Lindsay Gottlieb, conductor of Cal's historic run to the Women's Final Four, had planned to make music on the basketball court a long time ago. Just ask her clarinet teacher from Scarsdale, N.Y., who spent much of their hourlong lessons listening to the girl talk about the New York Knicks.
It turns out Gottlieb already knew where she was headed.
The second-year Cal coach is one of the rising stars of college coaching, having brought the Golden Bears (32-3) to the verge of an NCAA championship. Second-seeded Cal plays fifth-seeded Louisville on Sunday in a national semifinal game starting at 3:30 p.m.
Gottlieb, 35, has found her calling among the hoopla of March Madness with a talented, personable group of players.
The Mama Bear has used a gentle touch to get her players to believe in each other like a family. It has helped the Cal women survive two overtime games to reach their first Final Four in history — and 53 years after the last appearance by the men's team.
“She's always been a people person,” older sister Chris Gottlieb said. “Since she was a kid bouncing around with a ponytail, it was 'everybody loves Lindsay.'” Gottlieb has been preparing for this moment much of her life.
Hilary Heieck, now senior marketing manager at the Pac-12 network, remembers spending hours pretending she and Gottlieb were playing in the Final Four while shooting hoops in her driveway as teens. The best friends would design last-second plays to win the championship.
If they missed? “We would call a foul,” said Heieck, who as Hilary Howard led Duke to the 1999 national championship game in San Jose. “So it always ended up working out.” Gottlieb and Heieck even prepared for the media blitz by conducting fake news conferences with each other. At the time, Gottlieb wanted to be a lawyer or write for Sports Illustrated. Her genes, apparently, were inclined toward the law. Her father, Stephen Gottlieb, served almost two decades as a civil court judge in Queens County. He also was a New York assemblyman. Her sister, Chris, is a law professor at New York University while her brother, Peter, is a lawyer in New York. Another sister, Suzy, is a veterinarian.