Stanford coach Mike Montgomery has a reputation as a straitlaced
kind of guy, which may explain the collective shock in the
Cardinal locker room last Saturday after Stanford's
breathtakingly efficient 85-76 win at Pac-10 nemesis Arizona. As
everyone dressed for the bus ride to the airport, Montgomery,
changing his trousers, calmly revealed a whole new side: white
boxer shorts covered with--egad!--silk-screened lipstick smooches.
"Coach Montgomery, what in the heck--?" exclaimed center Jason
Collins. "Are those your lucky drawers?" Montgomery grinned from
ear to ear. Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly introduce the full
"I love Coach," guard Casey Jacobsen cracked. "This game was so
important to him. He's money."
So, too, it turns out, is the Cardinal, which has a 13-0 record,
including a come-from-behind win last month over then No. 1 Duke
and last week's triumph over the preseason No. 1 Wildcats in
Tucson. That victory, coupled with Michigan State's loss to
Indiana on Sunday, moved Stanford to the top spot. With the
Cardinal's toughest Pac-10 showdown out of the way, the
preposterous notion of an undefeated season has suddenly become
a topic of discussion in Palo Alto. Sort of. "It's pretty
unrealistic," Jacobsen said last week, "but right now our team
shows no sign of losing, unless we lose our focus."
January 15, 2001
At the very least the Cardinal is the clear favorite in its
conference, a team blessed with weapons at every position. There
are the increasingly ferocious Collins twins, 6'11" Jarron and
7-foot Jason, who dominated the post against Arizona, combining
for 41 points and 21 rebounds while holding the Wildcats' most
consistent player, Michael Wright, to 14 points and a single
rebound. There's Cardinal swingman Ryan Mendez, who repeatedly
pierced the Arizona defense and scored 20 points. There's also
Michael McDonald, the underrated point guard, whose
assist-to-turnover total for the season is a you-can't-be-serious
66-17. "The game is still a skill game," says Montgomery. "We're
shooting the ball well, and if you defend, board and shoot,
you're going to be pretty good."
Nor does it hurt to have a budding star like Jacobsen. It's not
just that the 6'6" sophomore leads Stanford with 17.8 points per
game while shooting a remarkable 47.9% from three-point range, or
that he had 26 points and the game-winning shot in the thriller
against Duke. Jacobsen also makes his teammates better, either by
creating opportunities for them when he's double-teamed or simply
by providing an example. "I've benefited tremendously from
watching Casey," says Mendez. "Here's a guard who's getting to
the hole, who's getting fouled, and I'm like, What if I try to
drive a little bit more?"
One sequence at the end of the first half on Saturday neatly
summed up the differences between share-the-wealth Stanford and
the 8-5 Wildcats, who often play like gifted but undisciplined
jazzmen, each riffing on a different tune. Trailing by seven
points, Arizona milked the clock, only to have guard Gilbert
Arenas chuck (and miss) an off-balance trey. McDonald took the
outlet pass off the rebound and found Jacobsen streaking
unguarded down the wing, whereupon the player his teammates call
Iceman (no, not after George Gervin but after Val Kilmer's
bleached-blond flyboy in Top Gun) buried a three-pointer at the
horn to give Stanford a rally-killing 10-point advantage. Never
leave your wingman, indeed.
If Jacobsen's lyrical smoothness makes it seem as if he was born
and raised to play basketball, he was. When each of Von and Becky
Jacobsen's four children--Adam, 26, Brock, 23, Casey, 19, and
Derek, 13--reached the fifth grade, his parents asked him if he
wanted to make the commitment to earn a Division I athletic
scholarship. All of the boys said yes, and all of them picked
basketball, springing Von, a former San Diego State guard who
played two seasons in Europe, into action. "If you decided to be
a good player, he'd push you to go full out and do it the right
way," says Adam. "He didn't force us to do anything, but once we
made the decision, he would say, 'O.K., I have a pretty good
Whatever you want to call it--the Program, perhaps, or, given the
boys' initials, a one-family ABCD Camp--Von's plan included all
sorts of things: year-round AAU basketball from the fifth grade,
no vacations, no sleepovers at friends' houses, and regular
visits to the weight room and to various "shot doctor" shamans.
It meant that Casey attended Adam's and Brock's high school
games, at which he locked onto their every move. It meant that
Von, a builder and carpenter, would leave for work long before
sunrise, the better to come home at 3 p.m. each day and drive his
boys to practices and games. It meant, in short, that nothing was
done halfway, not even the family's outdoor basketball court.
When Casey was two, Von began clearing the avocado trees on the
family's three-quarter-acre lot in Glendora, Calif., and built
his sons the Xanadu of backyard basketball courts--or, as the
family now refers to it, the Taj Ma-Hoop. It's a sprawling
concrete half-court, complete with a three-point line, a key and
a square backboard (with breakaway rim) emblazoned with the word
TARTANS, the nickname of Glendora High's teams. At night two sets
of stadium lights shine down on the court. "It looks best then,
and that's when we played on it the most," Casey says. During
high school, two-on-two games involving Casey, his friends and
his brothers would go as late as 3:30 in the morning.
Casey admits that basketball wasn't always fun in those days. On
long rides home after 12-year-old Casey's AAU games, Von would
dissect his son's performance, often with brutal honesty.
"Sometimes I dreaded getting into the car," Casey says. "When I'd
play badly, he would get into things I didn't want to hear. It's
hard when you're that young to talk about failure. Sometimes I
felt like nothing was good enough, and I'd cry all the time,
saying, 'Dad, I don't know what else I can do out there.'"
By the time Casey reached Glendora High, where he would go on to
score 3,284 career points, the second most by a California
schoolboy, Von's prodding took on a different tone. "When I got
older, he changed from talking about failure to talking about
being the best," Casey says. "For instance, I'd score 30 in a
game, and we'd win by a lot. I'd come home, and we'd get into an
argument about how it could have been 40."
"Grant Hill [in his autobiography] called it his dad's PGA: Post
Game Analysis," says Von. "Sometimes I was pretty rough, but it
was all about improving, with the idea that reaching Casey's goal
was about more than having a good game. It was about not ever
Casey knows what you're thinking: His dad is another Marv
Marinovich, a mad scientist trying to create a test-tube athlete.
True, Von once took Casey's older brothers to Marinovich for
training, and Von says, "A lot of what Marv did, I still do." He
adds, however, that some of Marinovich's tactics--such as
forbidding his son ever to eat a Big Mac--were beyond the pale.
What's more, Casey emphasizes, "my dad was never a yeller, and we
all have great relationships with him. A lot of parents might
ask, 'How can you not say "great game" and give your kid a big
hug when he comes home?' But I didn't want the big hug every
game. I wouldn't be the same player, and he knew that."
In fact, Von's stern facade has come to be the source of much
humor in the Jacobsen family, which is so hoopsophilic that it
holds an annual Christmas free throw contest among its six
members at the Taj Ma-Hoop. (Adam proudly offers that he's the
two-time defending champ.) Casey thinks Von has mellowed in
recent years. For her part Becky says, "Von gets a bad rap from
some people. He knows basketball, and he knows how to teach it."
Besides, as Von points out, he's three for three so far in
helping his sons get Division I scholarships. (Adam played at
Pacific, and Brock at San Diego.) Yet none of the boys'
recruiting sagas drew more attention than Casey's, which pitted
Stanford against Duke--and Casey against Mike Dunleavy Jr.,
another blue-chip two guard who was considering both schools.
Casey thinks his parents were leaning toward Duke, though they
never said so. ("My dad has all of Coach K's books," Casey says.)
During the final days of the recruiting period, however, Quin
Snyder, a Blue Devils assistant at the time, called Casey and
told him that he was Duke's second choice, behind Dunleavy.
Stung, Casey committed to Stanford the next day.
Fittingly for Jacobsen, the Cardinal has beaten Duke twice in the
past two seasons. "I don't hate Duke, but it didn't want me as
bad as Stanford did, so to play well against Duke was a great
feeling," Jacobsen says. "Those guys are quicker and stronger
than me, so to score against them told me I can do it against
Likewise, while Jacobsen says he and Dunleavy are friends, he
concedes that he feels a rivalry. "I wanted to play well and shut
him down," says Jacobsen. Sure enough, during the game in
December, Dunleavy scored 13 points to Jacobsen's 26, and the
former missed two late free throws, giving Jacobsen the chance to
play the hero. "That was a special night," says Von, whose work
schedule prevents him from attending all of Casey's games.
Twice a week, moreover, Von teaches a plyometrics and basketball
fundamentals class at the Taj Ma-Hoop to 20 junior high kids,
including Derek, a 6'1" eighth-grader who, unlike his brothers,
is a post player. Yet Von made it to Oakland for the game against
Duke, just as he was there in Tucson for Saturday's showdown. You
know what he gave his son after both those games? Hugs. Big,
warm, fatherly hugs. Casey couldn't have been any happier.
If Jacobsen's lyrical smoothness makes it seem he was born and
raised to play basketball, he was.