When he was at Cal Poly, former Mustangs men’s basketball head coach Kevin Bromley went hard after recruits Greg Somogyi and Lucas Devenny.
The duo of big men ended up in the Big West Conference at rival UC Santa Barbara, and Bromley was fired by Cal Poly last spring.
Now, after a year away from the bench, Bromley is ending up with the Gauchos as well.
The former nine-year Mustangs head coach said he begins a new assignment as an assistant to UC Santa Barbara head coach Bob Williams today, and in a previous meeting with the team, he addressed some of his former recruits who got away.
“I did crack a couple jokes,” Bromley said. “I said you guys wouldn’t come to Cal Poly, so I guess I had to come to Santa Barbara.”
Bromley — who expects to play a major role in recruiting and on-court player development — wasn’t the only one having a little fun with the Mustangs-Gauchos rivalry, which has been as heated as any other and at times manifested in physical altercations on the court.
“Kevin has more experience in the Big West Conference than anybody but Bob Thomason,” Williams said in a news release. “He knows the Big West inside-out and he’s had success.
“He also looks better in blue than green.”
Outside of Thomason, the 22-year Pacific head coach, Bromley’s time spent in the conference rivals anyone’s.
He started as an assistant at Cal Poly in 1995, one year after the program moved up to Division I. He took over as interim head coach in the middle of the 2000-01 season and parlayed that opportunity into the full-time job.
Bromley left the Mustangs with a 99-145 overall record, his tenure marked by highs and lows.
Cal Poly twice advanced as far as the Big West Tournament title game and even held a halftime lead over Long Beach State before eventually falling in the 2008 final.
The Mustangs also finished last in the conference twice under Bromley and were left out of the Big West Tournament each time.
It was after the second such occasion — a 7-21 season in which Cal Poly went winless at home in conference play, a senior guard was ruled academically ineligible and an incoming recruit took part in a bank robbery — that Bromley was relieved of his position.
In that same 2008-09 season, the Mustangs and Gauchos had an on-court shoving match during a game at Mott Gym. The brouhaha brought back images of Cal Poly freshman John Manley being knocked from the air by UC Santa Barbara’s Branduinn Fullove in 2003, an incident that spawned a string of debilitating back problems for Manley.
After backing one side for so long, Bromley now finds himself switching allegiances.
“It’s interesting because you go through the gamut of emotions,” Bromley said.
“It just shows you that life takes some very interesting turns. My philosophy is to just kind of enjoy life and go with the flow, treat others how you want to be treated.
“I can’t lie to you. There might be a little additional adrenaline in my bones when we play Cal Poly. But at the end of the day, it’s all about competition. You want to win no matter who you’re competing against.”
UC Santa Barbara is coming off a conference championship 20-10 season where the Gauchos finished 12-4 in the Big West and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. They were beaten 68-51 in the first round by No. 2 seed Ohio State.
The coaching opening at UC Santa Barbara came when former assistant Brad Holland left for an executive position with the Carlsbad Boys and Girls Club last month.
Holland was a finalist to replace Bromley at Cal Poly last year and had been a rumored candidate for other head coaching jobs.
When Holland left the Gauchos, Bromley said, Williams reached out to his former rival.
Bromely is still living in Arroyo Grande and spent much of his time this past year staying close to the sport by attending local basketball games and even making a trip to the Chicago Bulls’ facilities on the hospitality of friend and Bulls general manager Gar Foreman.
Bromley said he hasn’t decided whether to commute or move down the coast, but the luxury of having a choice in the matter was an exclusive benefit to joining the UC Santa Barbara staff.
“The only way to get back into the game is you have to enjoy the guy that you’re working for,” Bromley said.
“That was the biggest factor, being able to work for a guy that you really care about. That it’s really close obviously was a opportunity and a great fit.”