Mike Montgomery Jan. 13 Press Conference Quotes

Jan. 13, 2009

BERKELEY - Press Conference Video: Mike Montgomery | Press Conference Video: Players

The following are quotes from California head coach Mike Montgomery at his weekly press conference with Bay Area media. The Golden Bears travel to Stanford on Sat., Jan. 17, to play the Cardinal at 5:00 p.m.

On what it will be like to return to Stanford as California's head coach:
Don't know - haven't been there yet. Honestly, it's a tough road game. And other than the fact that you walk back in and you see a lot of people that you know, I don't see too much more. None of these kids on my team played against me, none of the kids on Stanford's team that I coached, either, so its history. We know that we need to prepare for a tough opponent and a hard road game.

On the aftermath of the Washington win:
The thing that was fun was just the feeling in the locker room after the game. The kids were just jumping up and down and hugging each other. It was just such an implausible end to a game and it's just fun to watch the kids enjoy themselves like that. That's what's supposed to happen occasionally. And they just really enjoyed it. They fought, they hung in there, we had a buddy in foul trouble and we get a break or two, obviously. You just sit back as a coach and watch the kids really having a feeling that you are supposed to get from athletics.

On whether that enjoyment reaffirms his decision to return to college coaching:
Yeah. There was a time when I realized that this was really about the kids. This really is their team and their experience and I'm probably OK with what I've done and where I've gone. These kids have feelings about each other, they work hard every day. And then when you get into the locker room and they are just jumping up and down and all over each other.

On the difference between this season's and last season's Cal team:
The style that we're playing fits these kids pretty well, for whatever reason. We were able to fix the things that they maybe needed help on or needed to get better in. We're not a great defensive team, but we're not bad. We've been able to combine some of the skills that we have offensively \with a little bit of tenacity defensively, and it's kind of played and helped us a lot. We've not blown people out, and we've been in a lot of close games, but they really hung in there. But allowing Jerome [Randle], Patrick [Christopher], those guys some freedom to be themselves, yet give them a blueprint of structure to know what they can do. I think the kids have bought into what we're trying to do. They've enjoyed each other, by and large everyone trusts each other. It's just been a combination of things that has really helped us.

On whether players like Jordan Wilkes, Harper Kamp and Theo Robertson have contributed more than he expected:
I've been pleased with Jordan and I've been really happy for him. He's a great kid and his body, in some ways, has let him down. He's got physical issues that he's had to deal with his whole career but he's very steady, he understands the game, he's a great teammate. Harper, we didn't even know if we were going to have him this season. He's been gold, especially in the defensive end late in games because he's so smart. But there was a time, a month into the season where he came in and said, 'Coach I'm not giving you much.' There was a thought of trying to not play. That's been a very pleasant surprise. Theo took a long time to rehab himself. He was going to come back and make sure that he was ready to go. We saw no signs that Theo's health wasn't going to be there. He's consistently gotten better as he's gotten more comfortable with what he can do. He's been very valuable.

On whether any of his Stanford teams reminds him of this Cal team:
Not really because we always had big guys. I cannot think of a single time when we were not big-guy oriented and heavy. We always had a security blanket of big guys. We always had big guys and that was kind of our trademark. We didn't start off the year with that as what we felt was our strength. It turns out that we've been adequate at the bigs. Kamp has been good defensively. Jamal has had some good games, Jordan has been very steady for us, and we've gotten some mileage out of that. But I really don't see any team that I could compare this to that way.

On Cal's toughness - and luck - against Washington:
That game only surprised me from the standpoint that I had Theo guarding their center. And Patrick was guarding a 6-7 wing player and had four fouls for 20 minutes. We had Jorge [Gutierrez], a freshman, guarding the guy who had the biggest impact out there up until that point, Isaiah Thomas, and they started going away from him. From that standpoint, there is always a certain amount of luck involved. We didn't exactly plan to have Patrick not draw iron on that last shot and have D.J. [Seeley] standing there to catch it. There's always luck involved in it.

On the lessons continuing to be learned by the team following the UW and WSU road wins:
I think that they are starting to understand that you never want to give up; you just want to hang in there and see what happens. We do have the ability to score some points. And that always helps you to know that you can go get a flurry or a three, or you could get a bunch of points. I think they are starting to understand that it probably starts at the defensive end. The problem that we had with Washington, obviously, was that we were defending them OK, but even though we outrebounded them, they weren't coming clean. Yes, there seems to be a little bit of a development of a toughness factor. We really have not faced that much adversity this season, so although we were down 11 in the second half, we were able to bounce back. There are going to be a lot of things yet to come, to find out where we are and what we need to do.

On what he expects from his reception at Stanford:
I don't know. I can think of 18 years of Cal coming into Maples. The crowd was not overly receptive. There will be seven thousand people in there and they're pretty much going to treat Cal as they've always treated Cal. The fans might have a dilemma. They may be stuck between how loud to boo or you may get courtsey claps and then go straight to boos.

On how he will address the issue of his return to Maples Pavilion with the Bears:
This is not about me. This is about our basketball team and about their basketball team. The rest is just peripheral stuff. This is going to be a tough, tough road matchup against a team that has played extremely well at home, against a team that provides a little bit of a different challenge because they are they are quick and athletic and they play four out. So we're going to have to figure out a way to try and match up with that. I'll tell [my team], 'Guys, look, we have a job to do here, and I appreciate your thought process [regarding his return], but let's get out there and do the best that we can.' It would be a heck of a win for us.

On whether his TV work has helped in preparation for any of his games this season:
No, not really. You look at games differently. One of the things that might have helped, although it does not seem to be manifesting itself in games, is that you watch the officials [while working as a television commentator]and the calls don't look so bad as they did in the game [as a coach]. You would watch coaches and look and say, 'What is he so upset about? That was a decent call. I don't know what else you would have called.'

On whether the Bears' Top 25 national ranking is a boost for the program:
I think that you are trying to gain respect for your program, and the only way to gain respect is to win. You can complain all you want about little things. If you win, people are going to come and they are going to talk about you. And so, in the long run it doesn't mean very much, but kids out across the country look at it as Cal is a nationally ranked basketball school. It helps your recruiting and it helps with everything. The thing that I obviously understand, having been doing this for so long, is how flimsy and how artificial rankings are. I know how they happen, I know how it works. But just having others acknowledge your program, having others acknowledge the players in your program, I think it means something to those kids. You have to get mentioned at some point, that's what the goal is. If we lose, we understand that we won't be ranked, but we'll be in the mix. Right now we have earned the right to be in the mix.

On his comfort level coaching a perimeter-oriented team:
It's fun. All those years we walked it up and played in the 30s over there across the Bay, that was fun. Because I thought that we were supposed to win. All you do is coach and give your kids a chance to win. And then they're going to have to go out there and do it. Put them in a situation where they have to go in there and make plays and win, and then you go and do it. These kids have been very responsive, they are fun to be around, they want to compete and they want to win. I probably misread our inside people a little bit, I probably have not done as good a job at getting the ball to the post guys as we need to. And we're trying to make that up, slowly but surely. But we have given the kids the freedom to make decisions and they make pretty good ones.

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