While I do think that, given the circumstances, Mark Fox deserves at least another season to see if he can lift the program back onto an upward trajectory, I also think the AD really needs to sit down with Fox and understand a) what's the plan to get to good, and b) how plausible is that plan, given the results so far? Given the first two years' worth of results, what are the odds that the program ends up posting results over the next five years that are similar to, say, Ben Braun's tenure? Is that the ceiling for the program right now? Is that enough?

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After a season like ours, 12th places, fewer wins, etc, it’s understandable that fan interest is down and the short term outlook bleak

But there was one big hopeful sign... Chancellor Christ

Christ is the best Chancellor Cal has had in decades, and that includes for athletics

She is moving us to a different Title IX qualification prong (a change in strategy) requiring the (needed) SB, BVB facility upgrades, and moved a huge portion of the stadium debt off athletics books

That debt has tied our hands to do a lot of things and took a lot of negotiation with other stakeholders of the university

That debt was a major ‘institutional’ problem, although self-inflicted

Unfortunately just as that burden was lifted, we get hit by COVID which necessitated funding to be diverted to recover losses

Christ didn’t create the stadium debt problem, nor the COVID crises, nor the Title IX situation

But in a short time has developed a plan to deal with all three, plus made it easier to support grad transfers with the creation of one year grad certificate programs

But she is not a miracle worker. She needs time to clean up those messes (the biggest one was already fixed — stadium debt)

Then we can move forward with more institutional support

Fans look at Ws and Ls. That didn’t happen in this crazy year

But I’m optimistic that cal will support athletics better than in the past ... as long as Chris is our Chancellor

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Sort of a fork in the road for the program. The good news is that 5 scholies are needed to make an excellent team, far easier to do a rebuild than in football. Still, if Fox can't recruit that becomes unlikely and problematic.

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+ Many. This is really a systemic issue that goes FAR beyond Mark Fox and isn't about platitudes from the the Chancellor or JK.

It really comes down to where, OBJECTIVELY and without the platitudes, MBB (and to a certain extent woman's BB) fits into the Cal hierarchy.

There is an instructive data point here. With the capacity to raise $15 million for the Legends Aquatic Center it is clear there is a group of alumni that are dedicated and financially invested in the swim, waterpolo and diving programs. It is VERY doubtful that a coach in either mens or womans aquatics would be hired with the same pedigree as W. Jones. Indeed, one could argued that Durden is essentially the coach K of men's swimming and, when they retire, they will be likely replaced by equally accomplished coaches. Ditto McKeever. Why? Because a group of influential donors, who put their money where their mouth is, simply would insist and "make it happen".

The thing that bloggers (and consumers of bloggers) don't really know is whether there is a similar group of donors invested in men's hoops. For those that remember way back on another blog, Shockey was probably the closest window most of us had into that world.

And sadly, the reality is, that if actions are indicative of behind the scenes calculations it could be the case for that a LONG time Cal just can't find a justification for prioritizing hoop. You could easily argue that the Monty years were an outlier - we will never know for sure but it could have been that Monty fell into Sandy's lap and, once sure that he would say yes, pulled the trigger on firing BB. Otherwise, really since 1960 there hasn't been an investment in this sport.

And finally, also for a depressing monday - there is a contrast here. Hoop MATTERS down at Westwood. Lots of (championship) reasons why. Might matter too much. Pauley is right there on campus and central to UCLA. And you know what, they prioritize it and don't put handcuffs on their program. I might be wrong but no way Ball gets to come to Cal. Welcomed, warts and all, down at the Southern Branch.

And interestingly, football probably is reversed. Because UCLA doesn't have an oncampus stadium and because it always is second fiddle to U$C, UCLA can get away and does with sorta a joke of a program. Chipster is failing because the kind of kids he needs to make it work are NOT coming to a UC compared to offers from the SEC or Nike U. But CMS is important to Cal and, even after a couple of subpar seasons, Tedford got canned because there ARE alumni that care deeply about football and would pay for Sonny's buyout and Wilcox. THey are paying for his raises and extensions. And while most of us want Wilcox to step up his game generally speaking the program seems to be headed in the right direction (I am giving COVID19 year a big asterix because I think it impossible to really understand our performance given all the weirdo restrictions and how City of Berkeley chose to impose higher standards than other jurisdictions).

Sorry for the lengthy response. Love Cal hoops but it is hard to when you see just how (un) important it is to the leadership at the AD and the University.

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great post Nick - I've enjoyed reading your articles throughout the season. I think Fox needs more time. I really thought he had things going the right way during the first season, and while my enthusiasm waned this year, I'm content with chalking that up to COVID. If we were to look for a new coach in the next few years, I think Dutcher would be an interesting candidate. Not sure how the salary would compare but I like to think Pac-12 vs MW would be somewhat appealing to him. Thanks for all your work this season and Go Bears

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I'm one of those fair weather fans... But every now and then a program gets lucky - a highly ranked local prospect like an Ivan Rabb or Jason Kidd decides they want to stay local, or a late bloomer turns into a star once they're in college. And in basketball, in theory, you don't need as many standouts to turn into a good team as you do in football. I think Fox started in a really really hard place, the program was so down after Jones. Can he gradually attract higher level recruits? Maybe?! A little luck would help. Perhaps more focus on recruiting overseas?

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Let me start out by saying that I believe, though I could be wrong, that when Cal packs in Haas Cal basketball makes money for the school. My guess is that it also increases contributions to the school, including their athletic programs. If I am right, then a good basketball program makes money for Cal as well as add prestige to the university.

There are probably several general methods to selecting a new basketball coach. One way is to hire an assistant coach who has coached under well known or at least well recognized coaches. That would be Wyking Jones, who was an assistant coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino and at Cal under Cuonzo Martin. That method clearly didn't work for Cal.

A second way is to hire a former coach at a big time school who had a decent, but not outstanding, record there and a prior history of better performance. That method describes Cal's hiring of their current coach, Mark Fox, who had a winning but not outstanding record at Georgia and had a very good prior history as head coach at Nevada.

There are two other methods that can be used. Hire a current coach from a lesser Division 1 school that has a good track record there and has a prior assistant coaching experience at Cal, so that he knows the ropes of what to do and expect at Cal. That would describe DeCuire at Montana and Gates at Cleveland State. Let's just assume that will not be possible, though I think many Cal fans would approve that approach, if possible.

The fourth approach, which I don't think Cal has ever tried (though I don't know the background of most prior Cal coaches, certainly none before the previous twenty years or so), is to hire a coach from a lower divisions Division 1 school who has no prior experience at Cal. I'm sure that sometimes works and sometimes does not, but it does make sense as that type of coach has proved himself as a head coach and has made his mark in doing well elsewhere for that position. There are probably many examples of where that has worked out. A recent example is Nate Oats from Buffalo, who had an excellent record there and who has turned around Alabama's basketball program this season.


There are probably other coaches like Nate Oats out there. I suggest Cal at least look around to see if there are other examples to determine if one looks very promising and then consider whether a head coaching change at Cal should be considered.

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"Since some point in the winter of 2017-18, when I bring up MBB the most common response I get from other Cal fans is “why?”

I feel seen

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Guilty as charged, Nick. I have a hard time watching my Bears lose or play hapless ball against outmatched competitors. I love WBB, but haven’t watched a game in a long time as it breaks my heart when they get pounded (and dunked on). The MBB games I have watched this year have been a ton of fun for the reasons U point to above, but I often know the outcome before turning on the game. I hope to watch more of both MBB and WBB down the road, both to support my team but also because it will hopefully become less painful.....

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Taking a step back, it really is night & day, the Fox era vs the Wyking era. Wyking had more talent on hand, but regularly losing to div 2 teams, and blowouts at the hands of mid-level schools should have been grounds for immediate divorce. Fox has the team playing close with the best in the conference, in spite of the ravaging the program took prior to his arrival. Objectively a giant leap.

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I grew up six rows behind the bench at Harmon. My dad was an alum and those experiences at Harmon (and Memorial) cemented my own desire to go to Cal, which I was fortunately able to do. MBB was appointment television for me for decades. If I couldn't get it on the tube, I'd listen to the games on the radio. As my dad was dying from cancer, our last shared experience before we had to hit the morphine drip was listening to Cal beat Stanford in Leon Powe's final year. To lose a fan like me, you really have to work hard at it. Today I don't generally pay much attention. I'll watch games if I'm aware that they are happening and I'm free, but I'm not scheduling around them. And I stopped buying season tickets a few years back. I've been around long enough to experience a few lean periods for MBB, but there's never been as much apathy around the program as there is today--apathy not only on the part of fans, but of the administration itself. I don't subscribe to the belief that you necessarily have to make a devil's bargain to have a winning basketball program. I think we've proved that at times in our own basketball history. And what Fox is contributing as far as simply maintaining a roster of student athletes should be a baseline expectation. If you're not viewing him against the content of Wyking his success in that regard, there is really nothing unusual happening.

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Conzo was the end for me. He just couldn’t get past his ego.

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