By Gerald Nicdao, Daily Cal Staff Writer
This story was originally published in the Daily Californian on Monday, April 7, 2008.
Click here for original version.
Reprinted by permission.
After presenting Mike Montgomery as the new head coach of the Cal men's basketball team, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour shrugged it off as just another accomplishment.
"It's my biggest hire because it's the one I just finished," she said, smiling.
But of course we all know what hiring the former Stanford coach means for a school and a program that has been shadowed in relative obscurity the last half-decade.
Bringing Montgomery in to coach the Bears is by far Barbour's most important hire to date.
It is also one of her grandest achievements, rivaling only that of keeping Jeff Tedford to walk the sidelines at Memorial Stadium and making the plans to renovate that 85 year-old structure (almost) a reality.
Improving a men's basketball program that once was amongst the elite in college basketball is-scratch that -was the one thing missing from her resume.
She's done almost everything you can ask for at Cal.
After the Bears suffered a ninth-place finish in the Pac-10, Barbour knew she had to act. What she did was bring in a guy that-with just the mention of his name in college basketball circles-makes the Bears once again relevant.
What may even be more surprising than Montgomery-the longtime Cardinal coach who led Stanford for 18 years and brought it to the Final Four in 1998-taking the job at Cal is the fact that Barbour hired somebody who is well-known by the general public.
He brings star power that sends ripples through the community and that was absent in many of Barbour's coaching hires over the last four years.
Joanne Boyle-even though she had been an assistant at Duke-was a relatively unknown coach at Richmond when Barbour brought her in to lead the women's basketball program.
Dave Durden-though a successful assistant at powerhouse Auburn-didn't dazzle anyone with his performance at Maryland before Barbour brought him in to replace legendary men's swimming coach Nort Thornton.
Neil McGuire-though an assistant when Texas went to the round of 16-was coming off a losing season at Texas Tech when Barbour hired him to coach the women's soccer program.
All three hires had dazzling resumes as assistants, but were still obscure figures as head coaches before they were hired by the Bears.
So bringing in Montgomery looks like Barbour is deviating from her current model-but don't tell her that.
"These relatively unknown coaches are actually very well-known in their fields," Barbour said. "In this case, Mike Montgomery is considered a star hire because people follow the men's basketball world."
But of course, that's just Barbour being modest. Barbour and her staff have been able to find coaches to take their respective programs to the next level.
And with just a signature, a handshake and a press conference, Cal basketball has transformed-at least on paper-into a player in the Pac-10.
"I wanted someone with proven success," Barbour said. "But it also has to fit. It isn't until when we sit down and talk about philosophies when you can check that. It was just a fit for us."
Montgomery doesn't just fit in the larger puzzle that is Cal athletics, he's a perfect fit. He was that one piece missing to Barbour's rather stellar tenure in Berkeley.
He's also Barbour's perfect hire-and we wouldn't expect anything less from her.