"It all came down to the issue of time, the difficulty of balancing a Cal coaching career that was absorbing an enormous amount of time - against the time needed for our life as a family. It was somewhere during the middle of this last season that I realized that the best balance I could achieve still wasn't leaving enough time for my family - so I decided I had to take a break from coaching while I reassess these issues in my life."
Jon is departing from the Cal coaching staff, formally ending his tenure sometime in the week or two. He leaves on good terms with everyone, not only because of his contributions to the coaching staff and Cal basketball, but also because of respect for his decision to put his family first.
Coach Braun says that he "...respects and supports Jon's decision - and certainly appreciates Jon's contributions over the past three years. "
I reminded Jon of the time he spent as an investment banker after ending his basketball-playing career. In my interview with him published earlier this year, Jon said that he was just not ready then for the suit & tie office work. When I mentioned it to him again, he laughed and agreed that it was not likely that he would head back that direction again.
"It is even possible that I could end up back in coaching again someday, there is so much about it that I enjoy, especially the mentoring aspect of working with these young men."
I asked Jon about rumors that have floated around about the job opening at UC Davis. He said that he had indeed taken a run at that because any head-coaching job opportunity had to be taken seriously. "In going through that process, I saw that there were many contenders for the job, and that there were others who had a better shot at it than I. In the end, my decision to put family first resurfaced and is now clearly the right thing for me to do."
Jon still bleeds blue and gold, and has nothing but praise for Ben Braun and the rest of the Cal staff. Cal fans will remember that Jon played on the Cal team that ended the infamous UCLA winning streak against the Bears - and that he has now helped coach several Cal teams to winning seasons and post-season tournaments.
I expressed my opinion to Jon that the Cal coaching staff had done an especially remarkable job this past season, pulling a team together out of a mixed bag of parts and talent. Jon admits that he too was worried at season start, but credits Ben Braun's flexibility in allowing his coaches to be very creative in the ways they choose to teach the game, and to address different issues on a player-by-player basis.
I asked Jon to recall some of his best experiences at Cal. He again mentioned that UCLA game where he participated as a player, but then turned to the mentoring aspect of being a coach. "What's interesting is that what stands out in memory is not necessarily the games - the wins and losses. It's also the road trips, and the hassle and hurdles you put up with as you travel as a basketball family. All the personal interactions, helping guys with their studies, or maybe just with talk about the issues of life. Thrown together like that, you really have a chance to get to know people, to bond. It's those kinds of things that will stand out in my mind forever. "
Thank you, Jon Wheeler, for all you've done for Cal Basketball.
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