UCLA Picked To Win 1st Pac-12 Basketball Title
LOS ANGELES (AP) California coach Mike Montgomery’s surprise announcement Friday that he had recent surgery for bladder cancer and is now cancer-free overshadowed Pac-12 media day, when UCLA was picked to win the newly realigned league’s title.
Montgomery took the stage at The Conga Room at LA Live across the street from Staples Center and immediately told reporters that he was diagnosed a month ago and had surgery last week.
The school had announced his surgery on Oct. 19, but didn’t disclose any details about it.
“I went from having high-grade bladder cancer to being totally cancer-free at this juncture,” Montgomery said.
“It’s scary. You go from being relatively on top of your game to no longer being in charge. I’m extremely fortunate it went the way it did. Probably adds a little perspective to your life.”
The 64-year-old coach said the cancer was found when a doctor checked him for diverticulitis, a condition in which the inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed or infected.
Montgomery said he will return full-time to running the 24th-ranked Golden Bears’ program on Monday “much to the players’ chagrin.”
Montgomery said he’s lost weight and is focused on regaining his strength, but has no physical limitations.
He informed his fellow coaches before the sessions with reporters began.
“It’s great to see him healthy,” Southern California coach Kevin O’Neill said.
UCLA was picked to win its first league title since 2008, when the Bruins made the last of three consecutive trips to the Final Four.
The Bruins received 421 points and 14 first-place votes in polling by media who cover the reconfigured conference. They won three consecutive league titles from 2006-08, repeating their run of three in a row from 1995-97.
“All it does is make the bullseye even bigger,” coach Ben Howland said. “There’s already a bullseye because of the four letters on your chest.”
Howland said center Anthony Stover has a partial cartilage tear in his left shoulder and will be out a couple weeks. Junior college transfer De’End Parker, who sustained a concussion in an intrasquad scrimmage last weekend, will begin shooting Monday and could return to full practice by the middle of next week.
UCLA narrowly edged California and Arizona in first-place votes. The Golden Bears were picked second with 405 points and 13 first-place votes, while defending league champion Arizona had 404 points and 11 first-place votes for third. All three teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll on Friday. The Wildcats are No. 16, the Bruins No. 17 and Cal is No. 24.
Coming off a berth in the final eight of the NCAA tournament last season, the Wildcats lost their exhibition opener to Division II Seattle Pacific 69-68 Thursday night. It was their first loss in a preseason game since 1983-84, Lute Olson’s first season in Tucson.
“We had our humble pie,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “We have a lot of development to do.”
Washington, the defending tournament champion, was picked fourth with 355 points, followed by Oregon, Stanford and Southern California. Oregon State was picked eighth and Arizona State ninth. Newcomer Colorado and Washington State tied for 10th.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, “It’s important that we have a good showing this first year.”
New addition Utah was picked last with 74 points — 45 behind the Buffaloes and the Cougars.
“A distant last,” new Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I looked and we’re the only team with two digits.”
Noting that the media have correctly picked the conference winner 12 times in 19 years, Krystkowiak said, “I want to know how many times in 19 tries have you picked the bottom team correctly? Hopefully, that’s not as high a number.”
Count Utah center David Foster happy to be out of the Mountain West.
“I’m not going to miss traveling to Laramie, Wyo., anymore,” he said, ticking off the California schools, Arizona and Oregon as the locations he’s most looking forward to playing at. The 7-foot-3 senior’s family lives in Bakersfield, while he’s intrigued by Oregon’s court, which has trees painted on it.
“I’ve never played on a court with a bunch of trees,” Foster said.