Cal men’s basketball won’t return to its former glory overnight. The journey back to prominence will be a long and arduous one, and new head coach Mark Fox is all in on steering the ship.
“Commitment is the starting line for accomplishment, and I believe in the commitment that we have in place,” Fox said.
The next chapter of Cal men’s basketball has officially begun, as Fox was introduced as the new head coach of Cal men’s basketball Monday morning at center court of Haas Pavilion in front of athletes, coaches and alumni alike.
“I really think that this is the beginning of a new era,” said Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton. “This is an opportunity for us to really begin that journey to exceptional.”During the search process, Cal worked with Todd Turner and the executive search firm Collegiate Sports Associates, which helped vet numerous candidates. Knowlton said there was a lot of interest in the job, and Cal initially had a pool of 40 candidates, but Fox emerged as the “absolute exceptional selection.”
“He proved in his interview — I put him through a couple hours worth — that this place that we call Cal, where student-athletes are first, where academics is premium, fit who he was all about to a T,” Knowlton said.
Throughout the course of the press conference, Fox shed some light on the blueprint for his tenure at Cal, saying he expects his team to be committed in three areas: academic success, athletic performance and citizenship.
Fox certainly has a track record when it comes to academic success. In his opening remarks, Fox detailed that during his time at Georgia, the program’s Academic Progress Rate improved from 946 to 995 — 1,000 being a perfect score — and the graduation rate improved from 36 percent to 100 percent.
Regarding the matter of wins and losses, Fox made it clear that he does not want to box in what this team can potentially achieve during his tenure.
“I don’t want to put a ceiling on what we can accomplish,” Fox said. “I think that restricts the dreams of these young people.”
At the time of the press conference, Fox said he had yet to formally meet with the team but planned to do so Monday afternoon. Fox also noted that despite receiving about 1,200 text messages Friday, the day he was hired, he spoke with just about every returning player and the incoming class.
Fox, 50, inherits a program that has struggled mightily in recent years. Under former head coach Wyking Jones, whose time as head coach lasted a mere two seasons, Cal had a cumulative record of 16-47, finished in last place in the Pac-12 in back-to-back seasons and saw numerous players transfer.
“We’re going to take a step forward,” Fox said. “We want to get a little bit better every day, which will allow us to get better every week, every month and every year, and if we can do that and stay with some forward momentum, I’m extremely excited about the possibilities of this program.”Fox did not coach last season but brings 14 seasons of head coaching and 12 seasons of assistant coaching experience at numerous programs.
At Georgia, Fox led the Bulldogs to a cumulative 163-133 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances over nine seasons.
Before his time in Athens, Fox spent five seasons as head coach at Nevada, where the Wolf Pack went 123-43 and made three NCAA Tournament appearances. Fox also won three consecutive Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards from 2005 to 2007.
In addition to his seasons at Nevada and Georgia, Fox was an assistant coach for USA Basketball under Jeff Van Gundy for the World Cup qualifying team and a guest assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League team. Fox has worked with a slew of notable coaches, including Gregg Popovich, Brad Stevens, Mike Budenholzer and Geno Auriemma, among others.