By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
BERKELEY – During the same press conference in which he kicked himself for not being warm and fuzzy enough during his 32-year coaching career, retiring Cal men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery had to stop himself a handful of times after getting choked up with emotion.
Saying good-bye to a place like Cal can have that effect on even the most fuzzy-deficient.
Montgomery announced his retirement Monday after 32 years as a head coach, the past six of which were in Berkeley. During those six seasons, Montgomery led the Bears to their winningest six-year stretch in school history with 130 victories. In 2010, he led Cal to its first conference regular-season championship in 50 years and the Bears qualified for the postseason every year Montgomery was at the helm – four NCAA Tournament berths and two trips to the NIT.
Montgomery was a master tactician, a talent he displayed in previous stops at Montana, Stanford and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Montgomery called himself “a little standoffish” at times, but he certainly wasn’t afraid to reveal how emotional a decision it was to leave Cal.
“There were only a few kids back from spring break, and when I told them I just started to cry,” said Montgomery, who was joined at Monday’s press conference by his wife Sarah, daughter Anne and son John, who was one of his assistant coaches at Cal. “You want to keep coaching because of your relationship with the kids. I want to coach David (Kravish) and Ty (Wallace) and Jabari (Bird). I want to coach all of them. I’m a little dumbfounded. I don’t know what to say.”
Montgomery had to gather himself when talking about the opportunity to coach with his son and the support he received from Sarah and his family. Including his time as an assistant coach, Montgomery has roamed sidelines for 45 years. He is the 25th-winningest coach in college basketball history with 677 victories and produced three players who were named Pac-12 Player of the Year while at Cal – Jerome Randle, Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe.
“I am most thankful, on behalf of our community, and most grateful to know and work with Mike Montgomery, the man,” Cal Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “He has been unbelievable to work with. He is a true educator at his core. He cares deeply for the young men he recruits and then has the pleasure to coach. He always did it the right way – a man with incredible integrity and incredible character who is always preparing his student-athletes for the challenge of not only the game, but what is next for them. He is always preparing them to get ready for life.”
Montgomery said he would miss “the people at Cal” the most, and that applies not just to him, but his entire family.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Sarah and my family,” Montgomery said. “My family had as big a part in this as I had. I think they will miss it more than me.”
Montgomery said he had been thinking about retiring at the end of the season but needed to take some time to think it over, and not confuse end-of-season fatigue with the desire not to coach anymore.
Montgomery said the time is right, partly because the program is in good position to be put into new hands moving forward.
“I feel really good about my decision,” Montgomery said. “I really feel like the program is in a position where it is very positive. We have some good, young players. We’ve got the people in place to take this thing forward.
“I’ve had a great experience at Cal. This is a very unique place. It’s been really fun to get to know the people here at Cal. I’ve really enjoyed the friendships and the people I’ve met here, and their passion for the university. “