DENVER, Co. Stanford has lost in blow-out fashion, to powerhouses like UConn and Tennessee.It has lost in heartbreaking fashion, blowing a lead to Texas A&M.Sunday Stanford lost in inevitable fashion, to Brittney Griners Baylor steamroller, which is expected to claim a national championship Tuesday night.But, the details of the losses start to fade and blur. The reality is Stanford lost again. The Cardinal are the Buffalo Bills of womens basketball. On the 20th anniversary of its last national championship, Stanford reached the ultimate stage the Final Four for the fifth straight time, only to leave without a national championship.Thankfully, Tara VanDerveer wasnt asked to explain her teams inability to reach its elusive title, after the 59-47 loss to Baylor at the Pepsi Center.Because there was really nothing to explain this year: the reasons behind the loss were obvious. The post game questioning had to do with the gameplan against Brittney Griner.And VanDerveer had a good gameplan. She just didnt have the players to execute it.She had one great player: Nneka Ogwumike, who tried to put her team on her back and kept fighting to the bitter end. VanDerveer had one extremely good player, Chiney Ogwumike, who fouled out with 7:39 to play.And she had some average players and some freshmen who could grow into something.VanDerveers plan contained Griner: her team relentlessly double-teamed the 6-8 player,limiting her to zero dunks and just 13 points, her second lowest output of the season, and three field goals, tied for her season low.But Stanford couldnt get its own offense on track.The Cardinal needed a perimeter game and went 2-for-17 from the three point line. Nneka Ogwumike started attacking Griner with success in the second half, and led all players with 22 points but it wasnt enough. She confessed to having to overcome a psychological hurdle against Griner.I was definitely psyching myself out, she said.We were too worried about her. In reality attacking her wasnt as hard as we thought it would be.Ogwumike, like Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen before her, has had every one of her Stanford seasons end in the Final Four. Its an incredible accomplishment, but a bittersweet one. Over the years, Nneka went from being devastated by the losses, to annoyed, to accepting. Sunday night she seemed philosophical. She knows its better to lose in the Final Four than the alternative.Now shes passing the torch to her sister.I really wish we could have won this game for her, Chiney said.I think she was the best player in the game tonight. She was the best player on the court, and I am proud to say that.Stanford, as always, gets an A for effort. An A for sportsmanship. An A for preparation and gameplanning. But the Cardinal still hasnt got what it really wants.
BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.
Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.
"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."
Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.
Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.
Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.
"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."
While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.
The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.
Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.
Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.
"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."
Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.
The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.
While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.
Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.
"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."
Newly announced Cal head football coach Justin Wilcox has his offensive coordinator just two days into the job. Eastern Washington University head coach Beau Baldwin is stepping down and is on his way to run the offense in Berkeley, EWU announced on Monday.
"I’m excited for the great opportunity that’s ahead but I’ll miss an amazing place," Baldwin said at a press conference held at EWU to announce his decision to leave the school.
Under Baldwin, EWU turned into a powerhouse at the FCS level, posting an 85-32 record in nine seasons. The Eagles won five Big Sky Conference titles and were crowned national champions in 2010.
Baldwin has never coached at the Division I FBS level, but has posted success in the past against those teams. Last season, Baldwin and the Eagles started off the year with a 45-42 win on the road against Washington State.
To open the 2013 season, Baldwin received national attention as EWU pulled off a huge upset by taking down No. 25 Oregon State, 49-46.
In 2016, EWU averaged 42.36 points per game. The Eagles rushed for 112 yards per game and gained 238 yards per game through the air.