March 9, 2010
California Head Coach Mike Montgomery
On if there's a different mindset with being the No. 1 seed:
No, I think probably we felt more comfortable last year in third about going to the tournament than we might this year. Number one seed this year, well the league's been pretty balanced. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but almost everybody in the league has had an opportunity to beat everybody else in the league at one time or another, so I think it makes for an interesting tournament, because you feel like any game could be won by any of the teams. I think there might be some nervousness for some people in terms of having to win to get into the tournament. Or maybe last year more people might have felt like, you know, we're in. USC last year, I think, thought they had to win it, and they did, to get in. This year there might be eight or nine teams feeling that way.
On the group of seniors:
Well I like going in with this group, whether they're sophomores, juniors or seniors. I think at this stage in the game, they've proven that they've figured out how to win some games, at least the two years I've had them. We don't have the depth that we'd like. The injury thing has taken a little bit of its toll on us, but in any given game, if these kids get it together and start doing the things that they're capable of, we can be pretty tough to beat.
On if he feels Cal should be favored to win the tournament:
I don't know, everybody thought we were supposed to win the league and we did. Nobody got real excited about that, I guess, because they picked us to win. So it's a game by game, three games in a row will be tough on us, maybe not as tough on others than it might be on us, given the depth situation that we have. It really doesn't make any difference who's the favorite. I don't know why you have to have a favorite. There's going to be a play-in game and then there are four games and then two games, so it doesn't make a difference who's the favorite.
On still getting the satisfaction out of coaching:
I think any time that you put as much time and energy as we do as coaches, and you are directing a group of young people that need direction, want direction and want to be helped toward a common goal, if you can reach that goal, it's satisfying. That part doesn't change. I think when that part changes you should probably get out of the business.
I said this years ago across the Bay, that it's not about me, it's about these kids. They're the ones that will remember this and get the satisfaction from this. So if you're able to help them do that, I think it makes it kind of fun.
On how the team has grown:
When we got here, there was a lot of questions about different things, and there was probably a little bit of unsettling amongst them, in terms of who's staying, who's going, who's doing what and all that kind of stuff. I think this group has grown together and it hasn't been an overnight revelation. I think this group finally has a pretty clear understanding of what it takes to win. I think they're way more comfortable in their own skin. I think there was probably a time that any one of a number of guys could have been concerned about where they thought they were headed after their college career and I think now they're to the point where they've established themselves as individuals and now the team thing becomes a little more important and nobody's too overly concerned.
We had a bunch of guys make all-conference and all-defensive teams, and none of that would have happened if we're eighth. I think they recognize that. A lot of this comes from the fact that we won the league and we've got to have good players if we did that. So there's been a lot of growth taking place and I think they're much more comfortable together and with themselves. I think they have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to win. We don't always come with that attitude of maybe having to play as hard as we need to sometimes, but we generally find it sometime during a game.
On if he thought Jerome would win Pac-10 Player of the Year:
No, nobody thinks that. Again, Jerome would not be Player of the Year if we were fifth. So the better question would be did I think we were going win the conference with this group? I know that when I looked at this team, initially, Ryan Anderson was on board, they had Harper Kamp healthy, Taylor Harrison and Jordan Wilkes, and none of those guys played this year. So it wasn't quite as easy as you guys would have believed, because we lost a lot of big guys. But Jerome has done a wonderful job. He was probably more skilled than I thought he was. I never had any notion that he could shoot the ball as well as he did, and once we kind of tried to help him with being a little more careful with the ball and not trying to do everything every time, that stuff started to all show up.
On monitoring players minutes if they play three games this week:
Well, we've got to win first. There's no three-game week if you don't win. But we're certainly not going to sacrifice trying to win a game just to rest people. If we feel comfortable sneaking minutes on either side of a time out, or put a guy in and feel like we're not losing any momentum and getting a guy some rest, we would certainly like to get that. We still have the question of Jorge, the question of Max, the question of Markhuri, so you don't know whether you're going to be allowed to do that or not.