Cal Finally Has a Shot to Become a Basketball Power

Rob CalongeAnalyst IMarch 27, 2008

The University of California is finally cutting ties with embattled coach, Ben Braun.

His inability to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, eighth place at best finish in the Pac 10 three of the last four years, and continual underachievement with marquee talent has attributed to his departure from the program that he took over amid NCAA investigations 12 years ago.

The bad news for Cal is that they will lose a great recruiter. The good news is that they'll now have the opportunity to hire a coach with more success at maximizing player potential.

It's not like Cal hasn't been able to recruit top-flight players. We are talking about the Alma mater of Jason Kidd and Tony Gonzalez. That all alone is a very capable recruiting tool.

Braun has four former Cal players in the NBA right now; Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Sean Marks, Francisco Elson, and Leon Powe. He leaves a roster with possible future NBA players DeVon Hardin, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Christopher, Jordan Wilkes, and Jerome Randle.

The question remains, would they be better served by a different coach? Sandy Barbour and the fans of Cal basketball agree they can.

There are plenty of candidates available for the position. Former UCLA coach and current ESPN analyst Steve Lavin has been mentioned as a possible candidate along with former Stanford and Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery.

It's been reported that athletic director Sandy Barbour will be looking for a disciplinarian. This may give former Warriors and Sacramento Kings coach Eric Musselman a leg up on the competition. Musselman has been known to have run-ins with his players, but coaching in the pros is a completely different animal than the college ranks. Much can be said about holding a young man's education and possible pro career in your hands compared to having to co-exist with an already selfish millionaire who's made his claim to NBA stardom.

Other possible candidates mentioned include St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett, UNLV coach Lon Krueger, and Arizona assistant Kevin O'Neill.

Barbour is keeping her short list confidential for the time being, but Cal will have to move quickly in order to keep some sort of continuity in the program. She has employed the firm of Eastman & Beaudine, Inc. to aid in the search for the next coach, and will keep the rest of the coaching staff on until a new coach can be found.

The obvious choices are either Lavin or Montgomery, both with Pac 10 experience and success, although any of the coaches mentioned would be considered an upgrade over Braun. Requirements for the job are a clean program and a winning program.

If Cal gets the right man for the job, you could see the program lifted to heights not seen since Jason Kidd and Tony Gonzalez donned the yale blue and golden yellow uniforms.