Report: Cal AD Jim Knowlton comments on current state of the Cal Men’s Basketball Program
He spoke to Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report
Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report had the chance to sit down with Cal AD Jim Knowlton about the current state of the Cal Men’s Basketball program and the report of a contract extension by the SF Chronicle.
Faraudo first mentions some of the key points of the interview:
Here are key points from our conversation:
— Knowlton said COVID-19 has contributed significantly to the challenges the basketball program has faced, but it doesn’t change the bottom line. “Are we disappointed with where we finished? Yeah, you bet,” Knowlton said Thursday just as NCAA tournament play was beginning. “This is where we want to be playing.”
— The key to improving its standing as the fourth-worst winning percentage of any Power 5 program the past three years begins with recruiting better talent.
— The athletic department is moving forward with plans to build a dedicated practice facility, but the timetable for that project depends on the success of raising money to fund the building.
— Every Cal head coach was given an extra year on his or her contract because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Knowlton is not otherwise working on a contract extension with Fox.
He then gets some interesting answers from AD Jim Knowlton regarding the extension of Mark Fox news alongside how he believes the Bears can improve.
“We’re not talking about a new contract right now,” Knowlton said. “I think someone reported I was working on an extension — it was that I gave every coach an extra year.”
Knowlton explained he felt “it was unreasonable to expect the same level” of performance from any of Cal’s 30 teams while dealing with the restrictions of the pandemic.
“I also told every one of them . . . we’re still pushing,” he said. “Our expectation is to be exceptional. Do I think the timetable that we wanted (for men’s basketball) is not exactly on track? Yes. We thought we’d be at a better spot right now.
“But that doesn’t mitigate that we have got to continue to get better, and it starts with the better recruits. And that’s really what Mark’s working on high now.”
Knowlton also mentioned the fan voice and the circumstances Mark Fox was working through while on the job for 3 years.
“Obviously, I’m very cognizant of fans wanting to see better,” he said. “The thing that fans have got to remember is when Mark Fox took over we had just completed the two worst years in our history from a men’s basketball perspective.”
“When I interviewed him I told him this was going to be a heavy lift. It’s going to be a challenge,” Fox said. “And it was going to be a challenge not just because of (the win-loss record). It was also some of the things that we weren’t doing to support the program, and things that had to change. To be exceptional, we had to fix a few things.”
Specifically, Knowlton said Fox’s mandate is to repair the basketball program while also upgrading the academic performance of the players who represent the university.
“Eight or nine years ago we had a 30 percent graduation success rate for basketball. That’s just not acceptable,” Knowlton said. “So it wasn’t just you’re going to come in and all you have to do is win some basketball games and everything’s going to be solved.
“You’ve got to win in the graduation success rates, in the academics. You’ve got to get the right student-athletes here, and you’ve got to get all of those things working together so we can have an exceptional program.”
"He’s worked through that and we’ve come out still standing,” Knowlton said. “Was the season what he wanted? No. But he’s working to build depth, to recruit the right kids and to really retool after two years against teams that never left their gyms, never left their locker rooms, never saw the kind of challenges that we saw.”
The Wyking-to-Fox transition was kind of our first meaningful insight into Knowlton's ability to handle the big stuff and it left me concerned. The way he's handling communication with the media right now is . . . not helping.
I'm inclined to think this is actual progress, however small. My reading has been that until this past week Knowlton has been in a vacuum and has only had to listen to Fox and a few donors. Cal basketball has been such a non-concern for fans that most have simply checked out. We don't even play any games on TV that aren't buried on the Pac-12 network. We are underground. I think he's finally starting to get the temperature. I don't see a point in waiting to turn the page, but alas Fox finally appears like he'll be on watch.