Search Firm: Predicting Cal’s Next Head Basketball Coach

When former AD Mike Williams promoted Wyking Jones two years ago, most in the industry scratched their heads in disbelief. It wasn’t as if Cuonzo Martin had set the world on fire in Berkeley and also not as if there was a ton of talent in the cupboard that you had to keep by promoting Jones. After a two-year stint in which Jones won just 16 total games, he was fired by Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Cal went to 14 NCAA Tournaments from 1990-2013. Todd Bozeman had it going before he was fired for NCAA violations, Ben Braun went five times in a dozen years and Mike Montgomery went four times in six seasons. Cal is a different job. There isn’t a ton of support financially, or even from a fan standpoint.

But there’s talent in the area.

THE DECISION-MAKER

Jim Knowlton He took over a year ago and it looked as though he was going to give Jones a third year but there was a change and the administration opted to make a move. Knowlton was previously at Air Force as the AD from 2015-18 but he didn’t make a hoops hire in his time there.

Men’s Basketball Hires: None

MAJOR LONGSHOT

Jason Kidd The former Cal star is unemployed and sources maintain he’d prefer to get back into the NBA — and there’s also the small matter of the fact that you can’t coach without your college degree. Kidd is working towards his degree, but one source said he’s not close enough to be able to get it done in time to be in the mix for this one. 

AFFORDABLE?

Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s He was involved the last time but the issue is whether Cal can make it lucrative and attractive enough to make him go from Moraga to Berkeley. Bennett has gone to the NCAA Tournament seven times with the Gaels and he does a great job recruiting the Aussie market.

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TOP CANDIDATES

Russell Turner, UC Irvine The former Stanford and Golden State Warriors assistant has been the head coach at UC Irvine since 2010. He just knocked off Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament and he has won at least 20 games in six of the past seven seasons.

Travis DeCuire, Montana He’s a former Cal assistant coach who has a 109-58 career mark in five seasons as the head coach at Montana. He’s also coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

Eric Musselman, Nevada He was involved, like Bennett, the last time it came open. There’s a new athletic director this time around but now might be the time for Muss to leave Reno – with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline also leaving.

OTHER CANDIDATES

Kyle Smith, USF The former Saint Mary’s assistant has won at least 20 games in all three of his seasons with the Dons. He was also the head coach at Columbia for six years but he’s still missing an NCAA Tournament appearance on his resume.

Mark Pope, Utah Valley The former Kentucky and NBA forward has racked up a 77-55 record in his four seasons as the head coach.

James Jones, Yale He’s gone to a pair of NCAA Tournaments in the last four years and has the academic profile to make sense at Cal.


MY PICK: Randy Bennett The question is whether you can afford him, especially since Cal has to pay Jones about $3 million. But Bennett is the easy pick. He knows the area and can take advantage of the international recruiting.

 

WHO I THINK THEY WILL WIND UP HIRING: Russell Turner He’d be less costly than Bennett and he’s coming off his best season at Irvine. He’s considered a quality X’s and O’s guy and he’s proven, which were the questions with Jones.

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