California Golden Bears head coach Mike Montgomery has enjoyed an excellent career in which he successfully established a winning culture for three different college basketball programs. After almost 1,000 games under his belt, Montgomery announced his retirement Monday afternoon.
The Golden Bears' official Twitter feed reported the news:
After more than four decades of coaching success, Cal’s Mike Montgomery will announce his retirement this afternoon.— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) March 31, 2014
Coach Montgomery " I started to cry [in the team meeting] because of the relationship I have with these kids."— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) March 31, 2014
Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News noted that Montgomery told the team of his decision at a meeting around Noon, and that a press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. local time. Montgomery, 67, also released a statement, per Faraudo:
I have enjoyed 45 years coaching the game I love while developing long-lasting friendships along the way. This is a decision that was not made lightly. This is the right time for me to move to the next phase of my life...The six years I have spent at Cal have been some of the greatest in my career. This is a great program and Cal basketball is positioned for success for many years to come.
Cal's Twitter account added:
Coach Montgomery "It’ll be extremely hard for me to completely walk away from the game."— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) March 31, 2014
ESPN's Seth Greenberg expressed his praise for Montgomery:
I expect Mike Montgomery to retire today. Great coach and ambassador for college basketball. He will be missed by players and coaches.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) March 31, 2014
Finishing up his coaching at Cal was a rather appropriate homecoming of sorts for Montgomery, who was born in Long Beach, to put the final touches on his excellent legacy.
Before taking over the Golden Bears to start the 2008-09 season, Montgomery laid a foundation for success at Montana beginning in 1978. In eight seasons, he compiled a 154-77 record, winning more than 20 games in each of the final four years, per CalBears.com.
How will Cal fare next season?
Montgomery then took the head coaching job at Stanford thereafter, where the Cardinal became a force to be reckoned with. In Montgomery's final eight seasons at the helm, Stanford finished no worse than second in the Pac-10 and made the Final Four in 1998 (h/t Sports-Reference.com).
A two-year stint in the pros with the Golden State Warriors wasn't as fruitful for Montgomery, as he was dismissed after two losing seasons. However, it did lead to his opportunity with Cal, which he fully capitalized on.
Moving back to a familiar conference meant that Montgomery would face the Cardinal. Although he didn't quite replicate the success he had at Stanford, Montgomery still compiled a respectable record with the Golden Bears and led them to four NCAA tournament bids in six years.
This season was capped off by a two-point loss in the NIT quarterfinals to Southern Methodist, coached by the legendary Larry Brown. It wasn't an ideal way for Montgomery to end his career, but it doesn't take away from what he's accomplished. He ends his run with an overall record of 677-317, good for a gaudy .681 winning percentage.
Now California must move on to try to find a replacement for the coaching icon. That will prove difficult to do, as Montgomery has demonstrated his ability to build programs into winners regardless of the talent level he's had to work with. Any potential candidates at this point would be pure conjecture.
Dynamic guard Jabari Bird scored 20 points in the NIT finale, and he's only a freshman. Bird should be at the center of the Golden Bears' efforts to return to the NCAA tourney next season, along with junior forward David Kravish and sophomore Tyrone Wallace.
Whoever succeeds Montgomery will have to pull strong recruiting classes in the next two years to compensate for the losses of seniors Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. Cobbs averaged a team-high 15.6 points in 2013-14, while Solomon was one of the few players in the nation who averaged a double-double.