Spander: Monty has helped make Cal relevant again

The Warriors years have been erased. Imagine they never happened. Think of Mike Montgomery going from a successful career at Stanford to a successful career at Cal. That’s what has happened in the Golden Bears’ media guide.

Revisionist history of a sort. Three pages taking us from Palo Alto to Berkeley, three pages dealing with Final Fours and John Wooden Legends of Coaching awards. But in the biography, nary a word of trying to deal with Baron Davis.

The shame is Montgomery should have a stage larger than college basketball in the Bay Area affords. This isn’t Durham, N.C., or Lawrence, Kan. Bobby Knight would have been a minor figure here.

Sure Cal is a champion again, a fact attributable to Montgomery. And over the Oakland hills, Randy Bennett has turned St. Mary’s into a tournament team.

But it’s all small potatoes in a place where there’s more interest in the 49ers’ long snapper than there is in Cal’s Jerome Randle being named Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Montgomery deals with the reality in his normal way, meaning when he isn’t being sarcastic, he’s being skeptical.

“Forty-Niner season over?” he used to ask writers who finally would make their first appearance at a Stanford game in late February. And Tuesday, upon seeing a journalist, he wondered, “No British Open this week?”

No. A Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles this week. A tournament which Cal, having won the conference for the first time in 50 years, is called the favorite.

“Favorite?” gasped Montgomery. “For what? Everybody felt we were supposed to win the league. We did. Nobody got real excited, because I guess they picked us to win.”

At Cal, or Berserkely as the great Herb Caen labeled it, they’re finally getting excited about basketball, maybe for the first time since the days of Pete Newell, Darrall Imhoff, Stan Morrison, Tandy Gillis, Bill McClintock and Al Buch, the coach and players of that 1960 team.

“I was a little upset early on,” Randle said about the lack of attendance at Cal home games, “but now it’s changed. The students are congratulating us. Every restaurant I go in, people are telling me good luck. It feels like home.”

Cal needed this. Hey, the Bears once lost 56 straight games to UCLA. Montgomery needed this. His two years out of the game after being dispatched by the Warriors in 2006 were unfulfilling. Now there’s something tangible at the end of the day.

“Any time you put as much time and energy as do coaches,” Montgomery said, “and you are directing a group of young people that need direction, want direction and want to be helped to a common goal, if you can reach that goal, it’s satisfying.”

This is a team of seniors, albeit a team the 63-year-old Montgomery has had only two seasons.

“I like this group whether they be sophomores, juniors or seniors,” said the coach, sounding quite unexpected. “They’ve figured out how to win some games, at least the two years I’ve had them. We’re pretty tough to beat.

“They have a clear understanding of what it takes.”

So does Mike Montgomery, as verified by his record everywhere except those virtually nonexistent years with the Warriors.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at


CalOther SportsPac-10sports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read