California fires coach Braun after 12 seasons

Cal fired men's basketball coach Ben Braun Wednesday after 12 seasons, citing lack of NCAA tournament appearances over the past five years.

Braun had a 219-154 record and guided the team to five NCAA tournament berths and three National Invitation Tournaments. In 1996-97, Cal reached the Sweet 16 and Braun earned Pac-10 coach of the year honors. He guided the 1998-99 team to the NIT championship.

The Bears finished ninth in the Pac-10 this season, going 6-12, 17-16 overall. A year ago, Cal finished 16-17, 6-12 for eighth place in the conference. Two seasons ago, the Bears finished 13-16, 6-12 in the Pac-10 -- also for eighth place. Cal last made the NCAA tournament in 2005-06.

"Ultimately, the bottom line is we just didn't win enough basketball games," Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour told the Associated Press. "I believe this is a very talented team and I believe they underperformed. ... It concerns me not to put the student-athletes in position to have outrageous success."

Braun, who came from Eastern Michigan, replaced Todd Bozeman 12 years ago after Bozeman was fired because of NCAA violations. Braun has a buyout in his contract and will be paid $985,000.

"I'd like to thank the Cal community for 12 great years of support," Braun said in a statement. "I've had the privilege to coach at one of the top universities in the country, and I'm proud of the program we've built. Going to eight postseason tournaments has been very special. I'm obviously disappointed that my staff and I won't be able to coach this team next year, and I feel they will be very successful."

The Bears had one of the top players in the country in Ryan Anderson, but injuries and inconsistencies prevented them from making the NCAA tournament. Cal beat New Mexico in the first round of the NIT but lost at Ohio State in the second round.

"I was speechless, shocked, kind of numb in a way," forward Jamal Boykin said. "I heard all the rumors. I understand, but I think it's unfortunate because he's put together a really good system. I understand how the business works. This is a top university."

Barbour said a search for a new coach will begin immediately, aided by the firm of Eastman & Beaudine, Inc. Associate head coach Louis Reynaud will direct the program until a head coach is named.

The Cal job has always been one of the most coveted in the West. Potential interest could come from former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery, TV analyst and former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, former Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings coach Eric Musselman and Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett, among many others.

Barbour already has her own short list.

Boykin said the Bears need a "disciplinarian" who will put some "fear" in the players.

"The numbers don't lie," Boykin said. "We made the NIT but that was a disappointment to a lot of people. I really have no idea why our defense was so bad. It's a mental toughness thing and we didn't have that mental toughness on the defensive end."

Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.