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Mark Fox ushers in a new era of Cal Men’s Basketball

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“I believe in the commitment of Cal.” - Coach Mark Fox

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Dim lights. Play BGM. Cue the blue and gold flashing lights. Fog machines on.

Enter Mark Fox and AD Jim Knowlton.

Amid the Cal Fanbase and Media, with all of the pomp and circumstance allowed on Pete Newell Court in Haas Pavilion, Mark Fox stepped onto the hardwood and was formally introduced for the first time as the California Men’s Basketball Coach. This was not Fox’s first time in Berkeley though. He was an assistant at Washington back when Haas Pavilion was Harmon Gym. He still remembers what it was like that night in Berkeley: “I remember as an assistant, hearing the band play, the fans, back when this place was Harmon. I thought to myself this wasn’t going to be an easy night.”

His task here as the head coach will be much tougher than that night as an assistant. The Bears are coming off two historically bad seasons, logging just 5 Pac-12 victories and 11 out-of-conference victories during that span. They ranked at or near the bottom of most statistical categories during those season: ranked 12th in Offensive Efficiency and 11th in Defensive Efficiency both seasons.

Coach Fox addressed the last two seasons in his introductory speech as well. “I’ve spoken to Coach Jones. I told him I will do my best to respect his tenure and his players and his mission. And certainly we want to do that. Last year’s team had some struggles and it was a young team, but it was last year. Last year is over.”

However, Fox will have some talent to work with in his first season here. He returns 6 out of his 7 top scorers from last season. Darius McNeill would be the man out, but has only entered the transfer portal and still has the option of returning. Fox also has top scorer Justice Sueing, starting Point Guard Paris Austin along with late season bloomer Connor Vanover. As for now, the recruiting class for 2019 is also intact. Fox stated that he had talked to most of his players and signees and would be meeting the current team for the first time after the press conference.

The style of play may be drastically different from what was on the court the last two seasons. “We have to establish a defensive mentality, that makes us hard to play against. We have some work to do there, but we’re excited about the potential that exists. We have to become, certainly, great on the defesive end. Offensively, we would like to play as fast as we could play well, but it’s most important that we try become as efficient as possible. We want to want to ultimately get to a point where we’re a complete basketball team.”

Mark Fox believes in the mission and the commitment at Cal. AD Jim Knowlton believes that Fox is the right man for the job. They understand the support and work they need together. They certainly have a long road ahead to bring Cal Men’s Basketball back to relevance, but as with any start to a new era.

Hope springs anew.

Press Conference notes:

  • He wasn’t the only Cal HC that was there today as well, Football HC Justin Wilcox, WBB HC Lindsey Gottlieb and former MBB HC Ben Braun were also in attendance to support the new member of the Cal Athletics Department.
  • He mentioned that he has met the current assistant staff that was around, but has not met with all of them.
  • Big question point was the practice facility, both Fox and Knowlton mentioned preliminary talks have begun regarding potential locations and what it would look like, but also that it’s really in its early stages with a lot of fundraising and other things that need to happen first.
  • Knowlton emphasized the academic success Fox’s players had: “During his tenure, Georgia’s APR improved from 946 to 995. 1000 is perfect. Their graduation success rate improved from 36% to 100%.”
  • Fox said he has talked to many former Cal coaches, including Braun and Montgomery.