Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Jason Flowers seeks to revive Cal State Northridge program

Published on September 20, 2010

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It was the first day of practice, and they kept coming.

Cal State Northridge students walking past the open gym doors between classes stopped, stood and watched for a few minutes. Others paused on a balcony walkway above the floor to check it out. All of the former team managers came to help. Three young women showed up to see if they could try out for the team.

“It’s a good sign,” new head coach Jason Flowers said after the session, in late August. “People are curious to see what’s happening.”

They also might be wondering if Flowers and his high-octane staff can pull the women’s basketball program out of the deep trench it has been in for the better part of a decade. The once-heralded and ranked Matadors have been 63-164 under two different coaches since 2002. The low point was the 2007-2008 season, when the team went 1-26.

This past March, Northridge let five-year coach Staci Schulz go and began looking for her replacement. The school announced Flowers as the new head coach just before Memorial Day. Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto said the decision was an easy one for his staff.

“Jason came highly-recommended from several other AD’s, who said he was outstanding,” said Mazzuto. “He was the unanimous choice of our six-person search committee.”

A former assistant at UC Riverside and Long Beach State who began his career coaching high school ball, Flowers assembled his three-person coaching staff within a month of getting the job. And he took a fairly unconventional step in doing so – he hired two high school coaches. Flowers said he didn’t think twice about it.

team-logo-csno
Previous CSUN Coaches/Records

 

  • 02-03: 3-24 (Tammy Holder Head Coach)
  • 03-04: 6-20 (Tammy Holder was Head Coach)
  • 04-05: 18-11 (Holder Still Head Coach, Named Big West Coach of the Year)
  • 05-06: 10-20 (Staci Schulz took over as Head Coach)
  • 06-07: 13-16 (Schulz)
  • 07-08: 1-26 (Schulz, NO Big West Tournament)
  • 08-09: 8-23 (Schulz, 8th Seed in BWC Tournament; Defeated No. 5 UC Davis; Lost to No. 3 Cal Poly)
  • 09-10: 4-24 (Schulz, NO Big West Tournament)

Holder’s career record at CSUN in three seasons was 27-55 overall (.329) and 19-33 in Big West (.365).

Schulz’s career record at CSUN in five seasons was 36-109 (.248) and 20-56 (.263) in Big West.

“I think the most teaching is done in quality high school programs,” Flowers said. “Starting as a high school coach, I appreciate the time and effort put in by coaches at that level. High school coaches do not get enough credit for the jobs they do.

“When it came to picking assistants, I wanted people who had good character and could teach. I didn’t care what level they were from, as the other aspects of the job at the collegiate level can be taught.”

Flowers did choose two of the most winning prep-level coaches in Southern California in Bryan Camacho and Christine Collins-Kiernan.

Camacho lead Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank to a 185-51 record over eight seasons, which included a state championship in 2009. Collins-Kiernan has been an assistant coach at Mater Dei for three years, and the team’s 88-6 record included a state championship last spring, and a national number-one ranking all season long.

Flowers said he always had his eyes on the two.

“I’d been recruiting Christine’s players since I’ve been coaching in college,” he said. “I had the opportunity to coach three of them.

“I had watched Bryan coach over the years and was always impressed with his approach. I got to talk to him more when I started recruiting one of his players during the spring.”

The third member of his team is Lindsey Foster, who was an assistant with him at Riverside.

During their first practice, the approach and style of Flowers and each of his three assistant coaches seemed to complement each other well. Foster keeps drills moving and says things to motivate players. Collins-Kiernan is more of a quiet analyst. Camacho, who used to crouch on the sidelines at Bell-Jeff and yell “attack! attack!” at players, uses a similar positive yelling method at Northridge.

“Eyes up, head up!” he shouted at one athlete, while at another: “we’ve got to get better!”

All three assistant coaches participated in drills with the players on the first day of practice. And Flowers firmly stepped in at various points to deliver messages of his own.

But despite the contrasts, all four coaches have one thing in common: they believe in focusing on the little things.

“Details!” Flowers yelled at the third practice group of the first day.

At another point, he was talking to one group and stopped in mid-sentence to tell the two players to his right to stand up and stop grabbing their shorts.

“We’re going to do everything we can to put a good product on the floor,” Flowers said. “We want people to associate us with a high-level brand of basketball being played.”

The coaches will not be easily satisfied, either.

“Even after we eventually get fast, we’re still going to work on speed,” Flowers said.

Nine players have returned this year, and currently the team is either on the court or working on strength and conditioning Monday through Friday. Flowers said he is pleased with the progress he has seen in almost three weeks, but the team has a way to go.

“They are starting to understand the amount of work it takes to be successful, not only on the court but anything they do in life,” Flowers said. “We are better, but nowhere close to where we want to be or where we’ll end up.”

The Matadors’ first game is November 13 against Cal Lutheran. They face Pepperdine four nights later.


 

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