Commentary: Cal needs to decide quickly

I don't know about all of you, but I'm getting bored and frustrated with the coaching carousel talk/rumor mill that takes over college basketball at this time of the season.

The most recent discussion has Nevada's Mark Fox, who had guided the Pack to a 102-30 record and four post-season appearance in four years, being a finalist for the head job at the University of California.

Fox, Villanova's Jay Wright, Saint Mary's College's Randy Bennett, ex-Stanford coach Mike Montgomery, Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Washington State's Tony Bennett have all had their names linked to the Cal opening at one time or another since Ben Braun was fired last Wednesday.

AW Prince of believes the job is between Randy Bennett and Fox.

Right now, though, we don't know what's happening because a call to Fox through the Nevada sports information office wasn't returned, nor were calls from Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour and current Saint Mary's College coach Randy Bennett, who also is considered a finalist for the job.

Fox, according to a report in the Oakland Tribune on Tuesday morning, met with University of California officials Monday night at an undisclosed Bay Area hotel. Bennett also met on Monday with Cal officials.

Fox, according to school officials, has been in the Bay Area and Arizona for recruiting purposes.

"The last couple of years, I've been fortunate enough to have different universities contact me about potential coaching positions," he said. "I owe it to my family and myself to occasionally consider these opportunities. But the University of Nevada is a special place, and I can't say enough about our program, players and fans."

I'm sure it's a frustrating time for local fans and members of the Wolf Pack team alike. It's kind of late in the year to be losing your coach, especially since the team just lost its starting center, JaVale McGee to the NBA, and there are still two scholarships to be handed out.

Cary Groth, Nevada athletic director, said it's the price a school pays for having a successful athletic program.

Moving to the Pac-10 certainly would be a step up for the 39-year-old Fox, who is considered one of the bright minds in college basketball. He currently makes more than $425,000 in base salary, and he could probably double that if he is hired by the Bears.

This will be the second time that Fox's name has come up in post-season talks. Fox was a candidate for the Nebraska job in 2006, which eventually went to former UTEP coach Doc Sadler.

The school paid Fox a one-time bonus of $100,000 raise after he withdrew his name from consideration from the Nebraska job.

Is Nevada prepared to pony up more cash to keep Fox this time?

It certainly is hard to keep up with the kind of salaries that teams in the Pac-10 Big Ten, Big East or Big 12 can pay. The booster program and support for Nevada pales when compared to places like Cal, USC, UCLA and Stanford.

I think the one wild card in the negotiations could be Fox's wife, Cindy, who is an associate athletic director at Nevada. She is a career-driven professional, and undoubtedly would miss working in an athletic environment. The Fox family have many times stated how much they like the region.

Fox has some stiff competition for the job.

Bennett, who also has already been interviewed for the job, took the SMC Gaels to a share of the West Coast Conference championship this season and a berth in the NCAA Tournament this season. He has most of his key players returning next season as does Nevada.

After seven seasons, Bennett is the school's winningest coach, and has taken the team to two NCAA appearances in the last four years. He recently withdrew from consideration from Oregon State, which fired Jay John during the season.

For Bennett to withdraw was a no-brainer. The Gaels are a better team than Oregon State, which still plays in run-down Gill Coliseum.

One thing I hope is that Cal comes to a quick decision one way or another so as not to screw up either Saint Mary's or Nevada's programs.

It would certainly be a big loss if Fox leaves, and even his harshest critics would agree with my statement.

Fox has kept the standard set by Trent Johnson, and that's all you can ask a coach to do.

One thing is certain, you know that Groth already has a short list of candidates written down if Cal offers Fox and he accepts.


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