Let’s Speculate! Potential California head basketball coach candidates

Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.

Today’s program is California, coached by Mark Fox since 2019 (on the hot seat).

  • Cuonzo Martin – former head coach at Cal (and others)
    • Cuonzo was a success during his short tenure at Cal, winning 20+ games and back-to-back years and convincing blue-chip recruits like Jaylen Brown (all the way from Georgia) and Ivan Rabb to play for the Golden Bears. He left on a high in 2017 when Missouri made him a massive offer, but oh what could have been if he stuck around Berkeley a little longer. Why shouldn’t Cal try to bring back the last head coach who was able to make anything happen with their program, especially now that he is available?
  • Travis DeCuire – Montana head coach
    • DeCuire was our pick for Cal back in 2019 when he was coming off back-to-back Big Sky titles and NCAA Tournament bids with Montana. He is still with the Grizzlies and while things have cooled a bit since then, we still think he will be an excellent candidate for the job next time around. DeCuire was hired at his alma mater Montana in 2014 after spending the previous six seasons at Cal as one of Mike Montgomery‘s assistants, a tenure that included four NCAA Tournaments and the Bears’ last Pac-12 title (2010).
  • Shantay Legans – Portland head coach
    • Legans is a rising star, having led Eastern Washington to a Big Sky title in 2020 and the NCAA Tournament in 2021 before taking the Portland job. He immediately turned around a Pilots program, winning 18 games and going to the postseason in his first year after they were just 6-15 the year before he arrived. Legans hails from Southern California and played for Ben Braun and the Golden Bears for three seasons before transferring to Fresno State as a senior. It won’t be long before Legans is able to level up from the WCC and the Cal job might be the perfect next step for him.
  • Justin Hutson – Fresno State head coach
    • Speaking of Fresno State, Cal should also consider their current head coach Justin Hutson a serious candidate. The Bakersfield-native at CSUB grad has spent nearly his entire career in the Golden State and already has two 23-win seasons on his resume from his 4+ year tenure at Fresno. Prior to his 2018 hiring, Hutson worked at San Diego State (twice), UNLV, Cal Poly, CSUB and as the head coach at Bakersfield HS (CA).
  • Russell Turner – UC Irvine head coach
    • Turner’s name was floated in 2017 and 2019 and he should be considered again whenever the job opens back up. In 12+ years at UC Irvine, Turner has won five Big West titles and gone to the postseason six times – that includes two NCAA Tournaments that could have been three with 2020 cancelled. Turner has been coaching in California for more than two decades, coming out west in 2000 to be an assistant on Mike Montgomery‘s staff at Stanford and later with the Golden State Warriors before getting hired at UCI in 2010.
  • Dedrique Taylor – Cal State Fullerton head coach
    • We were floating Taylor’s name for Arizona State last year, but it doesn’t look like that job will be open for a little bit longer. Taylor’s seven years at ASU do amount to considerable Pac-12 experience for another program in the league, though, and he has been solid in his 9+ years at Cal State Fullerton. The Titans reached the NCAA Tournament last year, their second trip under Taylor, and they have also been to two CITs during his tenure. The Pomona, CA native has also worked at Nevada, Portland State, Loyola Marymount and his alma mater, UC Davis.
  • Rick Croy – California Baptist head coach
    • Croy is a potential heir to Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s, where he spent three seasons as an assistant before getting hired at then D-II Cal Baptist in 2013. Croy led the Lancers to five D-II NCAA Tournaments in five years before the program made the jump to D-I in 2018, and he made quite a statement by earning an invite to the CBI in year one and then winning 21 games in year two. He is a California lifer, having also worked at UC Riverside and as the head coach at Citrus College (CA). He went to high school in Walnut Creek and played at San Francisco State in the late 90s.
  • Dennis Gates – Missouri head coach
    • Gates is on this list because Cal SHOULD reach out to him and gauge his interest, but honestly this seems like a long shot regardless of the fact that he is a former Bears player and assistant. His quick turnaround at Cleveland State made him a really hot name on the last two coaching carousels and he is now already making waves in his first year at Mizzou. Would he leave for Cal after just one year? We don’t think so.