This upcoming weekend is the Final Four Division 1 Championship in Womens College Basketball and wouldn't you know it, one my favorite teams made it to the National Semi-finals, the University of California - Berkeley, which is right down the road from Oakland.
The Cal Bears Womens Basketball program has changed dramatically ever since the freak outbreak of meningitis that killed one of their players back in 2004, when their team was coached by Caren Horstmeyer. After that happened, the team was in dismay, several players transferred to other schools and Caren was in the last year of her coaching contract.
The only bright spot that year was the incoming freshman class of Alexis Grey Lawson, Devenai Hampton, and Ashley Walker, all local stand outs from the East Bay who were highly recruited and choose to play their college ball at home.
In another change, the University of California decided not to extend Horstmeyers contract and hired a young and promising coach in Joanne Boyle.
In Coach Boyle's first year, she guided the Bears to their first NCAA appearance.
For the next couple of years the best Coach Boyle could do with her roster was guide her team to the Sweet Sixteen which wasn't to her detriment, her talented trio and lack of roster depth was never enough to make a deep run in the tourney.
Flash forward to 2010, the Cal Bears land one of the premier recruits in the country - Point Guard Tierra Rogers who led her high school Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco to back to back state titles.
Upon her freshman year during a pre-season workout, Tierra collapses with a heart condition, quite literally ending her promising basketball career ever before it started.
And to make matters worse, CAL's new highly touted basketball coach - Joanne Boyle, jumps ship and transfers to the University of Virginia after leading the Cal Bears to their first WNIT Championship.
In a stunning move, CAL's Athletic Director Sandy Barbour brings back former Assistant Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who coached under Joanne Boyle to guide the Bears into a new era of Cal basketball and boy did she.
In Coach Gottlieb's 2nd year as head coach she miraculously guides the Golden Bears to their first Final Four and best school record ever of 32 - 4.
Another partial to Gottlieb's success is that she was lucky to inherit several high quality recruits who followed Tierra Rogers to CAL and got the most out of their talent. Coach Gottlieb's up tempo system matched the intensity of her players and other elite teams which turned out to be the ingredients for success.
Its been with great satisfaction that I have been able to watch the Cal program evolve and go thru their highs and lows of becoming a great basketball program, every team has their story of how they got there and this is theres.
Good luck to the Bears in the Final Four this upcoming weekend! #gobears