall and had already decided that they were committing more for Cal rather than for a head coach who pretty clearly wasn’t going to be in Berkeley for the next 4-5 years. (Also, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that one reason Cal has just 14 commits is because of the perception that they had a want-away coach.)

So it’s going to be tough on the new guy, and we’ll probably have to give him a year one recruiting mulligan. But it’s better than keeping Sonny for a year, having a crummy 2017 class AND a crummy 2018 class in a transition year.

Man, all he had to do was pretend to like us!

Let’s take Michael Williams’ comments at face value and assume that Sonny’s all-too-public dalliances with any and every plausible job opening caused this split: Man, Sonny, all you had to do was hire an agent capable of keeping things on the down low, and/or make one of those perfunctory non-denial denials where you say that you “don’t know how these rumors get started” and “I’m 100% committed to my team and university.” Even a cryptic twitter sub-tweet about how we shouldn’t believe everything the media says would have been a step in the right direction.

Your lesson, as always? #controlthenarrative

What does this say about the athletic department deficit?

This move is a reminder that, for all of their noise making, extreme campus critics of athletics aren’t the decision makers, and their complaints only have marginal impacts at best. How else would you explain the move to take on another few million in dead money only to have to pay out another few million to a new coach?

As always, campus big wigs have decided that 1) Cal will continue to have an athletic program commensurate to their Pac-12 status and 2) They recognize that a robust, successful football program is essential to the funding of that athletic program. Now, actually building that successful football program is an entirely different step, but at least they do see the bare basics.

So, you gonna tell us who you think Cal should go after?

Oh believe me, CGB is gonna inundate you with posts about every possible candidate, from Jake Spavital all the way down to the reanimated spirit of Andy Smith.

Honestly though, I’m going to be open minded about most potential candidates, and will save the celebrations and/or gnashing of teeth until I see who the new guy brings in as his coordinators and assistant coaches. If Cal brings in a defensive minded head coach, I’ll get excited if he can attract an offensive coordinator with a track record of success, and vice-versa. The Tedford era imploded because we kept playing musical chairs at OC, and the Dykes era never took off because we never found a DC that could get the job done. I want to see the entire coaching staff before I’m ready to believe.

This is the most important hire until the next one

It was critical, in the aftermath of the Tedford implosion, that Cal hire a coach capable of putting out a product that fans were interested in supporting with their wallets. Unfortunately, I don’t see how you can judge that hire as anything other than a financial failure.

That means it’s even more important that they get it right this time, because four years of treading water means that we’re four years closer to drowning. While I suspect that Cal is starting from a higher floor in terms of football talent, they are also starting from a much lower floor of fan support. This is a tough job, and it won’t be easy to find the right candidate to turn it around.

So don’t screw it up

Please, for the love of God, don’t screw it up

A quick word on a sport that is actually happening right now

. . . but not WBB, because what I witnessed in person on Sunday afternoon is still too raw.

The Bears have done it. Ivan Rabb missed two games and played another two with one hand, and played most of the non-conference recovering from mono. Jabari Bird missed six games. Kameron Rooks missed 8 games.

But finally, Cal has their full complement of players, and they survived with enough wins in the interim to not torpedo the rest of their season.

Will the NCAA selection committee show mercy and grant Cal a mulligan for games without key players? I have no clue. But Cal has done enough so far that they shouldn’t have to need that mulligan simply to make the tournament . . . presuming they take care of business the rest of the way.

And you should be very encouraged with how Cal took care of business in Los Angeles Sunday night. Consider, if you will, every game so far this season in which Cal has allowed an opponent to to score 1 point/possession (roughly the national average) or better:

vs. SDSU: 1.07 ppp - result? 12 point loss
vs. Arizona: 1.00 ppp - result? 5 point loss
vs. UCLA: 1.09 ppp - result? 10 point loss
vs. USC: 1.06 ppp - result? 1 point win*

For the first time this year, Cal won a game when their defense was unable to really lock down the opposition. And it’s not like they were able to do so because they were facing a crummy opposition - USC is a solidly middle of the pack conference defense.

For maybe the first time this year Cal got all of their major pieces going at once while also getting some unexpected contributions (we see you Don Coleman!) and it probably isn’t a surprise that it’s starting to happen now that everybody has been playing together for a little while.

There’s still some work to do - Kam needs to get back up to speed and fully integrated - but the schedule is kind and will give Cal the time to do just that. The table has been set.

*I think it’s worth noting that USC was able to put this number up against Cal’s defense mostly because they shot (according to potentially spotty play-by-play data) a preposterous 19-32 (60%) on jump shots, a number that would be unsustainable even for UCLA’s offense.