Former Cal assistant John Montgomery faces the Bears for the first time in the NCAA Tournament

For former Cal assistant John Montgomery, facing his old team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on the opposite sideline is an emotional roller coaster.

Hawaii assistant John Montgomery served as the California men's basketball team's director of basketball operations for three seasons under his father, Mike Montgomery, and then joined Dear Old Dad on the sidelines for the 2011-12 season as an assistant coach, serving in that position until his father retired following the 2013-14 season. In all, he spent six years with the Bears.

During his time in Berkeley, John Montgomery worked with the team's guards, including the only tandem Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Jorge Gutierrez, as well as Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. He helped to recruit players like Roger Moute a BidiasJabari BirdJordan MathewsSam Singer and Kameron Rooks, as well as senior point guard Tyrone Wallace. To say that he's familiar with most of Cal's roster is an understatement."Tyrone, I coached for two years, and the other guys, just one year, but I watched them a lot in high school," he said. "I know their tendencies. I know what we were trying to get them better at, but they've all gotten better. They've grown up. They've matured. Some of them are playing different positions, like Tyrone's playing the point. I also watch the guys a lot. I root for them. I really do. I stay in touch with some of them, and after games, I'll send them a text and say 'Congratulations on the win, nice job,' stuff like that. I try to watch them when I can."

But, when he saw that Hawaii -- his new home -- would be facing off with his old program, he wasn't exactly excited.

"Honestly, I wasn't very excited," Montgomery admitted. "I was very excited to see our name in the NCAA Tournament, and the joy you get from that, but I had mixed emotions playing Cal, because I root for those guys, and I want to see them succeed, and I have a great deal of respect for coach [Cuonzo] Martin and what they've done the last two years. Now, one of us has to win, and one of us has to lose, so I would rather have been cheering for them on another side and hoping we could get a win, as well. It will be really good to see those guys, and I've texted most of them and said, 'I look forward to seeing you,' and I've heard back from them. That part would be cool, but I wasn't thrilled, at first, to be honest with you."

There and Back Again

Since Montgomery left Cal with the hiring of Martin and his staff, he's been a bit of a vagabond. He spent his first post-Cal summer looking for an assistant job, but landed at San Francisco, as the Dons' director of basketball operations. 

"There were a couple things I was going for, but I thought staying in the City, and the WCC, would be a good spot," said the former Loyola Marymount guard. "They were coming off a good year the previous year."

Montgomery, though, wanted to get back on the floor, an opportunity his father originally gave him with the Bears. Montgomery spent July in Las Vegas around the AAU circuit, still looking. Then, he found what he thought was his next stop: St. Mary's, in Moraga, Calif. It was a fortuitous -- if brief -- stop. He was there for six weeks, but having played against St. Mary's and Bennet during his time at LMU, he and the longtime Gaels coach were already well-acquainted.

"It was never official, and it was the dead period in August, so it was really quiet," Montgomery said. "I was kind of around, in the middle of August there, and right when the coach left Hawaii, and that's when the conversation started. I was probably there five or six weeks, unofficially working on their staff."

In April of 2015, Eran Ganot -- at the time, an associate head coach under Randy Bennet for the Gaels -- was named the head coach at Hawaii. In December, the Warriors were placed on three years' probation when it was found that former coach Gib Arnold violated ethical conduct rules and "provided false or misleading information." Hawaii lost two scholarships over the next two years, and cannot play in the postseason during the 2016-17 academic year, and fined itself $10,000. The program also has to pay a penalty equaling 1 percent of the basketball program's budget over the previous three years.

"I think they've done a great job, as a program," Martin said of Hawaii. "You look at their background, they come from great programs. St. Mary's is a great program, so you see what they're doing at Hawaii."

In the midst of all that, Ganot took the helm. Montgomery was already well-acquainted with Ganot, as he searched for a permanent home.

"It was unofficial, but August 1, I was at St. Mary's, through about the middle of September," Montgomery said. "In late August, one of the assistants left St. Mary's and the connection with Eran and Randy Bennet in the month I was there, Randy thought I'd be a good fit for Hawaii, and so the conversation started. I ended up back in Hawaii the last week of September, two or three days before practice started."

While he was only, unofficially, on the Gaels' staff briefly, he did pay attention to the Bears win over St. Mary's in Berkeley. "I watched it live, obviously, because there was a vested interest on both ends," Montgomery said. "I was rooting for St. Mary's, as well. I really appreciated Randy really helping me get this job -- he's a great guy, a great mentor, and it was huge for him to help me get here, so obviously, I've been rooting for them all year -- and then Cal, watching my former players, so I watched that game live, and then we watched it again. We run a similar offense, so we're kind of seeing how Cal's going to guard some of the stuff that St. Mary's ran, and ways we can exploit them with that offense."

Once he got to Hawaii, Montgomery and the rest of the Warriors staff set about making the best of a bad situation, and flourished. The Warriors went 27-5, and defeated Mike Montgomery's alma mater, Long Beach State, during the Big West Tournament, in Long Beach, Calif. That win earned Hawaii a bid to the Tournament, and it was a bit of a nostalgia trip for Montgomery.

"It is kind of a funny story," he laughed. "We played at Long Beach, so I walked around the arena, just to check it out, and I got to see him and my grandfather, both in the [Long Beach State] Hall of Fame, there, so that was cool."

Mike Montgomery was inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame in 2002, following his father, Dr. Jack Montgomery, who was part of the inaugural class in 1986. Seeing their plaques, John Montgomery said, "was kind of cool."

"[Mike] was really happy for us," John Montgomery said. "He's been a big fan of Hawaii all year, and came out and watched about four games over Christmas, and I talked to him after every game, to get his advice and what-not. He was really excited for us, and just beating his alma mater was just another side of it. He was excited for our staff and our team."

"His dad's a legend," Martin said. "His dad coached this game for a long time, and did it at a high level, and had a tremendous amount of success. He's been around it for years, and every night his dad came home, he saw the ups and downs, the highs and lows, he's been in the trenches. He worked under his dad, so that can't do anything but rub off on you, so I'm happy for his success."

Scouting Report

Given the similarities in offenses between the Warriors and the Gaels -- similarities that Jordan Mathews noted during the Bears' press conference on Thursday -- and the Montgomery clan's familiarity with Cal's personnel, John Montgomery did find some soft spots. "I think you can attack some of their bigs on the ball screens," he said. "If you can move the ball side to side, they're not as loaded up. They're obviously really long and athletic, and they're a very good defensive team. It's going to be a tall task, no matter how you shake it, but there are certainly things I think we can do, and just watching all their games and talking to some Pac-12 foes, [there are] some things they thought we can exploit."

Once Montgomery got over the euphoria of making the NCAA Tournament, he called his dad, who's broadcasted multiple Cal games this season for the Pac-12 Network.

"He told me his opinions, and actually wrote down a couple pages for me, so that was cool," Montgomery said. "It's not anything that I didn't really already know, or you wouldn't know from watching film, but it was just his opinions on what he's seen throughout the year. It was very broad stuff, but it was good just to get a start."

But, Montgomery said, it's not as if he's starting from scratch.

"A lot of teams you're scouting, you're trying to figure out who their starters are, who their role players are, and I'd already known all that stuff," he said. "But, [Mike's notes] were a good start, obviously, right after Selection Sunday, hearing his thoughts ... It does help knowing their tendencies, and it helps me when I'm relaying the information to our guys, just what their strengths and weaknesses are." Top Stories