For those coaching on the left side of the country, though — and doing it meekly enough that their job security is challenged in the media and at booster club cocktail parties — news that Mike Montgomery had been forced out by the Golden State Warriors could not have been welcome.
His presence will hang over several coaches during the upcoming season. Sure, Montgomery is about as overbearing as a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt. But his image is a beast. To a college president, Montgomery is the perfect coach. Not ideal — perfect. He might as well have been created in an ivory tower full of Ph.Ds using PowerPoint, the Dewey Decimal System and a tube of DNA.
At Stanford, Montgomery led the Cardinal to four Pac-10 regular-season titles, 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, three No. 1 NCAA seeds and the 1998 Final Four. Before he arrived, Stanford had been to the tournament once in its history.
All that is astonishingly impressive, but Bob Huggins at least approximated those results at Cincinnati and Bob Knight won three NCAA championships at Indiana. And yet when those coaches became unemployed around the same time of year — Knight in 2000, Huggins last August — there were legitimate questions whether any major program would take on their public-image baggage. With Montgomery, university administrators will offer to help carry his furniture.
Montgomery does not have an outsized personality. And he won big despite Stanford's reluctance — no, refusal — to stretch admissions standards as eagerly as most universities that compete in Division I athletics.
Montgomery couldn't recruit players with three-digit SAT scores, so while others fished in the ocean, he cast his bait into a swimming hole and still pulled out prizes. Now, he also can flash NBA credentials at prospects. What more could a college prez want?
By long ago declining to offer a deserved extension to coach Ricardo Patton, Colorado also placed itself into this mix. CU is a bit removed from Montgomery's California home but close enough that the appeal of Boulder could help sell him on the move.
There will be others in this conversation. And one or two might be big enough that distance need not be an obstacle.
It's terribly difficult for coaches to succeed under the pressure of knowing they've entered the ultimate single-elimination tournament. Anyone in that circumstance this winter will have more competition than he needs.
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