BERKELEY (AP) — California promoted longtime college assistant Wyking Jones to head basketball coach Friday in place of the departed Cuonzo Martin.
Jones was an assistant under Martin the past two seasons and served as interim coach after Martin left to take the job at Missouri last week. Jones has also been an assistant at Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, New Mexico and Louisville before getting his first chance as a head coach with the Golden Bears.
“To be able to lead this incredible group of men is a dream come true for me,” Jones said in a statement. “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.”
Before coming to Cal, Jones spent four seasons at Louisville under Rick Pitino, where he helped the Cardinals win the national title in 2013 and another trip to the Final Four.
“Wyking is a five-star recruiter, a five-star coach and a five-star person,” Pitino said. “I’m so happy for him and his family.”
But most of his experience has been in the West with Jones having played and coached at Loyola Marymount before stints as an assistant at Pepperdine and New Mexico.
Jones inherits a thin roster that only got more depleted when star Ivan Rabb declared for the NBA draft earlier this week. Rabb was Cal’s second-leading scorer as a sophomore at 14.0 points and top rebounder averaging 10.5 boards. Leading scorer Jabari Bird was a senior and freshman point guard Charlie Moore is the only returning player who averaged more than 5.0 points per game this past season.
The Bears will have Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee available to play next season.
“I was recruited by coach Wyking when I was first looking at schools,” Lee said. “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.”
Cal went 21-13 this season and tied for fifth place in the Pac-12 before losing in the opening round of the NIT to Cal State Bakersfield. Martin left the next day to get closer to home and get a more lucrative deal at Missouri.
Martin went 62-39 in five seasons at Cal with a 29-25 conference record. He made just one NCAA Tournament, losing his opening game last year to Hawaii.
Jones will be the second straight low-profile hiring to a prominent coaching position at Cal. Athletic director Mike Williams hired another long-time college assistant to replace the fired Sonny Dykes as football coach in January when he hired Justin Wilcox.
“Wyking exudes all of the characteristics we want in a head coach,” Williams said. “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.”
Jones also has ties to the Bay Area. His wife, Estrella, was born and raised in Berkeley and his sister-in-law, Dr. Na’ilah Suad Nasir, serves as UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion and has been a Cal faculty member since 2008.
CBSSports.com first reported the hire and ESPN said Jones got a five-year contract.
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