Cuonzo Martin is taking Cal basketball out of its comfort zone
SAN FRANCISCO – California coach Cuonzo Martin built his reputation as a defensive menace, playing at Purdue for Hall of Fame coach Gene Keady. Those experiences built his philosophies as a coach, and in his first season at Berkeley will push those on his players with the same relentlessness.
At 2014-15 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day on Thursday, he was relentless even in explaining to the microphones how he is building the Golden Bears' new mentality.
"We got to get you out of your comfort zone to take you to levels where you want to be but you never thought you could be there because of the work you put in," the first-year Cal coach said. "But the other thing is play with a tremendous amount of confidence. I go back to my days as a ball player: I don't say Coach Keady took my confidence, but he was exposing me to different things.
"(In) the process ... you lose a little bit of confidence," Martin added. "So making those guys understand just because you get pushed to a certain place, don't ever lose your confidence."
David Kravish sat beside his new head coach at Media Day understanding what Martin means when he repeatedly mentioned pushing California players out of their comfort zones. A little-known, generously listed 200-pound recruit out of Lee's Summit, Mo., Kravish is now a 240-pound senior power forward who put up 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last year.
The pairing between coach and leader seems perfect to set Cal's new era into hyperdrive.
"I came into college from my recruitment knowing I was going to have to work really hard to play because I was undersized; I was going to get pushed around," Kravish said. "I had to have confidence in myself because they had confidence in me to bring me here. I just played hard, learned as much as I could from my teammates.
"Now that confidence has carried over to my 240‑pound self. Just keep playing hard, playing within myself."
Forward Richard Solomon's rebounding is gone, and so is point guard Justin Cobbs' heroics that included a dramatic play in an upset of then No.1-ranked Arizona.
"Last year, you could fall back on Justin Cobbs. You might make the shot, but he made the play to make the shot," Martin said.
So this year's Golden Bears have to be tough, defensive-minded and ready to make the plays left by the departures from 2013-14. Martin wants his players to be uncomfortable and confident, just like Cobbs was when he hit that contested fadeaway to beat the previously perfect, 21-0 Wildcats.