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Cal Golden Bears 2014-15 Season Grades


The Cal Golden Bears had a lot of top end talent coming into this season. How did they fare in head coach Cuonzo Martin’s first year?

A fresh start is something beautiful for a lot of college basketball programs. Sometimes a change in coaches can change the total outlook of a team with a new voice and a new message to send to the players.

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The Cal Golden Bears managed to get former Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin to stalk the sidelines and take over a top-heavy team with a lot of talent. After Cal head coach Mike Montgomery retired from coaching after six years with the Golden Bears, Martin looked to be the man who could take over and inject some youthful exuberance into the position.

The first year of any new coach’s tenure is going to be a little strange. A first year coach is inheriting players that do not necessarily fit the system that they are trying run and the players themselves also have to adjust to new demands from a coach they have never worked with before.

In this season of coaching on the fly, how did Cuonzo Martin and his band of Golden Bears do against the Pac-12 and the rest of the nation?

March 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin (far right) instructs his team against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Wildcats defeated the Golden Bears 73-51. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Season

Things started off great for Cal as it usually does for major schools during their nonconference schedule. The Golden Bears won 10 of their first 11 games, including a big win against Syracuse in late November. Then it all started falling apart.

Cal went on a stretch where they lost six of their first seven games during conference play. That long string of failure would make it impossible for Cuonzo Martin to salvage any sort of team success during the regular season.

The Golden Bears would win their next four games, but close out the season losing five of their last six games, finishing eighth in the Pac-12 standings. They managed to win against Washington State in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament, but fell to the mighty Arizona Wildcats in the second round, mercifully ending their up and down season.

Grade: D+

Mar 5, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; California Golden Bears guard Jordan Mathews (24), guard Jabari Bird (23), guard Brandon Chauca (10), forward David Kravish (45) and guard Tyrone Wallace (3) stand on the court during the second half against the Arizona Wildcats at McKale Center. Arizona won 99-60. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Players

Interestingly enough, despite having a bad season record wise, the Cal Golden Bears showed they had a very talented core group of players. Their bench may not have produced a significant amount, but at least their starters carried the load for the team.

Senior forward David Kravish had a hard time holding down the middle of the paint without his frontcourt teammate Richard Solomon (who graduated the previous year) to help him out, but he did what he could, contributing 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Sophomore guards Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews also built off of their solid freshman years, increasing their scoring output to 10.5 and 13.6 points per game respectively.

One player who definitely stepped up his game was junior guard Tyrone Wallace, who began producing for Cal immediately after they lost Justin Cobbs to graduation. Wallace proved to be a magnificent scorer and playmaker, averaging 17.1 points and 4.0 assists per game.

The rest of the Golden Bears roster is forgettable. Sam Singer led bench scorers with 4.4 points and senior forward Dwight Tarwater chipped in 3.4 points.

It’s a shame really that the starters could put up some good numbers, but never really be able to get it together on the floor to win consistently. Learning a new system definitely makes it more difficult.

Grade: B-

March 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin instructs against the Arizona Wildcats during the first half in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Coach

Cuonzo Martin is in a tough situation. As stated earlier, he has a roster that he did not hand pick himself in a conference that he has never competed in before. Understandably there will be some growing pains for the new guy.

In his first year as Cal head coach, Martin was unable to get his players to play together on offense. The team ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in terms of assists, which made it difficult for them to score. By the end of the season, the Golden Bears put up 65.2 points per game – 11th in the Pac-12.

They did not fare too well on defense either, giving up 72.9 points per game and allowing teams to shoot 37.8 percent from three-point range. Martin may be a breath of fresh air, but he still has a long way to go in terms of coaching.

Grade: C-

Feb 12, 2015; Boulder, CO, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts late in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center. The Golden Bears defeated the Buffaloes 68-61. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Spor

Final Grade: C-

Put in an extraordinary situation where they had to adjust to one another everyday, Martin and the Cal Golden Bears were unable to mesh consistently to succeed at a high level. Despite their talent and a weaker Pac-12 Conference, they were only able to amass seven wins during conference play.

Fortunately for Martin, shedding the “new guy” title will be easier after bringing in two five-star recruits in Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown for the upcoming season. Looks like that fresh approach is going to help the Cal Golden Bears next season.

Next: UCLA Bruins 2014-15 Season Grades

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