Montgomery's real victory
The biggest news at the Pac-12's annual media day Friday didn't have anything to do with basketball, expansion or television contracts.
It was when California coach Mike Montgomery, one of the most successful coaches in conference history, announced his previously undisclosed recent surgery was for "high-grade bladder cancer" - and that doctors managed to remove all of it.
"Through a series of extremely fortuitous events, we were able to get in, get the little polyp, tumor … and everything since that time has been all clear, all clear, all clear," Montgomery said. "Essentially I went from having high-grade bladder cancer a month ago to being totally cancer-free at this juncture."
Montgomery said he was checked at precisely the right time, with doctors saying "three months ago we wouldn't have found this, six months from now you'd be done."
Not only does Montgomery say he's fully cleared to coach this season, but he also has his famously semi-cranky sense of humor back.
"Lost a little weight," he said, "but I don't think I'd recommend it as a diet, necessarily."
Maybe a month
Another Pac-12 figure who is also lucky to be alive, Arizona forward Kevin Parrom, continues to progress toward a possible return within a month or so.
UA coach Sean Miller said Thursday that Parrom will begin participating in noncontact practice drills, since he's now able to run just five weeks after he had no feeling below his right knee because of a gunshot wound.
"I really believe he'll return to the court this year," Miller said. "We're pointing towards late November, early December, if he continues to experience the same progress that he has."
Live in L.A.
Long gone are the days when the Pac-10 would hold its preseason media day at a generic LAX airport hotel ballroom. Last year, the conference set up shop in the splashy but airy Nokia Theatre, across the street from Staples Center in the L.A. Live complex, and this year the Pac-12 debuted its basketball product inside the cozy and trendy Conga Room, also in L.A. Live.
For 10 years, the area has been the Pac-10's home for postseason tournaments, too. But the Pac-12 has only one more tournament contracted for Staples Center next March, and commissioner Larry Scott said he is still considering several off-campus sites in L.A. and other West Coast cities to host future tournaments.
They could be KO'd
USC coach Kevin O'Neill was not shy (as usual) in describing how much the Trojans will be relying on sophomore guard Maurice Jones to play point guard in the absence of Jio Fontan, who blew out his knee during an August trip to Brazil.
"He is playing 40 minutes a game this season," KO said, while sitting next to Jones on the Conga Room stage. "I'm informing him of that right now."
And if Jones can't do it?
"If he's hurt, don't come to the games," O'Neill said. "It'll be ugly. Don't show up."
Pac-12 media have correctly picked the conference champion in 12 of the past 19 years, but Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak isn't sure that kind of accuracy matters to his team.
The Utes were picked last.
"I know you guys are all so smart," he said. "I want to know, though, how many times you picked the bottom correctly. Hopefully, that's not as high of a number."
Not only did Oregon State coach Craig Robinson say he has a team that can be competitive in every game, but he also said the Beavers have enough athleticism to play more man-to-man defense.
However, you can expect the Beavers will pull out their unconventional 1-3-1 zone defense on occasion, especially against Arizona.
"We just haven't had the athletes and the depth to play man-to-man" before this season, Robinson said. But "we would never, ever stop playing the 1-3-1."