BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — When California's season ended, John Montgomery reached out to a handful of his former players and wished them a deep, special NCAA Tournament run.
That was before the bracket came out. Montgomery is now an assistant coach at Hawaii, and will face the Golden Bears in a familiar first-round matchup Friday.
From Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird to Jordan Mathews, Sam Singer and Kameron Rooks, Montgomery helped recruit them all. He figures about half the team, actually, and still stays in touch via text.
Fittingly, Montgomery has the lead scouting assignment on this matchup and has been watching even more Cal film in recent days — that after he taped the games during the season to follow the Bears from afar given the time difference in Honolulu.
"When I saw Cal's name I was excited for them, and then I saw our name next to them and I kind of just froze," Montgomery said by phone from Hawaii's team charter Tuesday night. "It was a weird feeling. Everybody looked at me and started asking me questions and everything. And my phone probably hasn't stopped ringing in two days."
It's been about a year since Montgomery saw the Cal players in person, so he will take a moment to congratulate his old guys on a great season. He spent the 2014-15 season on the University of San Francisco staff, then was hired by Hawaii just in time for the start of practice last fall.
Montgomery watched his father, Mike, coach at the highest levels for his entire life — nearly two decades of success and NCAA berths at Stanford, to a short and disappointing stint leading the Golden State Warriors, then back to the college game rebuilding Cal before calling it a career and turning to television work.
Now, it's the younger Montgomery's turn on college basketball's big stage with the Big West champions under first-year coach Eran Ganot, who has his own Bay Area ties after coaching at Saint Mary's College. In the South Regional, the No. 13 seed Rainbow Warriors (27-5) will have a tough task against face fourth-seeded Cal (23-10) on Friday in Spokane, Washington.
"For John, obviously his dad's a legend. His dad coached this game for a long time and he did it at a high level and had a tremendous amount of success," Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. "He's been around it for years. Every night his dad came home, he saw the ups and downs, the highs and lows. He's been in the trenches. He worked under his dad, that can't do anything but rub off on you. I'm happy for his success."
Former Cal player Theo Robertson, who played when John Montgomery was working in the basketball office and is now on the Golden State Warriors' staff, has plenty of interest in seeing how the Bears fare against the Hawaii team run by Ganot and Montgomery.
"Pretty cool for him. I know he's recruited some of those (Cal) guys, so he'll have some familiarity with the squad. They've had a great year," Robertson said. "A lot of local flavor, for sure. (Ganot) has done a phenomenal job to be a first-year head coach, and to get your program to where they are now is something special. They should all feel very good about the season they've had thus far."
Montgomery wishes the Cal players his best, even if he hopes Hawaii can pull off an upset at Spokane Arena and advance.
"I was texting those guys before the selection show saying, 'You guys are making a deep run,' and all of a sudden we're playing them and we've got to beat them. I just told them all I'm looking forward to seeing them, because I am."
Golden State coach Steve Kerr will be following the best he can, and got a chuckle that Mike Montgomery's son will be coaching against his own son, Nick, a reserve guard for Cal.
"That's awesome," Kerr said.