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BC-BKC--California-Jones Fired,1st Ld-Writethru

March 24, 2019
AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California has fired basketball coach Wyking Jones after winning just eight games in each of his first two seasons.

Athletic director Jim Knowlton announced the decision on Sunday, days after reports emerged that Jones had been told he would return to Cal for a third season.

Knowlton thanked Jones for his dedication to the program and called the firing a difficult decision. Jones has three years remaining on a five-year, $5 million contract.

“This was a difficult decision to make and comes after a deliberate and holistic review of our men’s basketball program,” Knowlton said in a statement.

“As always, we were guided by the best interests of our student-athletes, as well as the values and objectives of Cal athletics and our university. As we quickly turn toward our search for a new head coach for our men’s basketball program, I am certain that we will attract a strong, talented and highly qualified pool of candidates. I am confident that we will find someone who will help lead us on a path to being exceptional.”

Jones had a 16-47 record during his time at Cal. The Golden Bears followed up a school-record 16-game losing streak by winning the final three regular-season games this season.

Jones won just five conference games in his two seasons at Cal, finishing last in the Pac-12 both years. Attendance fell significantly this year as fans and students grew frustrated with the direction of the program that has made one trip to the NCAA Tournament the past six years.

Cuonzo Martin lost in the first round to Hawaii in 2016, the second of his three years at Cal before leaving for Missouri. Jones was an assistant on that staff and ultimately got the head coaching job.

Cal already had lost one key player with sophomore guard Darius McNeill announcing his intention to transfer last week.

Knowlton will begin a search for a replacement with former Cal star Jason Kidd, UC Irvine coach Russell Turner and Nevada coach Eric Musselman expected to be among the candidates.

Musselman and Turner have been candidates at Cal in the past.