"Mad Dog" Returns...to Cal; Transfer U Overcomes Caitlin Clark
Stanford basketball icon Mark Madsen will be introduced today as head coach. Not at Stanford, but for that team across the Bay, the Cardinal's traditional rival, Cal Berkeley.
"Mad Dog" led Stanford to the NCAA Final Four in 1998 and later played on two NBA Championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers. He subsequently served as an assistant coach with the Lakers for six years.
Most recently, he's been the head coach at Utah Valley, where his teams have posted 20-9 and 28-9 records the last two years.
Madsen is no stranger to the East Bay, having grown up in Danville, my own adopted home town, where he starred for San Ramon Valley H.S.
Madsen joins another former Cardinal in Berkeley, Cal's women's basketball head coach Charmin Smith, who played and coached at Stanford.
But that's only half the story.
A few months ago Stanford hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor as its head football coach. And the Cardinal's head men's basketball coach, Jerod Haase, played basketball at Cal before transferring to Kansas.
So in the three most prominent sports (football, men's and women's basketball) at Stanford and Cal, four of the six head coaches played for the rival team across the Bay.
I can't remember anything similar occurring at any of the other traditional rivals on the West Coast (UCLA-USC, Oregon-Oregon State, Washington-Washington State, Arizona-Arizona State).
Opportunity Lost? We initially recommended a change in men's basketball coaching at Stanford two years ago, then again this year after the team's high expectations fizzled.
For Haase's teams to fail to advance to the NCAA Tournament seven straight years is, in a word, unacceptable, particularly given the talent he has recruited.
Madsen was reportedly ready, willing and able to come back to his alma mater as head coach, yet Athletic Director Bernard Muir didn't pull the trigger and decided to keep Haase on board for another season.
Doing so is tantamount to saying that mediocrity is fine and dandy at Stanford. Who needs March Madness? But that's not what fans and recruits want to hear.
And if Madsen succeeds, against all odds, at Cal, while Haase continues to flounder, it will be a very bitter pill for Cardinal fans to swallow.
The Caitlin Clark Show: On the women's side, this NCAA Tournament will be remembered as the Caitlin Clark Tourney. The Iowa star broke all kinds of records, including surpassing Sheryl Swoopes' record for total points in the tourney, while leading her team to the championship game.
There the Hawkeyes met an LSU team that couldn't miss. The Tigers shot 54% from the field and 65% from three-point range. This after making only 19% of their threes in the first five games of the tourney. They had a player, Jasmine Carson, come off the bench and score 21 points in the first half. She hadn't made a basket in the three previous games. They scored 102 points, most ever in an NCAA Tournament Championships game.
But this was Caitlin Clark's tournament. She established herself as the face of women's basketball and the best player in the college game, male or female. Consider her stats for the Elite Eight and Semi-Final games--41 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists vs. Louisville, then 41 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds vs. No. 1 ranked S. Carolina.
She had 30 points in the championship final, despite being in foul trouble most of the game. The whistle happy crew called questionable fouls on both teams throughout the game.
Late in the third quarter, one of the officials called a technical on Clark, her fourth foul, for flipping the ball behind her back instead of handing the ball to the official. Referee Lisa Jones said afterward that Clark had “failed to immediately pass the ball to the nearest official after the whistle was blown.”
Are you kidding me?
Transfer U: In many ways, the women's title game matched "Old School" vs. "New School" approaches to building a championship team.
All seven of Iowa's top players have played their entire career at Iowa.
LSU is a living testament to the potential of the transfer portal. Coach Kim Mulkey had nine new players this year, including:
- Final Four MVP Angel Reese, who transferred in from Maryland.
- the aforementioned Carson, who transferred to LSU after stints at Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
- Star guard Alexis Morris, who scored 19 of her 21 points in the second half, is at her fourth school. She started at Baylor, where she was kicked off the team by Mulkey (then at Baylor), transferred to Rutgers, then transferred to Texas A&M, and then to LSU.
- Star forward LaDazhia Williams, who transferred in after stints at South Carolina and Missouri.
- Starting guard Kateri Poole, who came by way of Ohio State.
None of these players came to LSU for the academics. They came to play for Mulkey and pursue a national title.
I guess I'm old fashioned, but I prefer the old school approach, where players go to school to get an education, develop skills over the course of their career and work to build something together with their teammates.
What's happening today makes a mockery of the term "student-athlete," as vagabond players swing by campuses to pick up a cup of coffee, some NIL money, more playing time, and (hopefully) a trophy.