California has a basketball coaching vacancy that, if history is any judge, is going to be a look into the recent moderately successful past because, as we all know, the rule is every coach is unlike his or her direct predecessor but a lot like the predecessor’s predecessor.
In other words, this looks like a job for Tara Van Derveer, the Stanford women's coach who just pushed the Cardinal to its 74th trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. At the very least, it looks like an interview opportunity for Tara Van Derveer.
And now, the obligatory explanations, which you may judge by your own warped standards without telling me any of your findings.
1. This is not pandering. She’s got coaching game plus, and that’s been more than established for a more than sufficient amount of time.
2. She is as close as Cal is going to get to Mike Montgomery, who preceded Cuonzo Martin.
3. Cal needs a clear spark to become locally noticeable and nationally relevant again. Two trips to the second weekend of the NCAAs since 1960 is a long time to not be.
4. It would irritate the hell out of traditionalists, inside-the-box thinkers and her current acolytes at Stanford, not necessarily in that order.
5. And yes, this is kind of pandering when you think about it because Cal isn’t ready to strike out in the bold and innovative way required. Damn it.
Cal has been sort of a hidebound middle-of-the-field team for years now, with the only real exception being the first of the two two Jason Kidd years (1993). They’ve had their share of 20-win seasons, their share of postseasons, and their share of quick eliminations. Oh, and let’s not forget the 1999 NIT championship, which of course you all forgot.
The Ursines, in short, have cast a properly short shadow for a school with high-profile dreams, and VanDerveer could surely lengthen it.
She won’t get to try, of course, because she won’t get to try, and that’s the best explanation you'll get as to why she won’t get to try, but hear me out anyway. I mean, what else do you have to do with your miserable rancid day?
She’s accomplished (her record is well known, especially now that she’s won 1,000 games). She’s well-spoken, which appeals to the snobbier alumni types. She’s never put her teams on probation, and she’s never had to apologize for a whole week for telling fans to punch random detractors in the face for badmouthing the school’s shoddy reputation as regards to student safety.
Plus, she doesn’t have to relocate and makes barely a fourth of what Geno Auriemma makes at Connecticut, and we all know how money matters at Cal in these perilous fiscal times.
So what’s to hate about this?
Well, right off the bat, she might not want the gig. She might be one of those tedious, unimaginative “I’m happy where I am, secure in my own skin, surrounded by the people I know and grateful for the things that are here” types.
In response, we should liquor her up and make her stop thinking such heresies.
More than that, though, there might be an awkward conversation with Cal women’s coach Lindsay Gottlieb. There might some reservations from anti-Stanford types who lost the Montgomery argument in 2008. There might be legitimate questions about the recruiting advantages she currently has that do not translate to up the road. And of course there will be the shrieks from people who believe that women cannot coach men because their God, who clearly has nothing better to do, would hate that.
But our position on this is a careful and considered “Screw all that arglebargle.” We want whatever mental and emotional chaos may come with Tara Van Derveer coaching the Cal men’s basketball team. We want pundits’ brains to melt on air and on set, and we want the unfathomable to be thought by people unaccustomed to fathoming. We want people unaccustomed to thinking once to think twice.
And if you are a Cal basketball fan and you have a better name in mind, by all means offer it up. I’ve turned in mine, and if you think she’s unqualified except by your notions of gender, then bring your best case.
Or better yet, don’t. I have smaller things to do than argue with you.