|For the second time since Mike Montgomery arrived at Stanford 20 years ago, he made another shocking decision. This time he'll be leaving the Cardinal athletic department, where he has served as a consultant since his brief tenure ended with the Golden State Warriors in 2006, to accept another men's basketball coaching position in the Pac-10.
Wearing a blue shirt and gold tie after 18 years in Cardinal red, the veteran coach agreed to a six-year contract at Cal.
For Stanford fans, moving over to take the job at California was the worst thing he could have done. For Montgomery it was a chance to coach at the college level again, and thereby erasing the pain of two losing seasons with the Warriors.
"I think I belong in college basketball," Montgomery said. "I think I proved that. Maybe I would have liked a little longer to prove it."
For those who know Montgomery, the reason is pretty simple. Sitting behind a television microphone analyzing basketball games for viewers isn't the same as standing on the sidelines calling the shots and perhaps making a difference in a player's life.
Montgomery also lives in Menlo Park, with his wife, Sarah, and commuting to Berkeley certainly is easier than packing up and relocating in places like Indiana or Los Angeles -- where he was linked to possible jobs.
Plus, Montgomery won't be saddled with the same recruiting restrictions he faced while at Stanford, where he compiled a 547-244 (.692) overall record in 18 years at Stanford (1986-2004) and eight seasons at the University of Montana (1978-1986).
Montgomery had 25 winning seasons in his 26 years, reached the NCAA Tournament 10 straight times from 1995-2004, four Pac-10 titles and, in 1998, took the Stanford men to their first Final Four in 56 years -- losing to Kentucky in the semifinals.
Montgomery left The Farm in May of 2004 to coach the Warriors, but was fired following back-to-back 34-48 seasons. Last August, Montgomery accepted a part-time job as an assistant to the athletic director Bob Bowlsby at Stanford.
"I'm sure when I show up next year at Maples (Pavilion), they won't have the welcome wagon out," Montgomery said. "But that's part of the experience. ... You will never get me to say anything bad about Stanford. I love the place. They were great to me, and now I'm here."
It won't be easy for the Cardinal faithful to accept Montgomery as the Bears' coach. He remains a demigod of sorts as he became Stanford's all-time winningest coach during his 18 years at the school.
Montgomery was formerly introduced as Cal's new coach on Saturday in Berkeley. He takes over for Ben Braun, who was fired last week after 12 seasons as coach when the Bears missed the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years.
By acting quickly in replacing Braun, Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour ignited the fan base and created renewed interest in the program; interest that had sagged noticeably in attendance figures.
One of the first orders of business will be shoring up a defense that was a weakness last year and a strength of Montgomery's teams at Stanford.
Despite having likely future NBA players in Ryan Anderson, Patrick Christopher and senior DeVon Hardin, Braun could only lead Cal to a ninth-place finish in the Pac-10 this season, going 17-16 overall and just 6-12 in the conference.
Braun took Cal to the third round of the NCAA tournament in his first year taking over for Todd Bozeman. But he won only two more tournament games in his final 11 seasons. Cal did win the NIT in 1999 and make three straight trips to the NCAA tournament from 2001-03, before struggling in recent years as other conference programs have improved. The Bears have placed eighth or ninth in the Pac-10 in three of the last four years.
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