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Gone but likely to be back

Mike Montgomery walked into Gersten Pavilion last week wearing jeans, shook hands with the officials and took a seat in the stands with his wife and daughter.

Montgomery’s son, John, plays for Loyola Marymount, and the chance to watch his senior season frequently lures the former Stanford coach whose lucrative stint in the NBA lasted two seasons.

There’s no particular reason to feel sorry for Montgomery, who was bought out with two years left on a four-year, $10-million contract with the Golden State Warriors.

He’s looking tan, playing golf a couple of times a week and doing some color commentary for TV -- he’ll work the USC-California game Saturday for Comcast SportsNet in Northern California.

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Some days, he rides his bike from his home in Menlo Park to watch from the stands as his former assistant Trent Johnson runs a Stanford practice.

“I try to get in a workout,” said Montgomery, who has gym privileges on campus. “I’m officially retired from the university.”

He made out well financially, but at 59, Montgomery probably isn’t really retired.

“I’ve got to do something,” he said. “I can’t just hang out.”

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Any thought anyone had that Montgomery might be a candidate for his own former assistant Ernie Kent’s job at Oregon or Johnson’s job at Stanford has probably been squelched by their recent success, if not sheer loyalty.

But Montgomery was getting feelers from college programs while he was still with Golden State, and they’re not going to stop checking with him, even while their own coaches are still employed.

“I told people when they inquired, ‘I don’t want to be in the middle of your decision,’ ” he said. “Any decision you make, you have to make without me.”

People might see him as just another college guy who didn’t make it in the NBA, but Montgomery’s identical 34-48 records in two seasons weren’t so bad for a rookie with the team he had.

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His winning percentage was 41.5%

At 19-23, Golden State’s Don Nelson -- the second-winningest coach in NBA history -- is at 45.2%.

“There are a lot of bad jobs, a lot of hard jobs,” Montgomery said. “Not winning, with an 82-game season, is tough. Losing brings out the worst in everybody.”

As for the amusing coincidence that one-time UCLA nemesis Baron Davis ended up part of his undoing, Montgomery grinned and shrugged.

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“He’s a good player,” he said.

Contrary to what some might think, Montgomery didn’t come away disgusted with the NBA.

“There are a lot of good people in the NBA,” he said. “It’s the big boys. It’s for grown-ups.”

If he had it to do again, he says he likes to think he could do better.

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“There’s a learning curve you have to go through,” he said. “I think I could have been tougher, more emphatic about what I thought we needed to do to win. There’s so much information. People would say, ‘This is the NBA, you can’t do this, you’ve got to do that.’ I probably should have said, ‘This is how we’re going to win basketball games.’

“The Xs and O’s, that stuff wasn’t overwhelming. Dealing with people, everything is nuances about how they view themselves and what they’re about.”

He had it wired at Stanford, but he gave it up, leaving little undone except hoisting a national championship banner.

“I don’t think you can look back. How many guys even have a chance to coach in the NBA?” Montgomery said. “I got a chance to do everything. I went to the Final Four.”

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He might get a chance to be an NBA assistant, but it’s the colleges who will be calling.

Whether Montgomery would be willing to move and start over, who is to say?

“That’s not a foregone conclusion in any way, shape or form,” he said.

But when the next athletic director calls, Montgomery might have a tip on a promising young assistant.

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John would like to coach, and his father says he is showing a lot of aptitude.

“I tried to talk him out of it. It’s a tough business,” Montgomery said. “Obviously it was very good to me. I was lucky. You don’t often get to stay in one place for 18 years.”

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Summer shift

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Sonny Vaccaro, the basketball impresario who created the lucrative shoe-company endorsements for coaches and players that fueled the growth of basketball at every level, is stepping away to speak his mind about the world he helped create.

“It’s always been ‘the controversial Sonny Vaccaro’ because I’ve been paid by the shoe companies,” said Vaccaro, 67.

Vaccaro -- who has worked for Nike, Adidas and Reebok in a more than 30-year career -- no longer works for any shoe company and says he will not run his trademark ABCD Camp in New Jersey or his Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas this summer.

He plans to write a book and make speaking appearances, and continue working to create basketball academies he envisions where high school prodigies might attend class at elite established schools but play for their own teams.

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Vaccaro says he believes summer basketball has been painted with too broad a brush, and that critics overlook the opportunities camps and tournaments created for players who might otherwise not have received scholarships.

“Summer basketball is not the cause of us losing in the Olympics and all that,” Vaccaro said.

You don’t have to know Vaccaro very well to guess the NCAA and big-time college programs will be skewered for hypocrisy if he writes a book.

“They take the money on this huge level, but they’re purists who would not allow kids to get shoes and team sponsors and travel,” he said.

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But don’t hold your breath for Vaccaro to spur any NCAA investigations.

“I don’t [care] who cheats and who doesn’t cheat,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, 75% do in some way, shape or form.”

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What’s his hang-up?

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Texas Tech Coach Bob Knight hung up on reporters for the second time this season Monday, abruptly ending his session on the Big 12 Conference’s weekly call.

Before the Pete Newell Challenge in December, Knight hung up when a reporter repeatedly asked about his legacy.

This time, it was a follow-up to a question about Texas Tech player Darryl Dora’s playing time.

“What’s it like to be in your doghouse?” a reporter asked.

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Seconds later, everyone knew.

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robyn.norwood@latimes.com

*

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Times rankings

Robyn Norwood’s college basketball top 25:

1 FLORIDA

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(17-2) Just put the ball in the basket: Gators shoot 54.7% from the field.

2 UCLA

(17-1) The Bruins, not Gators, are No. 1 in the RPI.

3 WISCONSIN

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(19-1) One of three one-loss teams left, along with UCLA and Oregon.

4 NORTH CAROLINA

(17-2) Tar Heels lead the nation in rebounding margin at 10.8.

5 OHIO STATE

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(16-3) Happy Birthday: Greg Oden turned 19 on Monday.

6 OREGON

(18-1) Ducks’ next four: at Washington, at Washington State, at UCLA, at USC.

7 TEXAS A&M;

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(16-2) Held Oklahoma State to 49 points after Cowboys had 105 in triple OT.

8 KANSAS

(16-3) Talented Jayhawks have some traits of early NCAA upset victim again.

9 MARQUETTE

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(17-4) Golden Eagles are 4-1 against ranked teams.

10 OKLAHOMA ST.

(17-3) Texas game had to take something out of Cowboys.

11 PITTSBURGH

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(17-3) Losses are to Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Marquette.

12 DUKE

(16-3) Seriously: Coach K podcasting five days a week on iTunes.

13 MEMPHIS

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(15-3) Losses to Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Arizona.

14 AIR FORCE

(19-2) Falcons held TCU to five baskets in the first half.

15 WASHINGTON ST.

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(16-3) Tony Bennett for Pac-10 coach of the year.

16 BUTLER

(17-2) A.J. Graves back after losing wisdom teeth, and so is Butler.

17 NEVADA

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(17-2) An 18-game win streak against WAC teams ended at New Mexico State.

18 VIRGINIA TECH

(15-5) How many times can we say it? Senior guards.

19 CLEMSON

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(18-2) Tigers’ steal-artists could be rough on Duke backcourt.

20 USC

(15-5) Floyd giving Henry Bibby credit for recruiting Stewart, Pruitt and Young.

21 ARIZONA

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(13-5) Somebody tell ‘Zona: You have to play defense in the Pac-10 now.

22 LSU

(13-5) The Final Four seems like it was a long time ago.

23 NOTRE DAME

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(16-4) Lost McAlarney to suspension Monday and to St. John’s on Tuesday.

24 ALABAMA

(15-4) Tide’s SEC road losses are by an average of 24 points a game.

25 VANDERNOVA We almost -- but can’t quite -- believe in Vanderbilt or Villanova.

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