Stanford Stands Pat; Cal Hits Bottom; Curry Amazes
Stanford has decided to retain men's basketball coach Jerod Haase for another year.
The fact that this decision was met with either mild disapproval or a collective yawn from most fans in the Bay Area says a lot about the relative importance of college basketball in these parts
The Cardinal finished 14-19 this season, 7-13 in Pac-12 play, and has failed to make the NCAA Tourney under Haase for seven straight years. It also ranks close to the bottom of the league in attendance.
On the plus side, the team played well over the last month and a half, finally discovering some offense, and has two top 50 recruits coming in--Andrej Stojakovic, generally rated No. 21 nationally, and Kanaan Carlyle, No. 41. So that may have saved Haase's job for another year.
And, hey, UCLA and USC will be leaving the Pac-12 after next season, erasing three or four Stanford losses per year, assuming there still is a Pac-12 in 2024.
Stojakovic, 6-6, 188 from Jesuit HS in Carmichael, is the son of Peta Stojakovic, an NBA All-Star and former first round pick from Serbia who averaged 17 points over his 14-year career.
Like his dad, the younger Stojakovic is considered a great three-point shooter. He chose Stanford over UCLA, Oregon, UConn, Duke, Texas and Kentucky. He's the 10th Stanford recruit to be named a McDonald's All-American, joining Harrison Ingram (2021), Ziaire Williams (2020), Reid Travis (2014), Brook and Robin Lopez (2006), Josh Childress (2001), Casey Jacobsen (1999) and Jarron and Jason Collins (1997)
Carlyle is playing for the Overtime Elite team this year, but has declined the salary to keep his college eligibility. A 6-2, 175 combo guard, he reportedly has all the tools and picked Stanford over Alabama, Kansas and Baylor.
Haase is an excellent recruiter, but he has yet to make the most of his talent. Over seven years, his record is 112-109 and his teams have finished in the top half of the Pac-12 only once. They tend to play hard, rebound and defend well, and turn the ball over a lot. They also can't seem to get a good shot at the end of close games.
Yet a lot of people I respect say Haase is both a good guy and a good coach.
My problem with the decision is, they keep score in basketball, and coaches are judged for the most part on wins and losses. If you don't fire a coach who has recruited a lot of talent but only wins half his games and can't make the NCAA Tourney for seven years, you're basically saying that's acceptable.
Maybe the rationale is that he's a good guy and runs a clean program, and a .500 team is the best we can do in the current corrupt world of college basketball.
If so, Stanford needs to make that criteria known. Then fans and recruits can make their own judgments as to whether they want to support--or be a part of--clean mediocrity.
Unfortunately, we were all spoiled by Mike Montgomery, who took Stanford to a No. 1 national ranking and the Final Four, and after a brief stint with the Warriors, won a league championship at Cal.
Cal's Struggles: Speaking of Cal, if Stanford fans want to feel better, they should check out the team across the Bay in Berkeley. The Cal Bears finished the year at 3-29, the worst record in school history, losing their last 16 games and generally being regarded as the worst team in the country. Coach Mark Fox was fired after going 38-87 in four seasons.
His successor will have to contend with a program that has become a national punchline, has limited resources and a lack of institutional support.
Not an easy task.
There are some good coaches available, including Joe Pasternack, a former Cal and Arizona assistant who's been a consistent 20-game winner at UC Santa Barbara, Tim Miles, who has worked wonders down the road at San Jose State, and Travis DeCuire, Montgomery's former assistant, who's maintained a solid program at Montana.
If one of those fellows can extract a commitment from the habitually indifferent Cal administration for more support relative to coaching salaries, travel and facilities, it may be worth taking the leap.
Curry Magic: Saturday night's Warriors-Bucks game was one of the most exciting and enjoyable I've seen in a long time. It was also another reminder of the incredible greatness of Stephen Curry.
The Warriors trailed by eight with 2:05 left, and the game seemed over.
But then Curry scored 11 points in the final two minutes, before blocking Jrue Holiday’s last-second shot to send the game to overtime.
He was just getting started. Curry scored nine more points in OT, singlehandedly leading the Warriors to a 125-116 win.
So Curry scored 20 of his 36 points in the game’s final seven minutes, on 7-for-8 shooting from the field. He did all this against Holiday, one of the NBA's best defenders, backed up at times by center Brook Lopez, who is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Remember Curry has just returned from a month on the sidelines with a knee injury. In four games since coming back he’s averaging 33 points on 51% shooting from the field, 48% from beyond the arc. All this from a guy who turns 35 tomorrow. Unbelievable.
Women's Bracket: While we're on the subject of greatness, note that the Stanford women were seeded No. 1 in the NCAA West Regional and Iowa, led by the best player in the game, Caitlin Clark, is No. 2.
If both teams advance to the Elite Eight, I might have to fly to Seattle to watch the Cardinal and the Hawkeyes in action.