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College basketball: California fires Wyking Jones as coach

College basketball: California fires Wyking Jones as coach
The Golden Bears finished last in the Pac-12 Conference under coach Wyking Jones the last two seasons. (Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

California expects its men's basketball program to return to winning at the highest level soon, and plans to find the right coach to lead that comeback.

The university fired basketball coach Wyking Jones on Sunday after Cal won just eight games in each of his two seasons.

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Athletic director Jim Knowlton announced the decision days after reports emerged that Jones had been told he would return to Cal for a third season. Knowlton met with Cal's players last week and then told Jones on Sunday.

Cal has hired a search firm to find its next head coach “ASAP,” Knowlton said, and he also has already formed his own short list of candidates he would like to bring in for interviews. Assistant Marty Wilson has agreed to serve as interim coach while the rest of the staff is under contract and Knowlton will let the next coach decide on who might be retained.

“At a school with the reputation and the academic acumen that Cal has, we need a teacher at heart,” Knowlton said on a conference call.

“We need somebody who is going to teach our young men and help them grow. We need a leader, a program-builder, someone who is going to be able to really assess where we are now and have the vision to look at what we can become, and we know we can become something special. We've been there before. He's going to have a commitment to winning at the elite level and we have to do it the right way. Here at Cal we demand that we do it the right way.”

Knowlton thanked Jones for his giving it “100 percent every day” in his dedication to the program and called the firing a difficult decision, crediting Jones for doing “so many things well,” such as “connecting with our student-athletes and really helping them in all parts of their lives, in the academic arena and growing as young men and certainly as basketball players.” Jones had three years remaining on a five-year, $5 million contract.

Some supporters and alums urged Knowlton to give Jones one more season, but in the end Knowlton said “I have to make good decisions for our program.”

Jones had a 16-47 record during his time at Cal. The Golden Bears followed up a school-record 16-game losing streak by winning the final three regular-season games this season.

Jones won just five conference games in his two seasons at Cal, finishing last in the Pac-12 both seasons.

Knowlton will begin a search for a replacement with former Cal star Jason Kidd, UC Irvine coach Russell Turner and Nevada coach Eric Musselman expected to be among the candidates. Musselman and Turner have been candidates at Cal in the past.

Tulane hires Hunter

Less than 48 hours after Georgia State was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Ron Hunter decided Sunday to leave the Panthers to become Tulane's coach.

Best known for tumbling to the court after his son hit a game-winning shot in the 2015 tournament, Hunter told The Associated Press that he had received other offers in the past but thought this was perhaps his final chance to make a move.

Georgia State's season ended with an 84-55 loss to Houston on Friday. Hunter met the following day with Tulane officials for four hours and quickly realized it was time to move on after coaching the Panthers for eight seasons.

“I wanted to sleep on it,” he said in a telephone interview. “When I woke up this morning, I knew.”

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