Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton interviewed, rationalizing the 0-11 men's basketball start
Cal Athletics is straight up not having a good time.
For whatever reason, Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton decided that the best time to talk about Cal men’s basketball was right now, at its lowest point in program history. He spoke with Jeff Faraudo at Cal Sports Report about the 0-11 start, and reader, I’m not sure if he distinguished himself.
It starts out fine.
“We are disappointed in the start. Coach is disappointed. This is just not where we expected to be at this moment in time.
And then we enter the spin zone.
I will tell you that when Mark Fox took over the program we had just finished the two worst seasons in the history of our basketball program. When I interviewed him, everyone I interviewed . . . that was a huge concern of anybody who was looking at the Cal program. `Hey, you’re at the bottom and it’s going to be a tough climb.’
So if I’m following the logic correctly, Knowlton believes Mark Fox deserves credit for taking on the challenge of rebuilding Cal men’s basketball from the ground up to take it here to new heights.
Yet here we are, in Fox’s fourth year as Cal coach, and here he is on pace to have a worst season than either one of Wyking Jones’s years at the helm.
It does not seem like a midseason coaching change is in the cards, as Knowlton seems to be buying into the injury issue, again.
All I’m saying is I’m working with Mark, working with the program and giving them a chance to get a couple of these players back and to get that opportunity to put some wins under their belt.
Some wins. Is this the new rubric of success for Cal men’s basketball in the modern era?
Injury-wise, the Jalen Celestine injury and DeJuan Clayton injuries were diagnosed early, and the Bears knew that Jarred Hyder would be out in the offseason. Somehow these injuries justify losing to UC Davis, UC San Diego, and every other buy game on the schedule?
And if we had four of them back that helps give us the depth we need at the guard position, the center position. All of those injured players will help us with the depth we need to compete in the Pac-12 schedule.
First of all, Hyder is out for the season. So Cal can only get three of these players back. Secondly, N.D. Okafor is out for COVID. He’s not injured. Thirdly, Cal has played the bulk of their easy games already. Cal would be significant underdogs in the remainder of their games even if fully healthy.
The strangest part of the article to me was Knowlton trying to hold himself and Fox accountable…while trying to find as many reasons as possible NOT to hold himself accountable.
“No one’s going to make excuses. Mark’s not making excuses. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had some COVID, we’ve had some challenges this year.”
This is in the same paragraph! The same train of thought!
Knowlton also prioritizes the gameday experience over the on-the-court product for the dire home attendance.
The success of the team helps, but way more important than that is all the other things we have to do as a department to make the fan experience special.
While we’ve griped about the up-and-down gameday experience for years here, I’d guess the worst start in program history with no end in sight is significantly more important for empty student sections that won’t come for free t-shirt giveaways.
Knowlton had this to say about his strategy as an athletic director.
I truly believe as an AD you have to show some tactical patience. You have to evaluate exactly where you are, what are the options and how can we continue to get better.
Cal has not gotten better, not in any respect. You don’t even need to look at the advanced metrics.
The Bears are producing 57.6 points per game, the eighth-worst mark in all of college basketball.
The Bears are dishing 8.9 assists per game, 13th worst in the nation.
The Bears are hitting 25.4% of their threes, 8th worst in the nation.
Cal is shooting an effective FG% (a metric weighting threes) of 43%, bottom 20 in college basketball.
The Bears are turning over their basketball on one of every five possessions, bottom 50 in college basketball.
Cal is not improving. They are not scoring. They are not distributing. They are not taking care of the basketball. They are not running effective offense. They are not developing talent. They are not being coached well. They are losing, and losing, and losing, half the time against usual suspects, and half the time against mostly bad teams that any other Cal team in program history would be at worst spitting out a .500 record.
If the Cal athletic director wants to say that he’s happy that Cal men’s basketball posted a 93% graduation rate and this is the real metric he’s judging success of this program over, he should go ahead and say it, because no rationalization of on-court performance can make any sense. Take any non-Wyking coach from our history, put them on the bench, and they’d probably produce at worst a .333 winning record with these players.
This is Mark Fox’s fourth year (even winless Louisville has a first-year coach). This is his team. This is his staff. These are his schemes. These are his players. And this is Jim Knowlton’s hire, the biggest hire of his time as Cal AD.
The longer it takes for Knowlton to realize who owns this debacle, the harder it’ll be for him to dig out of the hole Cal fans are getting more and more eager to bury his tenure in.