The first season of women's basketball at Cal was played from 1972–1973, right after Title IX went into effect. The longest tenured coach in Cal history was Gooch Foster, who captained the team from 1979 to 1996. Cal was quite successful during this period; it won the conference twice in a row, and had 11 winning seasons. Since the early 1990s and through the early 2000s, however, success had been hard to come by, as the Bears had only three winning seasons through the 2005–2006 season.
In 2006–2007, Cal women's basketball began a resurgence, with its first 20 win season since 1992, a second straight trip to the NCAA Women's Tournament, beating Stanford and ending their 50-game Pac-10 winning streak at Maples Pavilion, a No. 25 ranking in the final USA Today–ESPN women's basketball poll, and Boyle and Devannei Hampton receiving Pac-10 Coach and Player of the Year trophies, respectively.
In 2007–08, Cal tied the 1983–84 Bears for the most wins in school history (24-4, with one game remaining in the regular season). The Bears have been ranked as high as 8th in the national polls and set a Pac-10 record attendance in women's basketball with 10,525 witnessing Cal's 60-58 loss to Stanford at Haas Pavilion.
2008-09 was another good season for Cal women, as the team led by seniors Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton completed a successful 15-3 conference record. They had reeled off 11 straight wins to open the season, including a home win over rival Stanford (their first home win against the Cardinal in over 20 years), but fell to the Cardinal in the rematch on the road, and later suffered back to back losses towards the end of the season that took them out of the running for the conference title. Despite a heartbreaking early exit from the Pac-10 tournament at the hands of Southern California, the Bears completed a successful tournament run as the Bears saw their first Sweet 16 in school history. They went up against the undefeated UConn Huskies and even had a nice lead in the opening minutes but ultimately fell to the eventual national champions.
California Team photo 2008, Paradise Jam Tournament winner
In 2008, California traveled to St. Thomas to participate in the Paradise Jam Tournament. In a first round game 3rd ranked California took on South Florida and won easily, 85–55. In the second round California played Texas Tech and won 68–54.
On the final day, California easily beat Iowa 76–43 to go undefeated and win the 2008 Paradise Jam Championship (Reef) California's Ashley Walker won the Tournament MVP.
In 2009-10 the Bears brought in a top 10 recruiting class to make up for the losses of Walker and Hampton. The young Bears (the starting lineup during conference play featured four freshmen along with star senior Alexis Gray-Lawson) had an up and down year, going 6-5 in non-conference play including a home loss to nearby San Jose State. After an 0-3 conference start that left them two games under .500, the Bears started to find their form, going 12-5 the rest of the way including the Pac-10 tournament. However, the second half success was not enough for an NCAA tournament bid and Cal wound up settling for the WNIT. Although Alexis Gray-Lawson had to sit out the NIT opener because of an injury suffered in the Pac-10 tournament, the Bears edged UC Davis in overtime. Gray-Lawson returned for round 2, and the Bears romped through the remaining games against Utah, Oregon, BYU, Illinois State and finally Miami (FL) in the championship game at home to win the tournament. (It was the first ever championship game held at Haas Pavilion.) Gray-Lawson ended her career as the all-time Cal leader in three points made and games played.