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Report: Cal Athletics is conducting an insular, disastrous basketball coaching search

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Cal basketball donors and alumni are not pleased with the AD.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-California vs Hawaii Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

California Golden Bears basketball insider and player and coaching alumnus Jon Wheeler was on the Section925 podcast yesterday. And he was roaring mad. You can listen to the full podcast below or click above.

Let’s go through all the main points.

  • Wheeler confirms the Ben Parker report that Eric Musselman will be the next California Golden Bears coach. It’s just a matter of when.
  • Cal Athletics is making this decision, led by athletic director Mike Williams. There is no outside consulting firm being used here, which has been used in nearly every major Cal coaching decision as of late (the last three major coaching hires were made through search firms).
  • Wheeler mentions two people being in charge of that decision, and if it is Musselman, you have to guess the second voice is Musselman advocate and Cal associate athletic director Ashwin Puri (both worked together when they were in the NBDL).
  • Cal basketball donors are being shut out of the process. No donors were on the search committee, and it appears like all of them will have no input on who the future coach will end up being.
  • Cal basketball alumni are being shut out too. A source confirmed to CGB that almost no former Golden Bears who played or coached at Harmon or Haas are involved in the decision-making process for the next Cal coach. There is reportedly only one former Cal basketball person on the search committee. Everyone else in the hiring process is athletic department. This decision will have almost no basketball input of any sort.
  • A Cal basketball alumnus who is a successful assistant coach at another major school (he was not named by Wheeler, but you and I can both make a reasonable guess) was given a precursory phone interview about his overall basketball knowledge. The alumnus recommended that they should do an in-person interview on campus. The Cal athletic department declined to bring him in for a future interview, saying a phone interview was fine.
  • When the head coach of the aforementioned Cal alumnus/current assistant went up to bat in a subsequent phone interview, he responded with utter confusion. “That was the strangest conversation I’ve ever had”, the coach said, describing whoever was representing Cal Athletics on their search committee. I will infer that this Golden Bear was not seriously considered a potential candidate for the job.

So this process in finding a new Cal coach has been essentially window dressing. Musselman appears to have been the guy from the beginning, groomed to replace Martin the moment he walked out the door.

More on the likely future Cal basketball coach via what Wheeler has heard:

  • Musselman is known as a shrewd basketball mind. Very sharp on the Xs and Os.
  • Musselman is apparently difficult to work with. Not exactly what you want at a place like Cal.
  • Mussleman tends to have self-destructive coaching tendencies. Things did not end well with the Warriors (two seasons) and the Kings (one season). Nevada was his first major success.
  • As we’ve mentioned before, Musselman hired a former disgraced Cal assistant who was charged with sexual harassment, and that story will almost certainly recirculate in the Bay Area media the moment Musselman get the job, setting off yet another painful war between the media, university faculty and Cal Athletics that could be avoided with a thoughful hiring process.

The lack of a consulting firm really could come back to bite Cal here if any of these reports about Musselman’s demeanor are borne out. Search firms are hired partly to prevent athletic departments from making disastrous decisions (a search firm was used to hire Justin Wilcox) and would at least raise some questions about Musselman’s profile.

Other notes: Wheeler confirms two names that were reportedly interviewed (there were others, but he didn’t have them on him at the moment).

This is yet another brewing controversy for Cal athletic director Mike Williams. He fired Sonny Dykes almost a month after all other coaching positions had been filled or vacated; while he was fortunate to land Justin Wilcox, the decision could best be described as ‘reactive’. The Cal field hockey displacement debacle has been a terrible black mark on the university, and could invite a Title IX lawsuit. And now he’s likely to have earned the enmity of a good portion of the Cal donor base with the insular nature of this coaching search.

It’s becoming less and less certain whether Williams has the mettle to be a major athletic director. With his contract set to end in May 2018 (via Jon Wilner) and a new chancellor incoming, you have to wonder whether Williams will be a long-term solution for Cal Athletics, or just another one of the many faces that passed through the door.