CULVER CITY, Calif. - As Sonny Dykes sat at a table on the Sony Studios lot on Friday, he picked at a plate of spaghetti, potato salad and a bread roll with a plastic fork. He was wearing a polo emblazoned with the Cal logo, representing the Golden Bears on Pac-12 media day.
Two or three reporters sat around the same table as Dykes chatted with two showbiz people.
One of them told Dykes about how he worked on "Moneyball," the Academy Award-nominated film that was partially shot on the same Sony lot.
Fun fact, Dykes told him, Billy Beane - the Oakland A's general manager on which "Moneyball" was based - bought Jeff Tedford's old house. Tedford was Dykes' predecessor at Cal.
Soon, the number of people sitting around that table quickly ballooned from three to about 15.
"This is a different scene than we had at WAC media day," he quipped. "I interviewed myself. I asked some hard-hitting questions of myself last year."
Now, Dykes is returning to the Pac-12, where he coached for three years on Mike Stoops' staff at Arizona before he was hired at Louisiana Tech. In his three years there, the Bulldogs went 22-15. Last year, Dykes guided the nation's best offense: The Bulldogs averaged 51.5 points a game and 577.9 yards on the way to a 9-3 record.
Dykes, 43, now brings his prolific Air Raid offense - which he learned from coaching under Mike Leach at Texas Tech - back to the Pac-12.
"When I coached at Arizona, I thought this league had huge potential," Dykes said. "This is why you coach all the different places you coach - you do it to get to a school like Cal and in the Pac-12, with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl.
"That's the pinnacle of college football, and any time you're in position to do that, it's exciting."
But Dykes won't be resting on his La. Tech laurels. The Golden Bears went 3-9 a year ago, the program's worst season since the Tom Holmoe-led squad went 1-10 in 2001. Tedford had one losing season in 11 years as coach, and it cost him his job.
"We needed to mature more," Cal linebacker Nick Forbes said. "Coach Dykes tells us like it is. We were going through spring ball, and he's like, 'All right, you guys are getting better, but I still think you guys are a 5-7 team right now.' We were surprised because we thought we had a great spring, worked hard, but we weren't there yet."
Dykes is honest, but he doesn't yell. If anything, he's laid back.
In the spring, receiver Bryce Treggs and Forbes went to a charity event with Dykes. Afterward, they went to his house and were just "hanging around in his basement," Forbes said.
"I was like, man, this is the head coach, this is the guy. We're just hanging out, talking ball."
"With our feet up, just chillin'," interjected Treggs.
"Yeah," Forbes said, "and afterward, Mrs. Dykes (Sonny's wife, Kate) said, 'We've got a full fridge and a pool table downstairs. You guys can come all the time. I was like, 'What?'"
Expectations aren't exactly high for the Golden Bears, as they were picked to finish fifth in the North Division in the Pac-12's media preseason poll. And Dykes understands that.
"If you're on the outside looking at Cal football, it doesn't look very good," he said. "From inside, we think it looks very good. We know the talent that exists in our program. I think we will surprise some people."
Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at email@example.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @zackblatt