Mike Montgomery, whose Stanford teams once beat Cal 10 straight times, will resume his college coaching career in Berkeley, where Cal's players embraced the decision.
"I remember back to his Stanford teams being No. 1 in the nation at times," said junior-to-be Theo Robertson, a De La Salle High School grad. "He brings an expectation and excitement level of a winning tradition. I'm looking forward to being part of that."
"From the Collins twins to Josh Childress to Casey Jacobsen, all those guys, I think of teams that symbolize greatness," said backup guard Nican Robinson. "Under the Mike Montgomery system, I see nothing but success."
Montgomery took Stanford from the depths of the Pac-10 to national prominence, including a spot in the 1998 Final Four.
When he arrived at Stanford for the 1986-87 season, the school hadn't played in the NCAA Tournament since 1942, when the Cardinal won the national championship. Twelve of his teams reached the NCAAs, including a stretch of 10 in a row through 2004 in which Stanford won at least one game in the tournament.
Cal, which hasn't even won a conference title since 1960, welcomes an old adversary who captured four league crowns at Stanford between 1999 and 2004.
Montgomery, 61 and out of coaching since a two-season stint with the Golden State Warriors ended in 2006, was brought on board by Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour just nine days after Ben Braun's firing. He will be introduced at a news conference this morning.
Others known to have gone through the interview process this week were Randy Bennett of St. Mary's College, Mark Fox of Nevada and Denver Nuggets assistant coach Mike Dunlap.
Bennett took the outcome in stride.
"I anticipated coaching at St. Mary's next year this whole time," he said by phone from the Final Four. "I'm as happy as can be with the direction of our program and the players who are in it. I have a great job."
Cal coaching legend Pete Newell, who had been pushing Dunlap for the position, said he has great regard for Montgomery.
"If they get a coach of his renown and his ability and his history, it should go off well," said Newell, who coached the Bears to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 1959 and '60. "He's always taught the game well. His offense was always well set up, and they responded in terms of counters (to defensive strategy). They rebound and they play hard.
"From a coaching standpoint, there's nothing that can be any better for them."
Montgomery's oldest Pac-10 rival also was excited.
"I'm thrilled to have him back in the league," Arizona coach Lute Olson said in a statement. "I think he's the perfect guy for the job and I'm not looking forward to playing him."
Olson, who plans to return to coaching next season after a one-year leave of absence, and Montgomery dominated the Pac-10 from 1998-2004, combining to win six of seven conference titles.
But the Pac-10 is different now, stronger and deeper. UCLA is a monster again, playing this weekend in its third straight Final Four. Smart coaching hires have helped elevate USC, Washington State and Arizona State, which had only sporadic success during the latter part of Montgomery's tenure at Stanford.
Cal, 17-16 this season, has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament four of the past five seasons.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar doesn't think that will be an obstacle to the man who fashioned a record of 393-167 in 18 seasons at Stanford, averaging nearly 27 victories over his final seven years.
"Mike Montgomery is one of the best coaches in the history of the Pac-10. I'm not sure that concerns him," Romar said of the league's more competitive nature. "I think he's more concerned with getting that program where he wants it at this point."
Portland coach Eric Reveno, who played center for Montgomery's early teams at Stanford and was an assistant coach for seven of its NCAA teams, said his mentor will be a great fit at Cal.
"First and foremost and always, he's a great basketball coach with a tremendous amount of integrity and desire to win at the highest level, doing it the right way," Reveno said. "Those values will sit very well with the mission and ideals of Cal."
Reveno said he will be curious to see who Montgomery hires to his coaching staff because of the differences in recruiting. Cal competes for high school prospects more often with UCLA, Arizona and USC while Stanford, with strict admission standards, fishes from a smaller recruiting pool.
"It is a different animal from Cal," Reveno said.
Montgomery inherits a team that will return four starters, pending a decision by Pac-10 scoring leader Ryan Anderson, who announced Thursday he will enter the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and could return.
Contact Jeff Faraudo at email@example.com.