BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Mike Montgomery experienced a reflective moment after California's thrilling triple-overtime win at Washington last weekend. As he watched his players celebrate, he realized this is a big reason why he's back coaching in the college game.
``The kids were just jumping up and down, hugging each other,'' Montgomery said Tuesday. ``It was such an implausible end to a game. It's just fun to watch kids enjoy themselves like that. That's what's supposed to happen occasionally. They fought, they hung in there. We get a break or two, obviously, to win. You just sit back as a coach and look at kids really having the feeling you're supposed to get from athletics. That's the fun part of it.''
So is the early season success - legitimate signs of a turnaround for men's basketball in Berkeley.
Montgomery has the surprising Golden Bears (15-2) riding a nine-game winning streak, off to a 4-0 start in Pac-10 play and earning a No. 22 ranking this week.
here he coached 18 successful seasons before a two-year stint in the NBA leading the Golden State Warriors and then television work.
And this Cal team was picked to place eighth in the conference this season in Montgomery's first year.
``You're trying to gain respect for your program,'' Montgomery said. ``The only way you can gain respect is to win. You win and people are going to come and talk about you. ... I understand how flimsy and artificial rankings are.
``Just having others acknowledge your program and the players in your program, I think it means something to those kids. You have to get mentioned at some point. That's what your goal is. If we lose we understand we won't be ranked, but we'll be in the mix. And what you want is to be in the mix. Right now we've earned the right to be in the mix.''
The Bears had to go the distance - as in three extra sessions - to beat the Huskies 88-85 in Seattle on Saturday and complete a tough sweep of the Washington schools. Cal is off to its best start since the 1959-60 team went 28-2 and lost in the NCAA title game to Ohio State.
``I think that last game especially said a lot about our team and how we come together and stick through some adversity,'' said Cal forward Theo Robertson, who sat out last season recovering from hip surgery. ``I think that was the first time we've had our backs against the wall this year, so it's a good experience for us.''
Robertson's return has provided a big boost on both ends of the floor. He is not only a solid defender, but he also leads the nation by making 59.3 percent of his 3-pointers.
Cal's 48.3-percent shooting from beyond the arc is also tops, but you won't hear the Bears boasting about it.
Montgomery's conservative approach to his team's accomplishments so far has rubbed off on his players. Robertson points to the fact it is only mid-January - no time to get overly excited.
``I believe he's happy, but not satisfied,'' guard Patrick Christopher said of Montgomery. ``The success feels good right now, but I keep harping on not being satisfied because the true goal is toward the future. We have to bring it even harder now in practice. We can't settle, because people are going to be after us now.''

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