Golden Gaze

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Coach Golden (center right) poses with Provost Heller (left), Father Fitzgerald (center left) and Athletic Director Joan McDermott (right). CHRISTINA LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

Father Paul J. Fitzgerald, Provost Don Heller, new Athletic Director Joan McDermott, and an assortment of Bay Area media gathered around center court in the War Memorial Gym on April 1. A crowd assembled in the stands. Dons men’s basketball players took their seats. Members of the spirit squad and the cheerleading team roamed around, shaking silver pom-poms with an emphatic-yet-business-casual intensity.

Even the Don himself showed up for the man of the hour: Todd Golden.

The Dons’ new men’s basketball coach sat at the center of it all, remarkably poised considering he was the target of every camera in a 200-foot radius.

“It’s truly an honor to be named the 20th head men’s basketball coach here at the University of San Francisco,” Golden said, wearing a tie that matched his last name.

Golden, appointed on March 27, told the storied history of the Dons and addressed any concerns fans may have about the transition. He boasted that the program is one of only 15 in the country to win multiple national championships, and has produced 24 NBA players, including all-time great Bill Russell.

“I’m happy to share with y’all today that the University of San Francisco men’s basketball program is as healthy as it’s been in a long, long time,” Golden said. “We return 10 student-athletes on scholarship this coming year, and I’m also happy to report that all 10 are committed to building on this program moving forward,” he added, allaying fears that players would transfer following the departure of coach Kyle Smith.

Golden also announced that he has formed a “four-man leadership team,” seemingly similar to a core of team captains, of Jimbo Lull, Jordan Ratinho, Charles Minlend and Jamaree Bouyea. He laid out his coaching philosophies, focusing on defense, rebounding and transition. “Individual achievement means nothing unless the success of the team is first,” he added.

Golden spent his college years playing at Saint Mary’s College of California. His college career culminated with an appearance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. In his time with the Gaels, Golden started 82 games and ranked near the top of the West Coast Conference in five significant offensive categories.

Golden played professionally in Israel for the Maccabi Hunter Haifa before transitioning to coaching. In 2012, he began working under Kyle Smith and the Columbia University Lions. Two years later, Golden accepted an assistant coaching position at Auburn University under coach Bruce Pearl, for whom Golden played in 2009 as a member of the USA national team in the Maccabiah Games, colloquially known as the Jewish Olympics.

Golden cited his previous connection with Pearl as a catalyst for some of his career growth. “He brought me down to the plains, in years one and two, to start building that program,” Golden said, “Now they’re in year five there. And as most of you are aware, Coach Pearl led the Auburn Tigers to their first Final Four in school history yesterday, and I’m really proud to be a part of that foundation.”

Golden closed his remarks by announcing that most of the coaching staff had been retained, and Kevin Hovde has been promoted to Associate Head Coach.

But Golden was not done.

“I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we’re going to make this program the best it can be,” Golden said. “I wanted to surround myself with people who were talented, smart, experienced and weren’t afraid to challenge me. I wanted to add a staff member who had experience both as a player and a coach at the highest level, someone who cared a tremendous amount about the University, and would wear the pride on his sleeve.”

As suspense built, Golden dropped the biggest news of the day. “I’m happy to announce that Bill Cartwright is going to join our staff as a special assistant.” As the applause erupted, optimism seemed to fill the gym.

Kyle Smith is a great coach, but rest assured, Dons fans, the future is Golden.

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