Feature: Stanford Begins Process of Finding Coach

April 10, 2008

Courtesy: Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -New California coach Mike Montgomery made it clear Thursday he has no plans for an about-face to return to Stanford.

The job at Stanford, where Montgomery spent 18 years as head coach before leaving to coach the Golden State Warriors for two seasons, came open when fourth-year Cardinal coach Trent Johnson left for LSU earlier Thursday.

'I want to reiterate that I am the head basketball coach at the University of California and I am looking forward to the challenges of making Cal a contender in the Pac-10,' Montgomery said in a statement released by Cal. 'I had a great career at Stanford. I loved the place. It was great to me, but I am not a candidate for their coaching position and I'm not going to be a candidate. Trent and I are great friends and I wish him well. I am sure Stanford will find the right guy for that program.'

Johnson, the Pac-10 Coach of the Year this season, was an assistant under Montgomery at Stanford from 1996-99. Last week, Montgomery was hired by Stanford's Bay Area rival in Berkeley to replace fired Cal coach Ben Braun.

The departure of Johnson caught Stanford by surprise - and it apparently happened very quickly after Johnson met with LSU officials Sunday in San Antonio at the Final Four. In fact, Johnson joked in a phone interview Monday about having a rivalry with Montgomery.

'We're going to get into a fist fight the first time we play,' Johnson said. 'Who's going to win that one?'

Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said he had planned to sit down with Johnson as soon as the AD returned from Tampa, Fla., where the Cardinal women lost to Tennessee in the national championship game Tuesday.

The sides had a framework of a deal in place, with Johnson's five-year contract due to expire after next season. Johnson certainly grew tired of waiting for an extension, and had to listen considering LSU is expected to pay more than $1 million and nearly twice as much money as he earned at Stanford.

'I wish Trent well in his new position at Louisiana State. He did a tremendous job in leading our men's basketball program over the last four years and will be missed by the entire Stanford community,' Bowlsby said in a statement. 'There was mutual desire to have Trent remain at Stanford and based on our recent discussions, I had every reason to believe he was going to continue in his role as head men's basketball coach for the foreseeable future. Things change quickly sometimes and although the interest in LSU came as a surprise, I have no doubt that he will do well in the Southeastern Conference and at LSU.'

Stanford (28-8) finished second in the Pac-10 and lost to Texas in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 this season, reaching the regional semifinals for the first time since 2001. But the Cardinal learned last week that twin 7-footers Brook and Robin Lopez would declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft and forgo their final two years of college eligibility.

Johnson said during his introductory news conference at LSU on Thursday that he is confident his Stanford players will be fine.

'I'm at peace of mind when I know I've done the best possible job for those kids at that institution, and they understand,' Johnson said. 'Every place I've left, whether I've been an assistant coach or a head coach, it's been better. When I left Nevada, they didn't miss a beat. They won three WAC championships. I feel very comfortable that Stanford - they've been in the postseason 15 out of the last 16 seasons - there's nothing wrong there. There's a foundation, there's a history, there's a tradition there.'

A national search for the next Stanford coach will begin immediately, Bowlsby said.

'Trent's departure presents an exciting opportunity to aggressively pursue candidates who look forward to leading one the nation's most successful basketball programs at one of America's great universities,' Bowlsby said. 'The process to select a new head coach will begin immediately.'

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this story.

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