Cal decided on keeping continuity today in their hiring process, capping off what can only be described as an odd coaching search by promoting from within, bumping up interim head coach and previous assistant Wyking Jones to the head coaching position, with a five year deal. Jones came onto the Bears' staff two years ago after his tenure at Louisville under Rick Pitino.
BREAKING: Cal will promote assistant Wyking Jones to head coach, per a source. Was on staff with Cuonzo Martin. Also worked for Rick Pitino.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 24, 2017
Jones represents an interesting choice, promoting from within after Cal interviewed Eric Musselman twice, Russell Turner, Jim Les, and Travis DeCuire, along with being rumored to have talked to a few other notable names, like Shareef Adbur-Raheem. Jones played his college days at LMU, and was an assistant at LMU, Pepperdine, New Mexico and Louisville before coming to Cal.
Jones being hired now helps in the area of continuity, especially with recruiting and keeping the class together. Currently Cal has four commits in the class of 2017, with Jemarl Baker, Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Justice Sueing, and Grant Anticevich committed and two more slots available. Cal is replacing a large chunk of their rotation, with five seniors departing along with Ivan Rabb, who has declared for the NBA draft. (More from Cal commits here)
Who Jones assembles around him will be important, as the other assistants on Cuonzo Martin's staff have moved on, with Tracy Webster joining Martin at Missouri and Tim O'Toole joining the staff up at Washington under Mike Hopkins.
Jones has been seen as a developer of big men in the past under Pitino, Steve Alford, and Martin, and he's helped in the development of Kingsley Okoroh, Kam Rooks, and Ivan Rabb during his time at Cal. He'll continue to have the opportunity to work with Okoroh and Rooks as well, though Rooks has been rumored to be transferring. Jones' promotion may change that.
Jones also has an IMDB credit as an SAT proctor in the 2015 film Dope
UPDATE: Quotes from Mike Williams and Wyking Jones, as Cal officially announces Jones' hiring
AD Mike Williams
"I am very excited to announce Wyking Jones as our next men's basketball coach at Cal," Director of Athletics Mike Williams said. "We conducted a thorough search, looking near and far and talking to people all around the country. We consulted with several Cal basketball alumni, as well as a multiple NBA and college coaches – some of the most experienced basketball minds in the game. Ultimately, we came back to where we started and found what we wanted right here in Berkeley.
"Wyking exudes all of the characteristics we want in a head coach," Williams added. "He is a person of high character who understands what it takes to thrive on and off the court. He has an affinity for Cal and its values, he has developed strong relationships with the student-athletes he coaches, and he has experienced success at the highest levels of the sport. Over the two years he has been in Berkeley, we have seen without a doubt that Wyking can coach, teach and be a leader of young men. We fully believe our men's basketball program is on an upward trajectory, and Wyking is poised to continue that momentum and take our program to even greater heights."
"I am extremely excited to be taking over at Cal as the new men's basketball head coach," Jones said. "To be able to lead this incredible group of men is a dream come true for me. When I left Louisville and decided to come home to California, I was stepping out on faith, but I knew in my heart this was where I needed to be. Coach Martin left an unbelievable foundation for the program and we will work hard to continue to elevate Cal basketball. I want fans to know that I'm excited to coach these guys, not only for what they can do on the court but to continue to cultivate them as young men."
"I'm ecstatic about the news. Coach Wyking is great with the players, knows his spots and gives us the confidence to go out there without looking over our shoulders." – freshman guard Charlie Moore
"I was recruited by Coach Wyking when I was first looking at schools. We were two California guys in Kentucky who started out as rivals but remained close. I saw him being able to do great things, and to start his head coaching career with him as my head coach is the best thing I could picture happening. Having him as my head coach now is one of the best things I could ever see." – senior forward Marcus Lee
"Wyking is a five-star recruiter, a five-star coach and a five-star person. I'm so happy for him and his family." – Louisville head coach Rick Pitino