Oct. 28, 2011
LOS ANGELES - Saying that he has a clean bill of health, Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery revealed to reporters at Pac-12 Basketball Media Day Friday that his recent surgery was for high-grade bladder cancer. However, he is now back at practice and said he is looking forward to the upcoming season.
Montgomery's Golden Bears were picked to finish second in the league behind UCLA in a vote of West Coast media. Cal, which is ranked 24th in both the Associated Press and ESPN Coaches polls, received 13 first-place votes and a total of 405 points. UCLA had 14 first-place votes and 421 points. Arizona (11 first-place votes) was predicted to finish third (404 points), followed by Washington, Oregon and Stanford.
Fans have an opportunity to see the Bears at a free, open practice scheduled to start at 12 noon Sunday in Haas Pavilion. Cal's hosts UC San Diego in an exhibition game Nov. 1 and begins the regular season at home against UC Irvine Nov. 11.
"It's scary," Montgomery said of the cancer diagnosis. "Anybody that's been through it or had something, you go from being relatively on top of your game and being in charge of everything, to no longer being in charge. It could have gone the other way. But, again, I was extremely fortunate it went the way it did, so we're good to go."
Montgomery said the cancer was detected about a month ago, and he underwent surgery to remove the tumor last week, leaving his assistant coaches in charge of the team and practices. He began to return to the office earlier this week and has no limitations moving forward. Montgomery said he expects to be on the floor full time starting Monday.
"Essentially, I went from having high-grade bladder cancer a month ago to being totally cancer free at this juncture," Montgomery said.
"I'm a hundred percent good to go now," he added. "Just so you know perspective-wise, (my doctor) said, three months ago we wouldn't have found this, six months from now you'd be done. So the timing couldn't have been better. So if you've got an ache or a pain, get checked."
Eventually, the conversation turned to the Golden Bears' prospects for the 2011-12 season. The Bears return four starters from last year's squad that finished 18-15 overall, 10-8 in the conference and reached the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
"A year ago at this time, we had so many question marks that it was hard to even know where to start, but I thought this group of kids really overachieved last year and got to the point where we were probably a game or two away from the NCAA Tournament," Montgomery said. "We played the better teams in our conference straight up and tough. So, we're encouraged. We now don't have those same question marks. Where we had question marks before, we have answers."
Three Bears earned Pac-10 honors last season and are back in the fold again this year. Guard Allen Crabbe was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year after averaging 16.4 ppg in conference games, while guard Jorge Gutierrez was tabbed first-team All-Pac-10 and voted to the league's all-defensive team. In addition, forward Harper Kamp made the All-Pac-10 second unit.
"I like our basketball team," Montgomery said. "We had a chance to go to Europe, and I think that really helped them get to know each other better. It's a hard-working group with good work ethic, reasonable to good talent, that I think we have a chance to be pretty competitive."
|2011-12 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Poll||
|First-place votes in parentheses|