With most major sports coming to a close around Berkeley, we start our roundtables posts into all sorts of Cal topics this year. So without further ado, our first topic.
We have an opening at HC for Men’s basketball now. As we move on to a new direction and chapter of the program, is there anything you want to say about the past 2 years of the program?
Vincent Shue: The last two years made me completely lose interest in Cal basketball, and with it, a little bit of my perceived connection with Cal. I hope the next coach is able to steer us in a stronger, more ethical direction.
boomtho: I trust our actual basketball writers to handle this better than me... but my simple take is the last 2 years were the worst of both worlds: we stunk on the court and Wyking ran the program in a way that doesn’t feel consistent with what Cal stands for. I hope the next coach can reverse both of those. We have some promising talent on the roster, and assuming they don’t all transfer (gulp), the cupboard is definitely not bare. As importantly, I hope the new Coach makes an effort to retain players (and stick ot commitments to the school made) and avoids the off-court drama Wyking stepped into.
Alex Ghenis: Like many people here, I came into my Cal fandom in the middle of a really fantastic stretch of basketball. Just a few years ago, my season ticket purchase was rewarded with the Bears going undefeated at home… So naturally, I became used to the joys of regularly winning at home and it basically became an expectation. Fast forward to 2017-18 and the many losses, including at home, were difficult to bear through – but I still went to every game. The end of this year felt bizarre: Haas hovered between what seemed like 10-20% capacity and people were not excited to go. I felt just fine missing some games… Of course, two of those were the final home wins against Washington and WSU, which was kind of a cruel joke.
What’s disappointing about all of this is that things actually got a bit more grounded as the 2018-19 season wrapped up. The last three wins saw a semblance of offense and decent interior defense. They were deserving wins after a painful losing streak in conference. Considering the age of the team, there was a not-unreasonable chance of improvement in 2019-20. But the likelihood of next season still being a dud, plus the financial realities of needing to sell tickets, still makes this a good call overall.
If anything, this is a reminder of why multi-year contracts for basketball coaches can be such a problem. Someone could be new to the head-coaching game or be a well-proven veteran – but although the expectations and contract amounts might be different, they can both sign 3-to-5-year deals… and then do a horrible job for one or two years, get fired, and take home multiple millions of dollars to get out of Dodge and do no more work. It’s shameful (in general, and especially given the economics for student-athletes).
thedozen: Sometimes I had to check out for my own sanity. Obviously I pay close attention to games I am covering, but strictly as a fan there are only so many double digit shellackings you can watch in their entirety.
KWBears: Utter disappointment. Wyking Jones was a horrible hire from the get-go. None of this team’s failures should’ve been a surprise to anyone. I’m also disappointed in Knowlton for letting this disaster go on for as long as he did, but kudos to him for making the right decision at this point.
Avinash Kunnath: I’ve been a loyal Cal football and basketball watcher of almost everything Bears since I joined CGB, and have stayed that way for most of the decade. Outside of maybe one or two games, I checked out of Cal basketball the last two years after their loss to Chaminade because I knew there was very little hope that this was turning around. Good coaches have bad losses. Bad coaches lose by 22 to Chaminade. Nothing in the next 60 games dissuaded me of that notion. The Bears were generally outcoached game after game, and those extra 10-15 points of outcoached possessions showed up on the scoreboard and the win-loss column. Glad to be rid of it.
Nik Jam: It has been a nightmare, to say the least. Even during the two years we missed the tournament under Cuonzo we were competitive enough that it was still a good time out to hang out with A’s Bleacher friends, CGB friends, and Cal alum friends. Now, the CGB fan section all but dissolved and barely anyone attends the games. I’m hoping whoever we hire can make the gameday experience fun again and get my Section 9 family back!
Joshua.Morgan: That was rough. I am among the many of you that joined Cal basketball fandom at their peak; in fact, my first conscious year of dedicated Cal basketball watching was the 2010 Pac-10 Champion team. Monty was awesome to watch as a coach for the first few years that I watched him, and at least Cuonzo was able to put together some exciting teams. These past two years have just been awful. The one thing that I can say is that I don’t think that Wyking did an awful job with recruiting, so especially with the continuity that we will have, the new coach won’t have the worst roster ever. The real challenge for him will be to rebuild the culture that Wyking completely trashed.
atomsareenough: Wyking was a predictably terrible hire which betrayed the characteristically reflexive cheapness and lack of imagination of the Cal Athletic Department, with disastrous results. I’m so glad and very relieved that we’re moving on, though I’m extremely concerned that it took a collective revolt of both the fanbase and the players on the men’s basketball team itself for the AD to realize that another year of retaining Wyking and delaying the inevitable rebuilding of the program and tolerating another awful year in order to get by on the cheap, was not an acceptable approach.
ragnarok: I’ve been a season ticket holder for most of the past decade, but I didn’t make it to a single game in person last year. A program can go through ups and downs, and I’ve sat through plenty of losses, but I’ve never drifted this far towards indifference. When fans like me stop caring, you start risking irreparable harm to the program’s base of support, and based on that alone, a change needed to happen.