College basketball might be viewed as a stepping stone to the NBA for many, but after a taste of the professional ranks, Mike Montgomery might be interested in going back to school.
The second-year Golden State Warriors coach is right in the middle of a four-year, $10 million deal with the Oakland-based NBA franchise, but it's been a bumpy ride for the 26-year college coaching veteran. The Warriors are 58-80 since Montgomery took over, including a 24-32 mark this season. Losers of four straight and seven of its last ten, Golden State currently has the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference, four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
According to CBS Sportsline.com's Gregg Doyel, Montgomery has put out some feelers about the IU coaching vacancy, letting it be known that if Indiana is interested in him, he very well might be interested in IU. While the 59-year-old coach would be lucky to earn ½ of what he's currently making at the NBA level, it's a safe assumption that he's well aware of the college pay scale.
While his NBA record is nothing to celebrate, his college track record is among the best in the business. He is a two-time National Coach of the Year (2000, 2004) who owns a 544-247 record as a Division I head coach. After spending eight years at Montana (151-80, 1979-86), Montgomery became one of the most successful college coaches during the 1990s and early 2000s at Stanford. During his 18-year run with the Cardinal (1986-2004) he went 393-167 and earned 16 trips to the postseason (12 NCAA Tournament invitations, four NITs). During his final 10 seasons at the Pac-10 school he won at least 20 games each season and earned NCAA invites each season, highlighted by a trip to the 1998 Final Four. He won at least 30 games in three of his final seven seasons, including a 30-2 mark in 2004 when the Cardinal started the year 26-0.
Despite having to deal with the higher academic admission standards at Stanford, Montgomery was still able to lure top talent to the Palo Alto, Cal., campus and/or develop it once the players got there. He wound up having eight players go on to be first-round draft picks from 1986-2004, including Curtis Borchardt, Jarron Collins, Jason Collins, Adam Keefe, Brevin Knight, Todd Lichti, Mark Madsen and Casey Jacobsen. By way of comparison, Indiana had six first-round NBA draft picks during that same time span – Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham (1993), Alan Henderson (1995), Brian Evans (1996), Kirk Haston (2001) and Jared Jeffries (2002).
A native of Long Beach, Cal., Montgomery is a 1968 graduate of Cal State Long Beach.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: Indications are that he's very interested in the job, and his college resume is pretty much impeccable. He took over a Stanford program that had won 41 percent of its games in the previous decade before his arrival, including only one winning season. But with Montgomery at the program's helm, Stanford won better than 70 percent of its games from 1986-2004, including 17 out of 18 winning seasons. His third Stanford team (1989) earned the school's first NCAA invitation since 1942, and Montgomery's teams went to the tournament 12 times overall. He won four Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards and captured the Pac-10 regular season title three times. All of this came at a school without some of the built-in advantages that Indiana does.
He also has an assistant coach on his Golden State Warrior staff that would be an intriguing addition to Bloomington as well. Former IU player Keith Smart, best known for his game-winning baseline jump shot in the 1987 NCAA Championship game against Syracuse, has been an assistant at Golden State for three years, including the last two with Montgomery. Not only can Smart speak to the potential of the IU job to Montgomery, he'd also be a logical choice to be a part of the staff as well.
What Makes Him a Longshot: He is 59 years old, so it might be a stretch to think that he'll still be coaching in 10 years. He is also a lifelong West Coast guy – he was born and raised in California, coached in California and Montana, and then went on to be a pro coach in California as well. His Midwest ties are nonexistent, let alone any connections to the state of Indiana. Based on the hires IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan has made to date, picking someone with so little connection to the program or state would be a break with his past.
HoosierNation.com's Take: If Montgomery is in fact interested in returning to the college game, AND he can convince Greenspan that he's interested in coaching for another 8-10 years, he makes a lot of sense as the Hoosiers' next coach. His Stanford teams were always known for their stingy defense and unselfish play, and they had a great deal of success even when they were at a bit of competitive disadvantage from a recruiting standpoint due to the school's rigorous academics requirements. Those challenges at Stanford, though, suggest Montgomery has a keen eye for talent as well as an ability to develop players once they arrive on campus. While he is virtually a lifelong California resident, Montgomery doesn't have the ties to the state that he once did now that his two children are grown up. His son is out of college, while his daughter will be a senior at USC in the fall.