Basketball season is just around the corner, and Golden Bear Lair has you covered. I will be at a majority of the Bears’ home games as well as one or two road games. I will also write two preview articles while the Bears await their season opener November 3rd vs. Vanguard. The next preview article will analyze the Bears’ strenghts in the three positions.
First up is an introduction to the biggest chance to the Bears this year, and that’s the coaching staff. After Joanne Boyle left Cal to join Virginia, it didn’t take long for Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to find a suitable replacement. She just needed to look at UC Santa Barbara coach Lindsay
Gottlieb, who was the associate coach here before going down south. As assistant and associate head coach, the Bears showed remarkable improvement and made the NCAA tournament in each of her last two years. She also had a huge role in the development of star athletes Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton.
After a successful run in Berkeley, Lindsay decided to take an opportunity to become a head coach at Santa Barbara. There, she brought forth similar results as she took the Gauchos to the NCAA tournament in just her first season, earning herself the 2009 Big West Coach of the Year award. She was the first coach in UCSB history to win 20 games in her first season (22 to be exact) and only one of seven active coaches to have done so and win a Coach of the Year in addition.
While I was not able to attend the Women’s Basketball dinner last Sunday, I was able to go to a dinner held last June and I was impressed by her character and desire to win. She and the rest of the coaching staff were very welcoming to everyone and had conversations with everyone in attendance. I could tell they wanted to get the fans enthusiastic about the women’s basketball team. Attendance has been slipping lately, and the Bears’ disappointing play last year didn’t help matters much.
The assistant coaches that have been brought were also very nice to the fans and all the coaches have a Twitter account. I also believe they are all very qualified.
First there’s Coach Kai Felton. She joins the Bears as an assistant coach
after holding the same title for seven years at Oregon and five before that at USC. In her two years at Oregon, she helped transform the Ducks into a team with one of the most potent offenses in Women’s College Basketball, averaging 81.4 points a game in the 2009-2010 season. At USC she was present for some of the finest recruiting classes in the nation, and the Trojans went 90-64 in her five years. She was also directly responsible for bringing USC’s Academic level to its highest ever.
Daron Park, another assistant coach, was brought in from Louisiana Tech. There he helped develop two future WNBA draft picks Shanavia Dowdell and Adrienne Johnson. Dowdell was the WAC Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010 while Johnson picked up the honors in 2011. He has also worked with WNBA first rounders such as Kristi Tolliver and Marissa Coleman.
Prior to Louisiana Tech, Park was a part of the Maryland Terrapins. Both of his years as assistant coach saw them go to the Elite Eight. In his first year, he actually served as acting head coach for 9 games when Brenda Frese went on leave. He went 8-1, with his only loss coming to then No.3 North Carolina. He was also an assistant coach on Utah’s staff from 2004-2007, where the Utes made the NCAA Tournament twice and also made an Elite Eight. From 2000-2004, he was the head coach of the NAIA’s Westminster College.
Charmin Smith has been a Cal assistant coach since 2007, and has seen some of Cal Women’s Basketball’s best years, and prior to that she was a standout player across the bay at Stanford. Smith has worked with some of Cal’s finest players in recent history like Alexis Gray-Lawson and Natasha Vital, as well as some of Stanford’s best players like Jayne Appel and Brooke Smith from her assistant coaching at Stanford prior to Cal. She also has a major role in scouting and is active in community service.
Her Stanford playing career included helping her team go to the Final Four three times in her four years, and she went on to play three years in the WNBA.
It is hard to not get excited about this coaching stuff with the accomplishments they bring to the table. Of course, it will be determined on the court whether or not these Bears can get to the next level. There may be some growing pains to the new system, and it may also take a while for the Bears to get a winning mentality. That’s why it’s important that we have a players coach in Lindsay, and I think Cal can shine very soon.