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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cal’s success not noticed by all

    California vs. Arizona

    Talk about going under the radar.

    The California men’s basketball team had a 20-7 record heading into the weekend series against USC.

    By most accounts, first-year Golden Bears head coach Mike Montgomery – a four-time Pacific 10 Conference Coach of the Year and John R. Wooden “”Legends of Coaching”” Lifetime Achievement Award recipient – who had spent 18 years as the head coach of Stanford, was doing a pretty damned good job.

    But not everyone noticed.

    When a media member from 950 KJR, a Seattle-based radio network, had his chance to ask Montgomery a question during the weekly Pac-10 coaches’ teleconference last week, it went like this:

    Radio guy: “”In what has been, I’m sure, somewhat of a disappointing season, other than the obvious goal of winning each game going forward, is there something that you guys are focusing on in the final four games that you can use, you know, later on, going into next year?””

    Montgomery: “”Uhh, what was your first statement? A disappointing season?””

    Radio guy: “”Well, in a, you know, in a season that’s not been exactly what you’d hope for, I’m assuming, other than the goal of trying to win each game, is there something that you’re focusing on going forward?””

    Montgomery: “”Uhh, God, I thought 20 wins was pretty good. Second place (in the Pac-10). I guess I have this thing out of whack here a little bit. If this is disappointing, then we’ve got a long ways to go.

    Radio guy: (Long pause) “”I’m very sorry. I’m not sure what I’m talking about.””

    Montgomery: (Laughs) “”I’d hope that was the case.””

    Radio guy: “”I’m incredibly sorry.””

    After that, the Bears split a series with the Southern California schools and now sit tied for third place with ASU in the conference with a 21-8 record and 10-6 mark in the Pac-10. With Montgomery at the helm, Cal is making a push toward its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2006 and its third since 2003, whether people take notice or not.

    “”I think they’re one of the better teams in the league, obviously,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”They’re just so talented.””

    While those tied to the Arizona program (18-11, 8-8) sound like a broken record, not wanting to talk much about their NCAA Tournament hopes as they’re constantly “”taking it one game at a time,”” the Bears are more excited than President Obama at a Chicago Bulls game when it comes to their postseason chances.

    “”Everyone wants to dance in March,”” Cal junior forward Jamal Boykin said in this week’s media conference. “”We want to do whatever it takes to make that happen.””

    The next step is going through Arizona, which Cal stomped by 14 points in early January. But that was on the road, and the Wildcats are 13-2 at home.

    Cal hasn’t beaten Arizona in McKale Center since Feb. 12, 1995, but that win was later changed to a Wildcat win as a result of Cal’s forfeit, per NCAA sanctions.

    Cal’s coach at the time, Todd Bozeman, admitted paying $30,000 over two years to the parents of a recruit.

    That means the Bears’ last official win in Tucson came back in January of 1994. It was Cal’s second official win in McKale Center in the Lute Olson era.

    “”There must be some magic in Tucson,”” Boykin said.

    Added Montgomery: “”There was a while there early on where coming to Tucson was like a root canal. You were just pretty much going to get your thumping and head on home. Fortunately, we were able to at least get back to where we could compete a little bit and that made it a lot more fun.””

    If the Bears can fight through the McKale Center atmosphere and earn Montgomery more much-deserved recognition, the season will be that much more fun. And maybe, just maybe, his accomplishments this season will be easier to recognize.

    “”I think he’s done a great job,”” Boykin said of his coach. “”I think we’ve improved as the season has gone on. I think we’ve learned a lot from our losses. … I feel he’s done a good job with having guys play into their roles and believing the team concept and believing his vision.””

    If only everyone saw it that way.

    Hill should be ready to play against Cal

    Pennell said in a teleconference that UA forward Jordan Hill was listed as day-to-day still, but he should be ready to play today.

    Which isn’t a good thing for California.

    “”I was watching Jordan Hill last game (against Washington), and he came up with a limp ankle and I think he showed a lot of character and heart (to come back into the game) with that,”” Boykin said. “”We’re going to have to be ready for all that.””

    Boykin paused and smiled. “”How is his ankle, does anybody know?””

    A reporter told Boykin he didn’t think Hill was practicing much this week, but that he was expected to play.

    “”OK,”” Boykin said. “”No doubt.””

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