Commentary: Braun and the Aftermath

Known as a defense-first coach, it's ironic that the season that ultimately led to Ben Braun's dismissal was marked by consistently poor defense. The 2007-08 California men's basketball team couldn't guard anybody. Braun put together the best offensive team of his tenure, but they were undone by their failings at the defensive end.

The numbers don't lie. The Bears averaged 76.4 points per game, and ranked an impressive 17th in adjusted offensive efficiency. However, they were 145th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their effective defensive fieldgoal percentage was 52%, 255th out of 341 Division 1 teams. (Effective FG% is adjusted for three point shots: the formula is field goals made plus 0.5 X three pointers made divided by field goals attempted.)

Braun was fired because he didn't win enough games. Sandy Barbour made that very clear in the press conference last Wednesday - so perhaps in that context it's also the right time to address some misconceptions about Cal's former coach.

Some have said:

  • Ben Braun accepted mediocrity, and didn't care about winning.

    Actually, I would describe Braun as intensely competitive. Anyone who ever looked at his face after a loss would know it. Last year he walked pass me after another loss at home marked by more injuries and said, "When's it going to stop?" There was real pain in his voice.

  • The players didn't like him.

    Some did, some didn't. That's true of every coach in every sport. I played a sport in college, and I hated my coach. Other guys on the team liked him. We've all read about how Lou Campanelli was a martinet, and the players couldn't stand him. Not all the players felt that way. Jon Wheeler loved playing for Campanelli, and still speaks fondly of him.

  • Braun never accepted responsibility and blamed the players.

    This one is totally unfair. Whenever a quote appeared in the papers about a player, someone would make this charge. When those of us in the media would ask a question about a specific play in a game, Braun would answer. After the ASU game at Haas, I asked him what happened on Ty Abbott's game tying three, and he said that DeVon Hardin was supposed to switch on the screen. It's not like football, where the coach can always say he needs to look at the game film. Braun couldn't very well say, "I don't know what happened."

  • Braun was a control freak.

    Actually, I think all coaches at this level are control freaks. I do think that Braun would have benefited from less concern about what was written and said about him. It certainly would have made the media's job a lot easier, and probably more enjoyable.

As they say, that's all water under the bridge, and it is time to move on. The good news is that there's a real opportunity to energize the program. Assuming the report from ESPN.com is true that the job has already been offered to Jamie Dixon, it seems Braun's buyout will not be an impediment to the search. The money must be available. Dixon said no, but someone of quality will say yes. My feeling is that the next coach should be someone who has been successful in a major conference. The majority of coaches who have come into the Pac-10 in recent years (Howland, Floyd, Sendek) won in one of the power leagues.

The comments by Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (cited by this website here) highlighted the need for the next coach to have a more demanding, intense personality. The young men on this team are outstanding. They're "nice kids," but perhaps too nice.

I'm not sure whether a coach can instill competitive fire in kids who don't already have it within themselves, but it's sure worth the try. I'm not suggesting a screamer, but rather someone like a Howland or a Dixon who will challenge the players and demonstrate a fiery demeanor at practice and on the sideline.

We'll all know more about the national perception of the Cal program from the results of the search.

Some fans may have overstated the potential at Cal, particularly by comparison to football. Almost the only relationship between football and basketball is that they are both played with a ball.

Success in a revenue sport leads to a higher profile for the school, of course, but it doesn't mean that other sports will rise to that level. If football success translated to basketball success, Penn State would have a long history of winning basketball and so would Miami.

In basketball, Cal's stature as a great academic university might even be more of a hindrance than a help. Football players, even the best, sign up for at least three years. The best basketball players are thinking one-and-done, and a light academic load is more attractive. For example, Greg Oden was taking two courses during last season at Ohio State, and one of those was History of Rock 'n Roll.

Compounding this, Cal is absolutely committed to doing it the right way. And that simply means Cal cannot compete with the SEC or other schools with unlimited recruiting budgets (wink, wink). Cal has been down that road with Todd Bozeman, and they are not going there again.

I believe there will be some roster changes. There's no guarantee now that recruits Garrett Sim and D.J. Seeley will remain committed to Cal, and I would expect them to be released from their commitments if they made the request. Presumably the new coach will want to keep them, but he will also need to re-recruit them.

It's possible that players may transfer. Since most team members have already lost their redshirt years, transfer candidates are limited. Without any specific knowledge, we can just note that Kamp, Christopher and Randle still have redshirt years available.

Moreover, it's entirely possible that the new coach will run off one or more players. That almost always happens, and the lack of scholarships for next year makes this a distinct possibility. The new coach is going to want some scholarships, and there will be no seniors on the roster next year.

Ryan Anderson might also decide that if he's going to have to adjust to a new coach he might as well get paid by an NBA team while doing that. It's nearly certain that he will test the waters to gather information from the NBA workout process.

To convince Ryan to return, the new coach will have to define a role that will enable him to develop skills appropriate to professional basketball.

All these questions will be answered in the next month or two. The new coach will probably be in place by the end of April; roster decisions will follow quickly.

It's time for something new.


©Copyright 2008, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


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The numbers don't lie. The Bears averaged 76.4 points per game, and ranked an impressive 17th in adjusted offensive efficiency. However, they were 145th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their effective defensive fieldgoal percentage was 52%, 255th out of 341 Division 1 teams. (Effective FG% is adjusted for three point shots: the formula is field goals made plus 0.5 X three pointers made divided by field goals attempted.)

Braun was fired because he didn't win enough games. Sandy Barbour made that very clear in the press conference last Wednesday - so perhaps in that context it's also the right time to address some misconceptions about Cal's former coach.

Some have said:

As they say, that's all water under the bridge, and it is time to move on. The good news is that there's a real opportunity to energize the program. Assuming the report from ESPN.com is true that the job has already been offered to Jamie Dixon, it seems Braun's buyout will not be an impediment to the search. The money must be available. Dixon said no, but someone of quality will say yes. My feeling is that the next coach should be someone who has been successful in a major conference. The majority of coaches who have come into the Pac-10 in recent years (Howland, Floyd, Sendek) won in one of the power leagues.

The comments by Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (cited by this website here) highlighted the need for the next coach to have a more demanding, intense personality. The young men on this team are outstanding. They're \"nice kids,\" but perhaps too nice.

I'm not sure whether a coach can instill competitive fire in kids who don't already have it within themselves, but it's sure worth the try. I'm not suggesting a screamer, but rather someone like a Howland or a Dixon who will challenge the players and demonstrate a fiery demeanor at practice and on the sideline.

We'll all know more about the national perception of the Cal program from the results of the search.

Some fans may have overstated the potential at Cal, particularly by comparison to football. Almost the only relationship between football and basketball is that they are both played with a ball.

Success in a revenue sport leads to a higher profile for the school, of course, but it doesn't mean that other sports will rise to that level. If football success translated to basketball success, Penn State would have a long history of winning basketball and so would Miami.

In basketball, Cal's stature as a great academic university might even be more of a hindrance than a help. Football players, even the best, sign up for at least three years. The best basketball players are thinking one-and-done, and a light academic load is more attractive. For example, Greg Oden was taking two courses during last season at Ohio State, and one of those was History of Rock 'n Roll.

Compounding this, Cal is absolutely committed to doing it the right way. And that simply means Cal cannot compete with the SEC or other schools with unlimited recruiting budgets (wink, wink). Cal has been down that road with Todd Bozeman, and they are not going there again.

I believe there will be some roster changes. There's no guarantee now that recruits Garrett Sim and D.J. Seeley will remain committed to Cal, and I would expect them to be released from their commitments if they made the request. Presumably the new coach will want to keep them, but he will also need to re-recruit them.

It's possible that players may transfer. Since most team members have already lost their redshirt years, transfer candidates are limited. Without any specific knowledge, we can just note that Kamp, Christopher and Randle still have redshirt years available.

Moreover, it's entirely possible that the new coach will run off one or more players. That almost always happens, and the lack of scholarships for next year makes this a distinct possibility. The new coach is going to want some scholarships, and there will be no seniors on the roster next year.

Ryan Anderson might also decide that if he's going to have to adjust to a new coach he might as well get paid by an NBA team while doing that. It's nearly certain that he will test the waters to gather information from the NBA workout process.

To convince Ryan to return, the new coach will have to define a role that will enable him to develop skills appropriate to professional basketball.

All these questions will be answered in the next month or two. The new coach will probably be in place by the end of April; roster decisions will follow quickly.

It's time for something new.


©Copyright 2008, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nation-wide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.

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