Bears lose Emerald Coast Classic consolation game to Clemson, 67-59; fall to 0-7 on the season

By Morris Phillips

The parallels between the head coaching careers of Brad Brownell and Mark Fox are remarkable. The dissimilarities, well, they all come in Fox’s three plus seasons at Cal.

Both coaches have long track records as Division I head coaches, Brownell now in his 21st season, and Fox in his 18th. Brownell has made NCAA Tournament appearances at all three of his stops: UNC-Wilmington, Wright State and now Clemson. Brownell hasn’t had a lot of success winning NCAA Tournament games, winning two in 2018 and getting the Tigers to the Sweet 16. Brownell’s other five tournament appearances all resulted in Round of 64 losses.

Fox’s head coaching career began with immediate success at Nevada where he won the WAC regular season championship in each of his first, four years and punctuated that with noise-making NCAA Tournament upsets over Mike Montgomery’s Stanford team and Mark Few’s Gonzaga team. That success led Fox to Georgia where he posted winning records in six of his nine seasons in the SEC. The richest, athletic conference in the U.S. proved to be a tougher nut to crack for Fox as he posted just four winning, regular season conference records and never won the SEC regular season title or reached the SEC Tournament championship game.

Neither coach has been blessed with top line talent, in fact, the list of NBA players to play for either coach is uneventful headlined by Fox’s Nick Fazekas, Kirk Snyder, Luke Babbitt and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, along with Brownell’s Trevor Booker.

Oh, the final parallel? Parker Fox, Mark’s son just concluded a four-year run as a walk-on under Brownell at Clemson, where he participated in 22 games.

Given all that background, the playing field was hardly even on Saturday afternoon at the Emerald Coast Classic consolation game meeting between Fox’s Bears and Brownell’s Tigers.

Clemson never trailed in bottling up the Bears for a 67-59 win. The Tigers shot 53 percent from the field and rebounded from a narrow 74-71 loss to Iowa on Friday.

Cal’s efforts were poisoned by a miserable 3 for 20 shooting effort from distance that negated their stellar 18 of 20 effort from the free throw line. The Bears trailed 31-28 at the half and closed to within one after Joel Brown’s first made basket of the second half. But that triggered Clemson to 15-0 run that culminated with Brevin Galloway’s 3-pointer with 14:15 remaining.

The closest the Bears came after that was a 63-57 deficit with 28 seconds remaining, but the Tigers closed it out with a 4 for 4 performance from the line in the final seconds.

Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it is.

The Bears fell to 0-7 on the season with the loss, easily the most disappointing start to a season in the history of California basketball. Mark Fox has now coached 100 games at Cal and won just 35 of them, easily the least successful stretch of his 18 years as a Division I head coach.

The Bears host USC on Wednesday at Haas Pavilion in their Pac-12 conference opener, before they visit conference favorite Arizona on Sunday.

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