After three decades, Montgomery walks away

BERKELEY — As the 2014 NCAA tournament awaits the Final Four, fans of the California Golden Bears are left wondering who will be at the helm as they make their run for the title next season.

Head coach Mike Montgomery announced his retirement early Monday morning after meeting with athletic director Sandy Barbour.

Montgomery’s decision comes after a lackluster defeat in the quarterfinals on Wednesday to SMU in the NIT tournament. This season, Cal went 21-14, including a 10-8 record in Pac-12 play.

The 67-year-old Montgomery, who has held coaching positions at both the college and NBA level, finishes his career with an impressive 677-317 overall record and 130-73 record at Cal.

Montgomery began his career as a 27-year-old assistant at Boise State before moving onto the head job at Montana in 1977.

Montgomery coached 18 years (547-244) at Stanford from 1986 to 2004, guiding the Cardinal to ten straight NCAA tournament appearances and a Final Four in 1998.  His time with the Warriors was less fruitful, coaching Golden State to a 68-96 record from 2004 to 2006.

The Bears made the postseason for the sixth time under Montgomery, but failed to advance to the NCAA tournament due to a poor stretch in the later half of the season.

This season has had its share of problems for Cal, but Montgomery told the Mercury News his decision to retire came down to timing:

“It’s all positive. It’s all for the right reasons. I feel really good about my decision. I just think it’s time.”

Montgomery will go down as one of Cal’s most successful head coaches, making the NCAA tournament in four of his six years coaching the team after coming from Pac-12 rival Stanford.

Some of his accolades include being a four-time Pac-12 coach of the year, and winning the John R. Wooden “Legends of Coaching” Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

Montgomery had signed a contract extension in July 2012 through the 2015-16 season for Cal, but Montgomery decided to retire a year early. Montgomery ends his career third on the school’s all-time win list, and holds the record for the most wins at Cal within a six-year stretch.

Montgomery has had his ups and downs at Cal. In 2010 he led the team to their first league title in 50 years, going on to be beaten by Duke later in the NCAA tournament.

But during the 2012-13 season, he was publicly reprimanded by the Pac-12 for shoving Cal player Allen Crabbe during a game.

Montgomery has had his battles off the court as well, having battled bladder cancer before the start of the 2011-12 season.

There appears to be no clear choice for his replacement, though Montgomery offered words of praise for his top assistant, Travis DeCuire:

“We’ve got the guy in the room that should have this job, and that’s my assistant, Travis. I’m really hoping Sandy [Barbour] comes to that conclusion ultimately. We’re positioned very, very well.”

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