Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour was finishing up her onslaught of the obligatory superlatives for new women's basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb on Tuesday when she wrapped it up with one of the 33-year-old's most important characteristics.
"We don't have to teach her how to say, 'Go Bears,' " Barbour said.
And with that, the Gottlieb era began -- or resumed -- in Berkeley. Gottlieb is returning to the campus she called home for three seasons as Joanne Boyle's top assistant before taking the head job at UC Santa Barbara in 2008. Boyle left Cal for Virginia earlier this month, and Gottlieb was the immediate slam dunk choice to replace her.
"For me, Cal has always been not a job but the job," Gottlieb said at her introductory news conference at Haas Pavilion. "It's a dream place for me. This is where I've always wanted to be. I didn't expect in three years for Joanne to move on. It wasn't part of the plan. But when the chips fell where they did, I knew that this could be a special opportunity."
Cal interviewed just two candidates -- Gottlieb and Bowling Green coach Curt Miller. While Barbour warned against placing too much stock in Gottlieb's familiarity with the program, it's clear she's thrilled how things worked out after Boyle's sudden departure.
"One of the things that I stressed was we have to balance the fact that because one of the candidates has been here, we know them better," Barbour said. "You certainly don't want to give someone too much credit for familiarity and you don't want to give someone else too much of a discount because they're not. It's rare to have the opportunity we had."
Gottlieb said she's maintained a strong friendship with Boyle since taking the UCSB job and provided an ear for Boyle as she was being courted by Virginia. But once Boyle's departure became official, Gottlieb had her sights on returning to the Bay Area.
"It's rare in this profession that you can move on and still maintain friendships," Gottlieb said. "When (Boyle) was being contacted by Virginia, my role was to be friend and listener. That's what I tried to be as she went through a process that was very personal for her. In the back of my head was I thinking, 'This could affect me?' Absolutely. But I didn't go there until it became appropriate to do so."
While there are no current players who were around when Gottlieb was on Boyle's staff, they certainly heard about her from older teammates. Gottlieb was interviewed by the entire team with no other Cal officials in the room during the hiring process. Gottlieb met with the players for the first time as their coach Tuesday.
"I've always felt like I've known her, but I've never really gotten the opportunity to know her," Cal guard Layshia Clarendon said. "I heard so much about her since she left. Now I'm really excited to get to know her as a person and see all the things I've heard about her."
Gottlieb's salary was not disclosed, but it likely isn't near the $658,691 that Boyle made last season. A source said Gottlieb will make more than new UCLA coach Cori Close, who was hired last week. Gottlieb made $175,000 last season at UCSB.