NEW ORLEANS - Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb is about as thorough a coach as you will find. She is a film junkie. She prepares for every scenario and every situation in a basketball game. She's been known to rehearse her press conference quotes.
So when she told her team Sunday night that she was only going to spend two minutes thinking about the Bears' 64-57 loss to Louisville in the Final Four, it may have been a little white lie.
But you get the point.
Sunday's loss stung, not only because it ended such a remarkable season, but even more because the Bears were in position to win. Cal led by 10 at halftime. The Bears still held a lead with under four remaining. It wasn't so much the Cardinals were significantly better than the Bears; they were just a little bit better when it counted.
That all being said, a team that was ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press top 25 went to the Final Four. That came after winning a share of the Pac-12 championship. That came after knocking off Stanford at Maples Pavilion. That came after winning a program-best 32 games.
So even though the Bears were right there with a chance to play for the national championship Tuesday night, Gottlieb's point is really the only one to make - once the sting wears off.
"What I said to our team in the locker room is that we can be disappointed about a half of basketball that we wish we had back," Gottlieb said. "We could be disappointed to not be playing on Tuesday night because we really wanted to be playing Tuesday night. But I'm going to think about that or two minutes, and for the next 10,000 minutes I'm going to think about what this group did for the University of California, the legacy they will have left this year - that when you come to Cal, you play or the person next to you, you play with a lot of character, you work really hard that you make the name on the front of your chest the most important thing, even if you are really, really talented."
During Cal's postgame news conference Sunday night, after the players left the podium, Gottlieb jokingly admitted she is going to think about her team's missed opportunities against Louisville for more than two minutes. "That was kind of a lie," she said.
One of the most lingering moments of the season came when the season was over. Moments after the final horn sounded, senior and team leader Layshia Clarendon huddled the team together and adamantly implored them to remember what they accomplished this season, to not let a loss on the second-to-last day a team can play tarnish the legacy the 2012-13 Bears will leave behind.
"I told them, don't hang your head for one second because we've just come too far, done too much. It's hard to let it go. It's going to hurt definitely. But when you look at this team, you think about this team, I just can't help but smile because what we've done is beyond amazing. We've affected so many people and just to see all the good that's come out of it, all the positive, all the love and the legacy we are going to leave."
The Bears' magical season came to an end tonight in New Orleans. The Bears lost to Louisville at the New Orleans Arena, ending the greatest season in school history.
Senior Layshia Clarendon played as hard as a player can, scoring 17 points with five rebounds and playing magnificent defense against Louisville star Shoni Schimell, who scored 10 points on 4-13 shooting. Junior Gennifer Brandon had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Cal, after making its first Final Four appearance in school history, finishes the season 32-4.
There's no denying the significance of the accomplishments of this year's team. The Bears won their first Pac-12 championship ever. They earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, their highest seed ever. They beat Stanford at Maples Pavilion. And they showcased the program on college basketball's biggest stage on the highest level.
And this program isn't going anywhere. There's no question Cal will miss its four seniors - Clarendon, Talia Caldwell, Eliza Pierre and Tierra Rogers. But the Bears have a strong nucleus of returning players with point guard Brittany Boyd, wing Afure Jemerigbe and Brandon and Reshanda Gray up front. Add in an influx of new talent and Lindsay Gottlieb's stewardship as coach, and expect the Bears to be firmly in the national conversation again in 2013-14.
Sunday night was a tough one for these Bears. There were a lot of tears in the locker room afterward. But it didn't take too long for those tears to turn into hugs, smiles and even a few laughs. This team likes to have fun. Sunday night wasn't fun. But the Bears personality couldn't allow them to not try to find the good in their amazing season before too long.
The Bears will fly back home tomorrow morning. And you can bet these Bears will find some time to fit in a few laughs.
Schimmel has just three points on 1-7 shooting. Louisville is shooting only 40 percent from the field.
Layshia Clarendon leads the Bears with eight points. Talia Caldwell has seven points and nine rebounds.
Considering starting point guard Brittany Boyd played only 10 minutes in the first half because of a back ailment and two fouls, the Bears have to like their position. Second half is just a few minutes away.
G Brittany Boyd
G Layshia Clarendon
G Afure Jemerigbe
F Gennifer Brandon
C Talia Caldwell
G Shoni Schimmel
G Bria Smith
G Antonita Slaughter
F Sara Hammond
C Sheronne Vails
Tipoff is i just about an hour. Stay tuned!
Lucy's is the official Cal gathering place during the Final Four. It's about a 20-minute walk to the arena. For Lucy's address and more information, click here.
Admission to the party is free, as long as you are wearing blue & gold! There will be a crawfish boil for guests while supplies last. The first 100 fans will receive a free Final Four T-shirt.
The Cal Straw Hat Band and Spirit Groups will make an appearance, and athletic director Sandy Barbour will kick off the party.
For those interested in going to the team hotel for the March to Victory, Cal athletics staff will make an announcement at the appropriate time for fans to make their way there.
NEW ORLEANS - The Bears have been in New Orleans almost 48 hours now, and they are fully immersed in Final Four activities as well as preparations for Sunday's game against Louisville.
Friday night, the team took part in the special Salute Team Dinner, a function at Mardi Gras World, the same place they went to take a team photo immediately after arriving in the city Thursday night. Mardi Gras World is a huge warehouse where all kinds of huge, larger-than-life objects are stored for parades. It also has a long deck adjacent to it.
After the dinner, there was a "Salute Parade of Teams along the deck." It featured each team, with their bands and cheerleaders, walking past fans and throwing beads to the crowd. It was a formal affair, and afterward the teams headed back inside for a Premier hosted by ESPN's Sage Steele. The program included comments from NCAA officials and a tribute to an assortment of heroes in the New Orleans area.
Saturday was a busy morning for the Bears. They arrived at the New Orleans Arena and immediately had their media access. Coach Lindsay Gottlieb and players Layshia Clarendon, Talia Caldwell and Eliza Pierre answered questions from the podium. At the same time, Cal's locker room was open to the media and it became a very busy place. A steady stream of local media, as well as Bay Area reporters, made their way into the locker room to do extensive interviews with the Bears.
At 11 a.m., it was time for Cal's open practice. All four teams held one-hour practices at the New Orleans Arena today that were free to the public, and the Bears were up first. It was a festive scene, with fans in the stands, the band and cheerleaders performing and music playing throughout. A slew of photographers and camera operators documented the proceedings, and afterward Clarendon conduced an on-court interview which appeared on the video board for the fans in attendance.
But without question, the highlight of the practice came at the very end, when the players assembled at mid-court and did their rendition of "The Free World," the choreographed dance they have been doing throughout the NCAA Tournament. It got a great reaction from the crowd and was caught on tape by multiple cameras and sources. Also, about midway through the practice, the video board aired the team's music video, "Started From The Bottom." That got a great reaction from fans and assorted staff and officials throughout the arena.
When practice finally came to the end, it was a brief trip back to the locker room and then up to the concourse for an autograph session. Hundreds of fans waited in line to get posters signed by all of the Bears' players and coaches.
The Bears left the arena and then went off-site for a closed practice. Afterward, before returning to the hotel, team host Polly Jones guided the squad on a bus tour around the city, pointing out the city's historical and traditional landmarks.
And now, for some images of last night and today: