Cal hires Mark Madsen as his basketball coach

BERKELEY, Calif. — California is hiring a former Stanford star to revive its struggling basketball program.

The Golden Bears announced on Wednesday that Mark Madsen has been signed to replace the fired Mark Fox after the worst season in school history.

“We did an exhaustive search and one name kept popping up at the top and that’s Mark Madsen,” said athletic director Jim Knowlton. “Mark is a high character, high energy, high intensity person and he got it right. He’s intense. He’s passionate. He loves his student athletes and he loves to compete. We want an ambassador for this program who will make us proud and encourage our young men – on and off the pitch. I am absolutely thrilled that Mark will lead our program into the future.”

Madsen played at Stanford from 1996-2000 under Mike Montgomery, who later coached at Cal, and helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in 1998.

After a nine-year playing career in the NBA that produced two titles as a substitute for the Lakers in 2001-02, Madsen went into coaching.

He spent some time in the NBA’s developmental league and a year at Stanford before spending five seasons on the Lakers team.

Madsen was then hired in 2019 to take over Utah Valley. He had a 70-51 record in four years with a 28-9 mark this season before losing to UAB in Tuesday night’s NIT semifinals.

“Growing up in the area, I’ve always admired Cal as an institution and as an athletic program because so many of my teachers, coaches and friends are impressive Cal alumni,” said Madsen. “We will win with young men who have outstanding academic and sporting talent and will be proud to represent Cal.”

Madsen is the third celebrity coach to switch sides in the Bay Area rivalry between Cal and Stanford in recent years. The Cardinal hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor to take over the football program last season, and Bears women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith has played and coached as an assistant at Stanford.

Madsen faces a difficult task, taking on a program that went 3-29 under Fox and set a school record for most losses and worst win percentage in a season.

Cal went 38-87 during Fox’s tenure and ended his final season on a 16-game losing streak. Fox’s winning percentage of .304 was the second-worst in school history, behind predecessor Wyking Jones’ 16-47 mark (.254) in the two seasons before Fox arrived.

The Bears have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2016 and have not won a game in the tournament under Montgomery since 2013.

Adding to Fox’s problems was a complete lack of interest in the program. Cal’s home attendance this season has averaged just 2,155, the lowest mark of any team in the Power 5 or Big East. That’s down from an average of 9,307 per game in Cuonzo Martin’s last season, 2016-17, and 5,627 the year before Fox arrived.

Cal had the worst win rate of any school in the six major conferences during Fox’s tenure. The Bears were also the lowest scoring team (62.4 points per game) in all of Division I under Fox and had the worst scoring of any major conference team under Fox.

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