Mike Montgomery had a long career coaching basketball in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1986 to 2014 he coached Stanford, California and the Golden State Warriors. He won multiple Pac-10 championships and was named the conference’s Coach of the Year four times. This is his story.
Michael John “Mike” Montgomery was born on February 27, 1947 in Long Beach, California. After graduating from Millikan High School, he earned a Physical Education Degree from Long Beach State. He further advanced his education by earning a Master’s degree in Physical Education from Colorado State University. From there he served as an assistant at the Coast Guard (1969-1970), Colorado State (1970-1971), the Citadel (1971-1972), Florida (1972-1973) and Boise State (1973-1976).
He ventured over to Montana where he served as an assistant from 1976 to 1978. He finally got his chance to be a head coach in 1978 when the school hired him following the departure of their previous coach, Jim Brandenburg. During Montgomery’s time with the Grizzlies, four players from the school were drafted by the NBA: John Schroeder Derrick Pope, Marc Glass and Larry Krystkowiak.
The Grizzlies were a decent 17-11 in Montgomery’s first year at the helm, losing to Weber State in the Big Sky Tournament. They were slightly better the following year, going 19-9 but losing to Idaho in the conference tournament. The next few years were much the same but the Grizzlies did make an appearance in the NIT in 1985. While they lost to UCLA in the first round they had hope that better days were ahead. The Grizzlies returned to the NIT the following year but lost to Texas Christian in the first round. When the season concluded, Mike Montgomery was offered the head coaching job at Stanford University. After some thought, he took the job and began preparing for tougher competition immediately.
Stanford was not a bad program when Mike Montgomery arrived, but it was competing in a tough conference and Stanford needed the leadership needed to compete with the best. The first two years were decent but the Cardinal didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in either year. The 1988-1989 season was different. Led by seniors Todd Lichti and Howard Wright, the Cardinal fought its way to a 26-7 record and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. While they lost to Siena by two points in the first round, the Cardinal players knew that better days were ahead.
The following year wasn’t a productive, with the Cardinal going just 18-12 and losing to Hawaii in the first round of the NIT. However they showed marked improvement the following year by winning the NIT Tournament, beating Oklahoma 78-72 in Madison Square Garden. They returned to the NCAA Tournament the following year but lost to Alabama in the first round.
The 1992-1993 season was one of Stanford’s worst. They finished a disastrous 7-23 and finished last in the Pac-10. Things began to turn around the following year when Brevin Knight enrolled. Aided with his 11.1 points per game, the Cardinal finished with a 17-10 record and a first round exit in the NIT. This would be the last year that the Cardinal failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the next 11 years.
The Glory Years
Tim Young arrived on campus in the Fall of 1994 and immediately made an impact. Averaging 12.3 points a game to Brevin Knight’s 16.6 points, Young helped propel the Cardinal to an NCAA Tournament berth where they would lose to Massachusetts. The following year was much the same with the team losing to Massachusetts in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. However, they finished the year ranked third in their conference.
The 1996-1997 season was Mike Montgomery’s best season thus far. The Cardinal went 22-8, finishing second in the Pac-10 and made all the way to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Brevin Knight was senior that year and he led the Cardinal with 16.3 points per game while Young averaged 13.7 points per game. The Cardinal Men’s Basketball program got a new addition that year, freshman forward Mark Madsen.
Jarron and Jason Collins came to the Farm in the Fall of 1997 and made little impact that freshman year, each averaging slightly more than three points per game. The program was still led by Tiim Young and Madsen, each averaging more than 11 points per game. The Cardinal reached the Final Four but were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by national powerhouse Kentucky 86-85, who would go on to win the national championship just two days later.
Expectations were high for the Cardinal in the 1998-199 season. They began the year ranked third in the nation, but reality soon hit them. With them being ranked so high it was inevitable that every team would play their hardest every game. They were upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Gonzaga, putting an unremarkable end to Tim Young’s collegiate career. Not all was lost as Mike Montgomery was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He would win the award three more times in 2000, 2003 and 2004.
The 1999-2000 season looked promising for Stanford with freshman guard Casey Jacobsen coming to campus. They began the year by defeating Duke 80-79 in overtime and won their conference championship. Their remarkable run ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina. At the end of the year, Mike Montgomery was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year.
The following year was a special one for the Cardinal. Once again they won their conference championship and they lost just two games in the regular season. Jacobsen led the team with 18.1 points per game while both Jason and Jarron Collins finished with 14.5 and 12.8 points respectively. Their incredible season ended in heartbreak against Maryland in the Elite Eight.
The next two years were successful but the Cardinal lost in the second round both years. The 2003-2004 season was Mike Montgomery’s last in Palo Alto and he set out to make the most of his last year at the Farm. Josh Childress led the team with 15.1 points per game and the Cardinal lost just once in the regular season. They won the conference championship but once again lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this time to Alabama 70-67. After the loss, Mike Montgomery was hired as the Golden State Warriors next head coach.
The Golden State Warriors were a pitiful bunch in those days. However, they did have some building blocks in Baron Davis and Jason Richardson. Unfortunately, neither of those players could carry the team out of the doldrums and by 2006 the coaches were blamed. Mike Montgomery only lasted two years with the Warriors and was fired before the “We Believe” era took hold of the Bay Area. But his coaching career was not over yet.
Two years after Mike Montgomery was fired from the Golden State Warriors in 2006, Cal offered him their head coaching job for the 2008-2009 season. He took over a team which had talent, including guards Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez as well as Jerome Randle. While Christopher and Gutierrez wound up both playing in the NBA, it was Randle who shined the brightest for the Golden Bears that year, leading the team with 18.3 points and five assists per game. Montgomery led Cal to the NCAA Tournament that year where they would lose in the first round to Maryland.
While the Golden Bears lost the conference tournament the following year, they were crowned regular season champions and made it to the NCAA Tournament. There they would lose to eventual national champion Duke in the second round 68-53.
They weren’t as dominant in 2010-2011, finishing a disappointing 18-15, and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the Mike Montgomery era. As a consolation, Cal was invited to the NIT where they would lose in the second round to Colorado.
The 2011-2012 season was a rebound year for the Golden Bears and they did not disappoint. Led by sophomore Allen Crabbe and senior Jorge Gutierrez, Cal finished second in the Pac-12 and was invited back to the NCAA Tournament. While they lost in the first round to South Florida, they knew that brighter days were ahead.
The following year saw incoming freshman guard Tyrone Wallace enter the program. While Wallace provided depth, there was no question that this was Allen Crabbe’s team. Once again, the Golden Bears finished second in the conference and made it back to the NCAA Tournament. Losing to Syracuse 66-60 in the second round was heartbreaking but it gave them confidence for the future knowing that they could play with powerhouse programs.
The 2013-2014 season was Mike Montgomery’s final year as a coach. The year started with promise as the Golden Bears won their first five games with freshman guard Jabari Bird providing depth, but eventually they started to lose some games and they ended the season a respectable but disappointing 21-14 and out of the NCAA Tournament. The team wanted to win one final tournament for their coach and gave the NIT everything that they could muster but they lost to Arkansas 67-65 in the third round, giving Mike Montgomery a disappointing end to a remarkable career. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.