BERKELEY, Calif. -- Mike Montgomery knows his surprising move across San Francisco Bay won't sit well with certain fans of both Stanford and California. He's now a traitor to some Cardinal supporters, and he's still a carpetbagging enemy to other Golden Bears.
But Cal's new basketball coach thinks a few victories should resolve even the oldest grudges in Berkeley, where he's in charge of raising the Bears to the same heights he reached at Stanford.
Wearing a blue shirt and gold tie Saturday after 18 years in Cardinal red, the veteran coach agreed to a six-year contract at Cal nearly four years after he left Stanford for a dismal stint with the Golden State Warriors. Montgomery won 393 games and four Pac-10 titles at Stanford, and he sees no reason the Cardinal's archrivals can't enjoy the same success.
"I'm sure when I show up next year at Maples [Pavilion], they won't have the welcome wagon out," said Montgomery, who led the Cardinal to 12 NCAA tournaments and the 1998 Final Four. "But that's part of the experience. ... You will never get me to say anything bad about Stanford. I love the place. They were great to me, and now I'm here."
Montgomery replaces Ben Braun, who was fired last week after 12 mostly unsuccessful years at Cal, including a ninth-place finish in the Pac-10 this season. After Montgomery left Stanford for his NBA dalliance, the school hired former Montgomery assistant Trent Johnson, who led the Cardinal to a high national ranking and the third round of the NCAA tournament this season.
The Warriors abruptly replaced Montgomery with Don Nelson in August 2006 after two losing seasons. Montgomery has been a broadcaster and an assistant to Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby since then, but he was eager to return to college coaching, interviewing for at least two jobs before agreeing to join Cal on Friday.
"I think I belong in college basketball," said Montgomery, who also coached eight successful years at Montana before going to Stanford in 1986. "I think I proved that. Maybe I would have liked a little longer to prove it."
Montgomery already knows his son, John, an assistant at Furman, will be on his coaching staff. He plans to fill out the rest of his bench when he returns from the Final Four on Tuesday.
He'll also turn his attention to his roster, jumping into spring recruiting and sounding out Ryan Anderson, Cal's leading scorer and rebounder, who declared his eligibility for the NBA draft on Thursday. Anderson hasn't hired an agent, and Montgomery hopes he'll return for his junior year.
"Ryan is staying at my house," Montgomery cracked. "We've moved out of the master bedroom, and he's in there. ... I know everybody wants to go to the league. I really do think it should be later than sooner for most of them, but we'll see what develops."
Montgomery and his wife, Sarah, also plan to move from their longtime home in Menlo Park, near the Stanford campus, to a place in the East Bay. Montgomery lived in a townhouse in Alameda while he coached the Warriors, avoiding the daily grind of bridge traffic across the Bay.
A move to the Oakland Hills could help ingratiate him with the Cal fans who grew to despise Montgomery's sometimes haughty demeanor and perennial success at formerly downtrodden Stanford.
"The Cal family is quite acquainted with his experience, skills and talents," said Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour, who wasn't at the school during Montgomery's tenure at Stanford. "Much will be said about his longstanding ties with our rival, Stanford. Frankly, I am far more concerned with the fact that his daughter [Anne] played volleyball at USC than I am him having a minor affiliation with that school across the Bay."
Jerome Randle, Cal's sophomore point guard, immediately thought of Brevin Knight when he heard Montgomery would be his new coach. Knight, a 5-foot-10 guard who became a Stanford star and an NBA veteran currently with the Los Angeles Clippers, is the same size as Randle.
"If he could make it, maybe I could make it, too," Randle said. "[Montgomery] knows how to win basketball games. He's had a lot of success, and we're willing to do what it takes to go out and have success."
Cal reached the second round of the NIT last month, capping a disappointing season for a team with NCAA tournament aspirations. The Bears finished higher than eighth in the Pac-10 just once in the last four years, prompting Braun's dismissal.
Braun and Montgomery are good friends, so the new coach had nothing bad to say about his predecessor. He knows he's already made enough enemies with his remarkable switch in allegiances.
"There's going to be people that don't like me on both sides of the Bay," Montgomery said. "Sorry. What do you want me to do?"