California begins new era under Cuonzo Martin
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) New California coach Cuonzo Martin mingled in the hallway outside Haas Pavilion with former coach Mike Montgomery and a handful of NBA scouts, looking perfectly comfortable in his new surroundings.
Martin is keeping things simple early on with the Golden Bears: play hard for 40 minutes, play tough, physical defense without fouling, rebound as a team.
After leaving Tennessee last spring, Martin succeeds Montgomery, who retired after last season and has turned his attention to television work - 20 games for the Pac-12 Networks - and more time on the golf course.
''It was already a good program before I got here,'' Martin said. ''So they had a good foundation. Now, it's a matter of me implementing my style and what I want to do as a coach and helping those guys understand, and understand as fast as possible.''
Point guard Tyrone Wallace and forward David Kravish are encouraged by the program's progress through the transition.
''I played under Coach Montgomery for three years and learned a lot, had a good experience,'' Kravish said. ''The transition has been really great. Coach Martin and his staff have really brought a lot of energy and a lot of passion.''
While Cal's players seem to be finding their way through all the newness of the coaching staff and system, Martin isn't ready to make any bold predictions or guess just how bought in this bunch is until he sees them play in a game that counts.
Cal went 21-14 last season and made the postseason for the sixth time in as many years, but struggled late and missed out on a return trip to the NCAAs.
Here are some things to watch from Cal:
KRAVISH'S LAST HURRAH: Kravish has the most experience and expertise when it comes to the Cal program, and will be called upon to lead this team through the transition to a new coaching staff.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Kravish is chasing the Bears' career blocks record. He begins the season with 177 blocks, needing 30 to match the school mark. He swatted 73 shots last season to break his own single-season record.
Kravish put up career-bests of 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds while starting all 35 games as a junior.
Forward Dwight Tarwater joins the team as a graduate transfer after he played the last four seasons at Cornell and earned his degree. He is expected to be a key reserve off the bench.
NEW LEAGUE: Martin is well aware of the talent in the Pac-12, which sent six teams to the NCAA tournament last March and saw three advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Not that Martin is changing his style - he prefers an up-tempo one - as he begins out West in Berkeley.
''Coaching is coaching,'' he said. ''For me personally, my style is a level of toughness, defend, rebound, play hard, try to push the ball in transition if you have an opportunity. Execute what you're trying to do, defend, maximize your talent, put your guys in a situation to be successful.''
PUSHING THE BALL: Count on Martin's team to push the pace and the ball with a guard-oriented lineup.
Wallace is all for it.
''I'm excited for our backcourt,'' he said. ''We're going to try to make things happen with great guard play.''
LOSING ROOKS: Sophomore center Kameron Rooks underwent surgery during the summer to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and is expected to miss the season.
The 7-foot Rooks averaged 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 points in seven minutes as a freshman. He played in all but two of Cal's first 28 games before missing the final seven contests with a stress reaction in his left foot.
GUARD DEPTH: Cal's depth and experience at the guard spot took a hit when Ricky Kreklow transferred in April to spend his senior season at Creighton.
But Wallace is a returning junior, and sophomore Jabari Bird has made big strides since his impressive freshman season in which he averaged 8.3 points and 2.0 rebounds while making 12 starts among his 31 games played.
Wallace made just 43 of his team-leading 134 3-point attempts, and Martin would like to see him use his quickness and first step to attack the rim more regularly. Wallace scored 11.3 points per game as a sophomore while dishing out 95 assists.