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Cal’s Gottlieb is the Leader of the New School

By Ira Childress | ChildressSports.com | December 30th, 2012

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Following their road win over the Northwestern Wildcats a few weeks ago, a smiling University of California Women’s Basketball team trickled out of the locker room and headed towards the bus. As the trickle slowed to a drip, I inquired about the head coach’s whereabouts to one of the players. “She’s right there,” she replied and motioned towards what appeared to be another group of teammates. I almost missed the 35-year old head coach as she blended in with her team, swapping her sideline-ready dress slacks and button-down for the team-issued travel gear. It was a fitting sight for one of the nation’s best young coaches, a coach who embodies the essence of her players. But don’t let the warm-up suit fool you. Second-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb has No. 8 Cal (10-1) off to their best start in school history.

Gottlieb is a tireless worker, a visionary with a high IQ. The Brown University graduate fits the Ivy League prototype to a T with her tenacity for studying film and a cerebral mentality about the game. One conversation with the coach is like listening to an artist speak of their latest work – filled with colorful dialogue about the intricacies of each player and the philosophies behind key decisions. But her greatest attribute may be her ability to connect — with people and with technology.

“Being ahead of the game on technology is the way the world is going. You can reach more people. Women’s basketball is still a grassroots initiative, and the more that I can do to help build this program and our brand, the more I will do,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb got her first coaching offer on the day she graduated from Brown. At the ripe age of 21, she accepted the assistant coach role at Syracuse and served two seasons there before moving on to New Hampshire and then Richmond. While at Richmond, Gottlieb teamed up with mentor, Joanne Boyle — a coaching partnership that would span five years and two universities, eventually landing the pair at Cal in 2005. Gottlieb spoke highly of Boyle’s early empowerment of the young coach.

“I was 24 years old and couldn’t even rent a car; I needed a note to rent a car. She said let’s do this thing together. I got to see things and do things in the profession that might be as close to what it might be like to run a program, even though I was an assistant.  She gave me a lot of responsibility.”

With her successful tenure under Boyle at Richmond and Cal, the head coaching offers started to come in, but the right fit was important. She found that fit with the University of California Santa Barbara. From 2008-2011, Gottlieb guided the Gauchos to two post-season berths and a pair of Big West Conference championships. Her leadership was commemorated with the 2009 Big West Coach of the Year award. UCSB provided a valuable training ground for the young coach to run her own program and put her process to the test.

Her third season at UCSB would be her last with the Gauchos. In the spring of 2011, Gottlieb would return to Cal to become the head coach following Boyle’s departure for Virginia.  She wasted no time finding success at Cal. In her first season as the Bears’ head coach, Gottlieb’s team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. She also became the first head coach in Cal program history to win 20 games in her first season as head coach. But Gottlieb is not about just winning games; she wants to take the program to another level.

“Joanne Boyle helped make this program a national program, and now it’s a matter of becoming elite. I think that there’s an opportunity for us to be cutting edge while still knowing basketball, while still having personal relationships, and still having the old fashioned ‘you do it with hard work’ and ‘it’s a people business,’ but let’s be at the forefront of the profession.”

Gottlieb is definitely cutting edge. Through social media interactions with her players, fans, and an innovative website devoted to all things Cal Basketball at thisiscalbasketball.com, Gottlieb is a pioneer for the new school of women’s basketball coaches.

“I’m using social media to open the doors and the windows to our process and whoever is interested in learning about it, here it is. I think that’s where the more successful companies and the more successful teams get an edge is by reaching more people.”

She does a great job of reaching her student-athletes off-the-court as well.  Through what she calls the Individual Development Plan, Gottlieb has developed a system that allows her players to remain organized and productive from the palm of their hand. This systems gives players the ability to access important information about practice times, shot charts, class syllabi, and tutor appointments with the click of a mouse or from the player’s smart phone.

“Everything we do is geared towards making sure they are as successful as possible and as high performing as possible while they’re here as student-athletes,” Gottlieb continued, “and at the same time making sure they’re as high functioning in whatever they choose to do when they walk out of here.”

Make no mistake about it: Gottlieb has surrounded herself with a talented coaching staff and has very talented players, but her ability to connect with them and connect them to an inspired vision is what has Cal Women’s Basketball on the verge of something very special.

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Erin Andrews Brings More Than Meets the Eye to Fox Sports

By Ira Childress | ChildressSports.com | July 6th, 2012

With Erin Andrews at the 2012 Super Bowl’s DIRECTTV Celebrity Beach Bowl

At the 2005 Big Ten Basketball Tournament in Chicago, my seat on press row was next to one of ESPN’s young, rising on-air talents, Erin Andrews.  She was just one year into her career at ESPN, but already an Internet sensation.  She was a celebrity and, to be honest, I was expecting to meet a diva.   However, the Erin Andrews I actually met was one of the nicest, most genuine, hardest working people in the sports broadcasting industry.   While always a pretty face, her true success has been based on her passion for her craft and ability to persevere through the hype that surrounds her image.

True to Her Word
Back on press row at that Big Ten Tournament, I mentioned to Andrews that I was the host of a new sports talk radio show in Michigan.  I asked if she’d be interested in coming on to talk college hoops and college football.  I assumed she would tell me to contact the ESPN media relations staff for booking requests.  But, Andrews quickly said, “Sure, I’d love to come on,” and we agreed to be in touch.  Over the course of the next few years, Andrews became a periodic guest on my radio show.  Even with a busy schedule, she made time for the show.  One appearance was especially memorable, as she was walking into a pep rally for her beloved Florida Gators (of which she’s an alum) during one of their basketball national championship runs. I always appreciated her patience and enthusiasm.  Never once did she ask, “What’s in it for me.” She was always fun, always friendly, and always insightful.

Driven
During the Big Ten Tournament, what caught my attention wasn’t what she was wearing or how she looked, but how she relentlessly followed every play. She jotted down notes of all the intricacies of the game.  She immersed herself into the game’s environment and conveyed its excitement in her sideline reports.  I remember thinking, as we bantered back and forth about the games, that she wasn’t interested in fluff.  She wanted to give the viewers a telescopic view of the game inside the game.  It became immediately clear that this was someone who was much more about her substance than her style, and had the ability to become one of the best in the business.  So, when news broke of her ESPN departure for a much more expanded role on Fox Sports, I had to borrow a phrase from newly crowned NBA Champion, LeBron James, “It’s about damn time.”

Taking Her Game to the Next Level
Don’t get me wrong. Andrews’ gig at ESPN was a great one, but her role was largely limited to the sidelines in the college arena.  At Fox Sports, she’ll get a chance to grow and show her talent in multiple platforms, while adding cache’ to their prime time college football coverage by hosting their 30-minute pregame show. Make no mistake about it; Erin Andrews is a celebrity and a big catch for Fox Sports on and off the field. She has 1 million Twitter followers. She is hounded by the Paparazzi. She has television commercials and movie roles. But through it all, she has stayed grounded and never taken herself too seriously.  She’s a role model for aspiring sports journalists, especially young women who are often pressured to sacrifice substance for style.  This latest move will certainly boast a bevy of new opportunities — and certainly those beyond the sports world. But, just as she was back when I met her in 2005, she’s focused on the task at hand: being the best sports broadcaster she can be.

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