3-point stance: Top coaches nearing end

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
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1. Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s decision to extend his contract through the 2015-16 season is a good sign for the game. Montgomery is a cancer survivor and it was fair to speculate how much longer he wanted to coach. But Montgomery, who did Hall of Fame work in resurrecting Stanford basketball, has been rejuvenated and wants to continue to coach and keep Cal in the chase in the Pac-12. College basketball has been driven by the coaches and there is no need to chase out some of the top names anytime soon. Having coaches in their 60s or even 70s who are polarizing -- depending on the fan base -- like Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Steve Fisher and Montgomery only helps to strengthen the name recognition, let alone the quality of coaching, in the game. There will be a time, probably sooner than later, when a few start to retire. Possibly starting within two years when Calhoun’s contract runs out, or three years when Fisher’s is over, or with Montgomery in 2016. But there is no rush to push them out. No need for that type of change just yet in an era when the players aren’t in school long enough to become familiar to the mainstream fan.

2. Some coaches commit to playing a game in or near a player’s hometown when he signs. Roy Williams tends to take care of former assistants or friends by playing games in their building. Williams didn’t hesitate to play at UNC Asheville to create a frenzied atmosphere in a new arena. Williams was willing to take North Carolina to open up Auburn’s new building when Jeff Lebo was coach. But when Lebo was fired, the deal was off. Now Williams is playing at UAB, as part of a two-for-one deal, with former assistant Jerod Haase as head coach. The Tar Heels will play at UAB in 2013. UAB’s decision to fire Mike Davis was highly questionable after Davis consistently kept the Blazers in the mix in Conference USA, save last season’s fifth-place finish (still ended up 9-7), and they were in the NCAAs in 2011. But landing Haase has at least paid off in scheduling, since UNC would never have played in Birmingham had it not been for him. Now the onus is on Haase to make sure that’s not the only highlight.

3. Steve Fisher has two games left to schedule next season. And he’s trying to see if he can jam in one of them prior to the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Dec. 22-25 after grades are posted in the first semester on Dec. 17. Fisher is hoping that Virginia transfer James Johnson can get a game in before the trip to Hawaii. Arizona and San Diego State are the teams to beat in Hawaii (the others are Hawaii, Miami, Ole Miss, San Francisco, Indiana State and East Tennessee State). The Aztecs already have a formidable, at-large type schedule with Syracuse in San Diego on a navy base, UCLA in Anaheim, at USC and a road game at Missouri State.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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