- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - California men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery said Friday he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had surgery last week that has left him cancer-free.

Montgomery made the surprise announcement at Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles after first informing his fellow coaches.

The school announced Montgomery’s surgery on Oct. 19, but didn’t disclose any details about it.

“I went from having high-grade bladder cancer to being totally cancer-free at this juncture,” he said.

The 64-year-old coach resisted going into detail about his health crisis, but he said he was diagnosed last month while a doctor was checking on diverticulitis, a condition in which the inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed or infected.

“There was something that wasn’t supposed to be in there,” Montgomery said. “Three months ago he wouldn’t have found it. Six months from now, you would have been done. If you’ve got an ache or a pain, get checked.

“Through a series of extremely fortuitous events, we were able to get in, get the little polyp, tumor, whatever you want to call it, and get it out. Everything since that time has been all clear.”

Montgomery said he will return full-time to running the 24th-ranked Golden Bears’ program on Monday “much to the players’ chagrin.”

Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez said the team feels more connected to Montgomery since learning of his condition.

“He opened up a little bit more, so that helps us to relate to him more,” he said.

Montgomery said he’s lost weight and is focused on regaining his strength, but has no physical limitations. He was relatively blithe in telling the media about the experience and only briefly turned serious on the subject.

“It’s scary,” he said. “You go from being relatively on top of your game to no longer being in charge. I’m extremely fortunate it went the way it did. Probably adds a little perspective to your life.”

Southern California coach Kevin O’Neill was aware of Montgomery’s condition.

“It’s great to see him healthy. When he was doing surgery, he was cracking jokes the whole time,” he said. “Everybody’s prayers are with Mike. Not a more respected coach in the whole country, not a guy that’s done a better job at so many levels in the whole country.”

UCLA coach Ben Howland added, “What a story. You just never know.”

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