Top 25 Cal Coaches Alltime in All Sports: Nos. 1-5

Pete Newell with his 1959 national championship teamPhoto courtesy of Cal athletics

Jake Curtis

We are down the top five in our ranking of the top 25 Cal coahes in history, and which coach do you believe deserves to be No. 1?

It's a subjective choice, of course, but we feel confident in our selection, as we give you are top five Cal coaches, with videos related to two of them.

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5. TERI McKEEVER, women's swimming

Teri McKeever became the first female head coach of a U.S. women’s Olympic swimming team when she was named to that post for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

In her first four years as Cal’s head coach, the Bears never finished better than 15th nationally. In her 24 years since they have never finished out of the top 10.

A 2012 New York Times article about McKeever said this:

Teri McKeever has always been the facilitator. Whether mediating a disagreement among her nine siblings or a roommate squabble on her Cal swim team, she has a way of navigating cliques, calming emotions and resolving problems without playing favorites.

McKeever, the first woman to be named head coach of the United States Olympic women’s swim team, cannot explain how she developed this skill. “Maybe that’s my gift,” she said. “That’s been my role on teams I’ve been involved in. Maybe it came naturally.”

McKeever specializes in repairing broken psyches and pushing her swimmers to excellence in and out of the water.

The Teri McKeever video:

The McKeever file:

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Cal tenure: 1992-93 through present

Record: 218-66 in dual meets in 28 seasons

Championships: 4 NCAA titles (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015); 4 Pac-10/Pac-12 titles (2009, 2012, 2014, 2015)

Other achievements: 2012 U.S. Olympic head coach; Top-3 national finish each of the past 11 years; 9 times her Cal athletes named NCAA Swimmers of the Year; 65 NCAA individual or relay champions

Honors: 5-time CSCAA National Coach of the Year (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019); 8-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year (1999, 2002, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019); American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

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4. KY EBRIGHT, men's rowing

Ky Ebright is the only man to coach three Olympic gold-medal-winning eight-oared boats. All three boats were Cal varsity-8 crews. Ebright had his best Cal crew in 1939, but the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were canceled because of World War II.

Jim Lemmon, Ebright’s successor as Cal’s coach, had this to say about Ebright when he retired, according to San Francisco Bay Area Sports: Golden Gate Athletics, Recreation and Community:

“No man had ever had such an impact on the sport, and no man ever will.”

In 2016 a 300-pound bronze statue of Ebright was stolen from the Cal Boathouse. A week later the $80,000 statue was recovered when it was discovered in a pickup truck in San Leandro, according to an NBC Bay Area report.

Ky Ebright 2 (Courtesy - Cal Athletics)
Photo courtesy of Cal athletics

The Ebright file:

Sport: Men’s rowing

Cal tenure: 1923-23 through 1958-59

Record: 36 seasons

Championships: 3 Olympic gold medals and Cal’s 8-man varsity crew represented the U.S. each time (1928, 1932, 1948); 6 National Intercollegiate Rowing Association varsity 8 titles (1928, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1949); 9 PCC titles.

Other achievements: 11 top-2 finishes in national IRA varsity-8 competition

Honors: U.S. Rowing Hall of Fame.

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3. JACK CLARK, rugby

Cal had a 115-match winning streak against U.S. collegiate competition from April 2004 to May 2009. Cal has won 29 national titles under Jack Clark.

Clark’s often repeated quote: “Grateful for everything, entitled to nothing.”

Former Cal assistant athletic director Bob Driscol said this about Jack Clark in a 2013 Daily Cal article:

“When he talks, all eyes are on him. There is an unconditional belief in him. When he says something, it is absolutely authentic and believable.”

Jack Clark 2018 (Courtesy - Kelley Cox-KLC Fotos)
Photo courtesy of Kelley Cox - KLC Fotos

The Clark file:

Sport: Men’s rugby

Cal tenure: 1984-85 through present

Record: 870-119-5 combined record (681-96-5 in 15s, 189-23 in 7s) in 37 seasons

Championships: 24 national titles in 15s (1985, 1986, 1988, 1991-2002, 2004-2008, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017); 5 national titles in 7s (2013-2017)

Other achievements: 1985-92 head coach Collegiate All-America team; 1993-99 head coach of the USA National Team; 1993-2003 general manager national team; 136 All-Americans; 49 players who appeared on the U.S. National 15s Team

Honors: U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame; named Living Legend by Pac-12 Networks; numerous coach of the year honors

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2. ANDY SMITH, football

Cal’s first national championship under Andy Smith came in 1920, when the Bears upset Ohio State 28-0 in the 1921 Rose Bowl, although it was not called the Rose Bowl at the time. The Bears led 21-0 at halftime and Smith reportedly started crying because he was so grateful for what his team had accomplished. The players started crying with him.

Cal’s victory over the Buckeyes led to football hysteria in California, and that led to the construction of the Rose Bowl stadium, which was designed in 1921 and built in 1922.

Smith noted the essential elements of success in the book "Big Games: College Football’s Biggest Rivalries":

"There are four mental qualifications necessary for success: aggressiveness, obedience, concentration and determination. Add to this harmonious cooperation and you have the makings of a real team.”

Shortly after the 1925 season, which ended with a loss to Stanford and a 6-3 record, Smith contracted pneumonia and he died in January 1926 at the age of 42. How many more national titles could he have won?

***Andy Smith (left) had only a four-man coaching staff

Smith-Andy w staff FB 1923 Win
Photo courtesy of Cal athletics

The Smith file: 

Sport: Football

Cal tenure: 1916-17 through 1925-26

Record: 74-16-7 in 10 seasons

Championships: 4 national titles, as named by at least one major agency (1920-consensus choice, 1921, 1922, 1923); 5 PCC titles (1918, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923)

Other achievements: 5 undefeated seasons (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924); 50-game unbeaten streak (46-0-4) from the start of 1920 season until the third game of the 1925 season.

Awards: College Football Hall of Fame

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1. PETE NEWELL, men's basketball

Pete Newell was called “one of the most influential coaches in the history of basketball,” by the New York Times when he died at the age of 93. That, and the fact that he took Cal to the peak of national prominence in what was then becoming a major college sport are the reasons he is at the very top of our list.

He coached Cal for just six seasons, but left coaching while the Bears were at the top of college basketball. The Bears under Newell won with lesser talent, beating a West Virginia team led by Jerry West in the 1959 title game, and twice knocking off Oscar Robertson-led Cincinnati in the national semifinals.

He was one of the early practitioners of what has become known as the motion offense, and he took defensive principles to a new level. Newell was a master of basketball fundamentals and discipline, demanding patience on offense.

And one more thing: Newell had a winning record against UCLA's John Wooden, and Wooden's Bruins became a dynasty soon after Newell retired.

Former Cal coach Mike Montgomery talks about Newell in this video:

The Newell file:

Sport: Men’s basketball

Cal tenure: 1954-55 through 1959-60

Record: 119-44 in 6 seasons

Championships: 1959 NCAA title; 1960 NCAA runner-up: 4 Pacific Coast Conference titles (1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)

Other achievements: Coached the University of San Francisco to the 1949 NIT title; had a 10-9 head-to-head record at Cal vs. UCLA’s John Wooden; coached the 1960 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Rome.

Honors: Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame

Pete Newell 1958-59 (Courtesy - Cal Athletics)
Photo courtesy of Cal athletics

Click here for coaches Nos. 6-10

Click here for coaches Nos. 11-15

Click here for coaches Nos. 16-20

Click here for coaches Nos. 21-25

Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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