BERKELEY (CBS/AP) — Lindsay Gottlieb had already completed her morning run through the Oakland hills on a rainy fall day in the Bay Area. At her dining room table, laptop open, she crammed in some film study of California’s first workout before heading out for a jam-packed day of meetings, planning and practice.
She departed in a navy Cal sweatsuit and matching backpack, coffee in hand — cream, no sugar. Still a big kid who is giddy to be going off to school, even at age 34.
Gottlieb is thrilled to be back leading the Golden Bears as head coach after three seasons at Santa Barbara. She returned to Berkeley as the natural choice for athletic director Sandy Barbour, who watched Gottlieb as an assistant under former coach Joanne Boyle, who left after last season for Virginia.
While she learned plenty under Boyle — who is credited with turning around Cal women’s basketball — Gottlieb is determined to put her own stamp on the program. She has wasted no time doing so.
There’s a snazzy new website that just launched — http://www.thisiscalbasketball.com — featuring videos, behind- the-scenes photos, a slideshow of the San Francisco area’s best spots and each player’s personal mantra.
It’s already quite a hit with her athletes — and no doubt will be with recruits.
Gottlieb is committed to building Cal into a program that joins perennial national power and Northern California neighbor Stanford as an NCAA tournament regular. The Bears are picked to finish third in the new Pac-12 by the conference coaches in Gottlieb’s first season, with an experienced returning roster and dynamic, do-everything freshman guard Brittany Boyd.
They will get quite the test in their season opener Sunday at No. 16 Rutgers.
“It’s game week!” Gottlieb tweeted Monday night.
She and her staff brought the team together in the players’ lounge last month to see the website just before it went live.
“The premiere,” Gottlieb said, smiling. “I wanted us all to see it together the first time. It’s for you guys to have the most fun, comprehensive experience at Cal. You trusted us, you trusted me.”
Cheers roared from every corner, from every stool or spot on the sofa.
“Whoo!” Gottlieb hollered herself.
Then, on the big screen, came a quick voiceover message from sophomore guard Mikayla Lyles.
“We have the opportunity to do it now, so why wait? We have to keep working. We’ve got to build up, we can’t sit still.”
One image showed just a flexed arm holding a basketball. Assistant coach Charmin Smith asked the site’s creator — Mollie McClure, in the room via Skype — whose buff biceps it was.
Answer: Reshanda Gray. Roars again.
“This is great. This is just so emotional,” center Talia Caldwell said.
Once they were nearly through, Gottlieb made the rounds with high-fives.
She clearly knows how to connect with the young women she coaches.
Each player came up with a word or two to define herself heading into the new season, a new era.
There’s “Lock up” Eliza Pierre. Lyles, she “Won’t Stop.” And Boyd’s got “Swag.” Gray will find her “Beast Mode.”
Gottlieb first worked at Cal from 2005-08 under Boyle, who made Gottlieb her No. 1 assistant at Richmond at all of 24.
“Lindsay is high energy,” Barbour said. “Here’s a coach who knows how to motivate young people. She certainly is a student of the game and an outstanding coach from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but I think her real strength, and that of her staff, is their ability to connect with these young people to motivate them both athletically and academically. I just think she is the perfect fit for Cal and the sky’s the limit for the kind of success we can have as a women’s basketball program.”
So far, Gottlieb’s players appreciate a new approach for this program.
“It’s about trust,” freshman guard Erika Johnson said. “She trusts us and we have to put equal trust in her. We all want the same goal. If you don’t buy in, you’re not going to get anything out of it.”
In the coaches’ office, there’s a binder full of everything the program will stand for with Gottlieb and her staff running the show — Cal’s vision for this season and beyond.
“We spent August and September figuring out who we are, what we are, what we do,” Gottlieb said. “I wanted to take August and September and truly build a foundation that’s going to make our program different and as good as we can be.”
That includes finding out the best ways to self-promote in a busy sports region through marketing and social media.
The coaches even brought in an outside consultant to help with that process.
“She had a good line: ‘You want to be 20-win ready. You want to be 25-win ready,’” Gottlieb said. “I’m not taking that for granted. We still have to do that. I don’t want that to be a one-time thing. I don’t want to have good players only for one year. I want to build a program and a sustainable thing here so that it’s propagating itself. …
“There will be times as a team we ask ourselves, ‘What is our foundation going to be?’ I’m not afraid to say, ‘This is what I think it needs to be, follow us, follow me’ and then empowering them to take over part of it.”
It has worked before for the New York native. Gottlieb went 56-39 in three seasons at UCSB, where she led the Gauchos to a pair of postseason berths and two Big West Conference championships. She was the 2009 conference coach of the year.
Gottlieb was around for three of Cal’s four straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2006-09. The Bears want to get back.
Guard Lindsay Sherbert’s words are “Dream Big.” For Caldwell, it’s “Relentless.”
This group realizes it will take a combination of all of those catch phrases along the way to play the meaningful games come March.
“The great thing about this team is they love each other and they know they have each other’s backs and their coaches have their backs,” Barbour said. “Lindsay’s always been creative and had a great ability to connect with her student-athletes. As you assume the role of head coach, your horizons open significantly and for her that’s just given her a wider platform to play on.”
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