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.