Now in his 12th season as head men's basketball coach at the University of California, Ben Braun has established a Golden Bear program that has earned respect and admiration both in the Bay Area and across the country.
During his tenure at Cal, Braun has directed the Bears to more postseason appearances and more postseason victories than any coach in school history, including five NCAA Tournament berths and an NIT championship in 1999.
Two of his players have earned Pac-10 Player of the Year honors - Ed Gray in 1997 and Sean Lampley in 2001 - while Leon Powe was the 2004 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Overall, Braun's charges have received All-Pac-10 status eight times, Pac-10 All-Freshman notice on seven occasions and Pac-10 All-Academic accolades 14 times.
As a result of his success, not only at Cal, but during previous head coaching stops at Eastern Michigan and Siena Heights, Braun now ranks 10th among all active Division I coaches with 535 victories. In fact, Braun is second among current Pac-10 coaches in overall wins and Pac-10 wins (104).
The 1997 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and a finalist for the 2003 Naismith National Coach of the Year, Braun enters the 2007-08 campaign with a 202-138 record with the Bears and a 30-year career mark of 535-373. He ranks second to Nibs Price (1925-54, 449-294) in both longevity and wins in Cal annals, while his Cal winning percentage (.594) is the best at the school since Hall of Famer Pete Newell guided the Bears to a 119-44 mark from 1955-60.
Over the course of his time at Cal, Braun has been rewarded with contract extensions three times, including his current contract that lasts through the 2010-11 season.
Generally regarded as one of college basketball's top teachers and strategists, Braun brought his energetic style of coaching to Cal in September 1996.
During his initial season at Cal in 1996-97, Braun took a team that was predicted to finish in the conference's lower half, molded it into one that tied for second in the league and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 with tournament victories over Princeton and Villanova. In addition, the 23-9 overall mark gave Braun a school record for most wins by a Bear coach in his first year with the program.
In 1998-99, Braun's club became the first Cal team ever to beat three Top 10 schools in the same season, defeating North Carolina, UCLA and Arizona during the course of the year. Then, after earning a bid to the NIT, the Bears went on a 5-0 run to capture the title - Cal's first postseason tournament championship since the Bears won the 1959 NCAA crown. Cal finished the 1998-99 campaign with a 22-11 record.
A year later, Braun took a freshman-dominated squad back to the postseason as the Bears reached the quarterfinals of the NIT. On Jan. 15, 2000, he picked up his 400th career victory with a 71-65 win at Oregon State.
In 2000-01, the Bears returned to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 20-11 record, and Lampley - Braun's first recruit at Cal - became the school's all-time leading scorer late in his senior campaign, finishing with 1,776 points.
The Bears again won 23 games and tied for second in the Pac-10 race in 2001-02. Cal reached the semifinals of the conference tournament by defeating UCLA in the opening round and earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA playoffs, where the Bears toppled Penn before falling to Pittsburgh.
In 2003, Cal reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament behind All-Pac-10 forwards Joe Shipp and Amit Tamir. Shipp ended his career with the No. 3 position on the Bears' all-time scoring list, while teammate Brian Wethers finished in the No. 15 position.
Behind tournament MVP Leon Powe, Cal defeated USC and Oregon to reach the Pac-10 Tournament final for the first time ever in 2006. The Bears then earned a No. 7 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament and finished the year with a 20-11 mark. On Nov. 21, 2005, Cal defeated Long Beach State, 88-69, to give Braun his 500th career win.
Last year's squad, despite playing shorthanded most of the season due to injuries to a pair of key post players, reached the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament for the fourth time in six years. The Bears upset top-seed and fourth-ranked UCLA, 76-69, in overtime in the quarterfinals, and freshman Ryan Anderson was voted to the all-tournament team.
Although just 53 years of age, Braun already has 30 years of experience as a head coach, including 11 highly successful years at Eastern Michigan, where he guided the Eagles to four postseason berths, including three NCAA appearances. During his tenure there, Braun accumulated a record of 185-132, averaging almost 18 wins per season, and was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year three times.
In addition, Braun coached at Siena Heights College for eight years, taking the NAIA school to a 148-103 record and five postseason tournaments. Braun's players have proved to be successful both on the court and in the classroom, with Golden Bears earning Pac-10 All-Academic recognition 14 times under his direction. In 2001, three players - Morgan Lingle, Dennis Gates and Ryan Forehan-Kelly - were first-team selections, while Donte Smith was an honorable mention pick, giving Cal more than twice as many all-academic members as any other school in the conference. The Bears have had at least one all-academic pick each of the last eight years, including Alex Pribble, a second-team choice in 2005 and a first-team selection in both 2006 and '07.
Braun began his career as an assistant coach at Park High School in Racine, Wis. Within two years, he accepted the head coaching job at Siena Heights. After an 8-21 debut season in 1977-78, his teams posted a 140-82 record over the next seven years, including four 20-win campaigns. His squads qualified for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) postseason tournaments five times. During his time at Siena Heights, he not only coached, but also taught English and Physical Education classes at the school. In the summer of 1999, Braun was inducted into the first class of the Siena Heights Athletic Hall of Fame.
Braun accepted the position of associate head coach at Eastern Michigan prior to the start of the 1985-86 season, but midway through the year, on Jan. 15, 1986, he was elevated to interim head coach. Success came quickly, as within two years he had the Eagles in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.
In 1989, Braun served as head coach of the U.S. men's basketball team at the Maccabiah Games. He took an internationally inexperienced squad into the championship round before bowing to the host Israeli team in the final.
During his career, Braun has coached more than a dozen players who have gone on to play in the NBA. Among those he has coached at Cal are Ed Gray, Michael Stewart, Sean Marks, Francisco Elson, Sean Lampley, Jamal Sampson and Leon Powe. Tony Gonzalez, now an All-Pro tight end for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, played basketball for Braun in 1996-97. He also coached Grant Long and Earl Boykins while at Eastern Michigan.
A native of Chicago, Braun graduated from New Trier High School, where he starred in both basketball and baseball. He went on to play one year of basketball at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse before he transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned a teaching degree in English in June of 1975 with a minor in African-American Studies. Five years later, he earned his master's degree in guidance and counseling from Siena Heights.
Braun and his wife, Jessica, reside in Berkeley.
Ben Braun at California
Overall Pac-10 Year Record Record Postseason 2006-07 16-17 6-12/8th 2005-06 20-11 12-6/3rd NCAA 1st Round 2004-05 13-16 6-12/T8th 2003-04 13-15 9-9/T4th 2002-03 22-9 13-5/3rd NCAA 2nd Round 2001-02 23-9 12-6/T2nd NCAA 2nd Round 2000-01 20-11 11-7/T4th NCAA 1st Round 1999-00 18-15 7-11/7th NIT Quarterfinals 1998-99 22-11 8-10/T5th NIT Champions 1997-98 12-15 8-10/T5th 1996-97 23-9 12-6/T2nd NCAA Sweet 16 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Totals 202-138 104-94
Ben Braun Career Highlights
* Led Cal to five NCAA Tournaments (1997, 2001, '02, '03, '06) - school record for most NCAA appearances by a Cal coach
* Guided Cal to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1997 and to the second round in both 2002 and '03
* Coached Cal to the 1999 National Invitation Tournament championship - the Bears' first postseason title since winning the NCAA crown in 1960
* Holds the school record for most postseason appearances by a Cal coach (5 NCAA, 2 NIT) and most consecutive postseason invitations (5 - 1999-2003)
* Holds the school record for most postseason wins by a Cal coach, posting an 11-5 record
* Holds the school record for most 20-win seasons by a Cal coach (6)
* Coached two Pac-10 Players of the Year - Ed Gray (1997) and Sean Lampley (2001)
* Coached Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Leon Powe (2005)
* His teams have produced eight upper division Pac-10 finishes in 10 seasons
* Has led Cal to the postseason in seven of 10 eligible seasons
* Ranks second on Cal's all-time victories list with 202 entering the season (202-138 record)
* Ranks 10th among active Division I coaches with 535 career wins entering the season
* The first Cal coach since Pete Newell (1954-60) to have a winning conference record (104-94)
* Voted the 1997 Pac-10 Coach of the Year - the first Cal coach ever to receive the honor
* Was a finalist for the 2003 Naismith National Coach of the Year award
* His players have earned All-Pac-10 honors eight times and Pac-10 All-Freshman honors on seven occasions
* His players have been named to the Pac-10 All-Academic team 14 times
* Led Cal to a 23-9 record during the 1996-97 season, setting a school record for most wins by a Cal coach in his first year
* In 1998-99, guided Cal to three wins over Top 10 teams - North Carolina, Arizona and UCLA - the first time in school history the Bears beat three Top 10 schools in one year
* Member of the Ethics Committee for the National Association of Basketball Coaches