November 7, 2007

50th Season of CSUN Men's Hoops Begins on Saturday


50th Season of CSUN Men's Hoops Begins on Saturday
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Ca -
During his tenure as head basketball coach at Cal State Northridge, Bobby Braswell has been a part of many memorable wins, coached many outstanding players, and has been mentor to many student-athletes who have graduated and gone on to successful careers in life.

As Cal State Northridge celebrates its 50th year of intercollegiate basketball in 2007-08, Braswell is only the fourth head coach in the school's long history of basketball, a tribute to the stability of the program. Along the way, Braswell, a 1985 CSUN graduate, distinctly remembers some of the great moments in school history.

As he enters his 12th season at Cal State Northridge, Braswell has coached 325 games in his duties as head coach, and he still remembers certain games as if they had been played yesterday. For example, Braswell can recount, without reservation, his first game as head coach on Nov. 23, 1996, when the Matadors faced a vocal crowd of 13,066 fans at powerful UNLV.

"I remember going to the game, and playing in front of a large crowd of more than 13,000 UNLV fans, more fans than any of the CSUN players had ever competed in front of," says Braswell. "I told the team not to look at this game as an obstacle, but as an opportunity. That night, against a powerful UNLV team, our players went out and competed, and played extremely hard. We had a chance to win the game. In fact, we took the game down to the final possession, down by two points. We designed a play, but we turned the ball over and eventually lost (59-61). Even though we did not win, I was very proud of the team. It was a good beginning."

Perhaps Braswell's biggest victory, and the biggest victory in school history took place on Nov. 21, 2000. On that night, Cal State Northridge played a non-league game at UCLA's famed Pauley Pavilion. The nationally-ranked Bruins were heavily favored, but a trio of Matador players (Jeff Parris, John Burrell and Brian Heinle) combined for 57 points to lead CSUN to a 78-74 victory over UCLA. What was significant, according to Braswell, was that the Matadors never gave up after being down 39-32 at halftime.

"That Matador team was a very confident group," recalls Braswell. "We were a veteran group that played well together. We had great players including Jeff Parris, Brian Heinle, Carl Holmes, Marco McCain and Markus Carr, who I thought was probably the best point guard in the Western United States that year.

"We were a tough, physical team that would be going against a very talented UCLA team. The Bruins were nationally-ranked at the time, but in the end our guys prevailed. It was a very special night. The national media picked up on it immediately. We were the lead story on ESPN and Fox Sports that night."

Braswell's team in 2000-01 is regarded as the best team in school history. The Matadors captured a school record 22 wins, captured the Big Sky Conference regular season title, became the first team in school history to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament history (Division I) and captured the hearts of the Northridge community and the surrounding areas. On Mar. 10, 2001, Cal State Northridge gained an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with a 73-58 victory over Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Tournament title game.

"That was our goal at the start of the year, to win the Big Sky Championship and to make it to the NCAA Tournament," said Braswell. "On Selection Sunday, when we heard our name being called (Cal State Northridge), what a special moment it was for our program. That was big news not only in the Northridge community, but across all of Southern California and the nation. The media coverage was beyond belief. The Matadors enjoyed front page coverage."

Cal State Northridge played Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2001, and although the Matadors lost to the powerful Jayhawks, Braswell still proudly remembers the dedication, hard work and sweat the players put forth during that magical season.

"Playing against Kansas was a personal, special moment for me because their coach, Roy Williams, was a good friend," remembers Braswell. "Roy had recruited a couple of my players at Cleveland High School, Adonis Jordan and Lucious Harris. Adonis eventually signed with Coach Williams and played on two NCAA Final Four teams at Kansas.

Only a year earlier (1999-00), Cal State Northridge came close to securing its first Division I berth in the NCAA Tournament, but an 85-81 overtime loss to Northern Arizona in the championship game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament prevented that from happening, thus the Matadors ended the year 20-10.

"2000 was a great season as well," said Braswell. "We beat a very good Oregon team (79-77) in Eugene before a large crowd, and also beat a good Fresno State team (69-66) before more than 10,000 fans in Fresno when Jerry Tarkanian was their head coach. But the loss in the conference championship game to NAU was hard to swallow. Our guys came back in the 2000-01 season more hungry and determined to win a championship."

A total of four Cal State Northridge teams have gained entrance into the NCAA Tournament. When Cal State Northridge was a Division II participant, three Matador teams earned tournament berths. The school's first NCAA Tournament appearance took place during the 1977-78 season as Cal State Northridge chalked up a 22-7 record.

Six Matadors teams have earned league titles in school history, the latest coming during the 2000-01 season when the Matadors chalked up a 22-10 overall record, a 13-3 first place regular season league record, and then went onto win the conference tournament title.

As head coach, Braswell has guided Cal State Northridge to post season play in each of his previous eleven seasons, reaching the conference tournament championship game on four occasions. Braswell's accomplishments at Cal State Northridge are many. Braswell reached 100 career victories faster than any other coach in Northridge history. Braswell also has the highest winning (.517) percentage in school history.

During its previous 49 years of basketball history, the Matadors have played 1,131 games, including games against several of the nation's top teams. The list has included UCLA, USC, Illinois, Notre Dame, Iowa, UNLV, Ohio State, Tennessee, BYU and Utah.

Another significant victory in school history took place on Nov. 20, 2005 when the Matadors scored a 81-76 season opening victory over USC on the Trojans home court. Mike Efevberha scored a game-high 20 points while then sophomore Jonathan Heard added 15 points in 28 minutes off the bench.

"That was a special night," said Braswell. "We had a lot of new players since we had lost quite a few seniors from the previous year. We didn't know how good we could be, but again, I told the guys that this was another opportunity to do something special. The players responded. We defended really well. The team kept fighting, and we won a tough game on the road against a good Pac-10 school."

Throughout the years, many outstanding players have worn the uniform of Cal State Northridge. Braswell says he is proud that he has been able to coach them as players, and then see them mature as productive citizens in the community after they graduated from Cal State Northridge.

"The former players, I'm proud to say, still come around, and I am happy with their experiences here at Northridge," said Braswell. "They speak fondly of the good times and the opportunities that Northridge has provided. Several players are currently playing professionally and some have moved on to great professional careers away from playing basketball. I am extremely proud of them all. No championship will mean more to me than to know my guys are happy and doing well in life."

In the 50 years of basketball at Cal State Northridge, the program has only had four head coaches. Paul Thomas coached the Matadors for five years (1958-63), followed by Jerry Ball for eight years (1963-71), Pete Cassidy for 25 seasons (1971-96) and Bobby Braswell for the past eleven years (1996-present).

Cassidy, a member of the Matador Hall of Fame, still lives close to the Northridge campus, and attends games on a regular basis. Cassidy and Braswell are good friends.

"Pete is great guy and a great coach," said Braswell. "When I took over the head coaching job here at Cal State Northridge, I named the Coaches Award after Pete. We named it the Pete Cassidy Coaches Award as a tribute for his many years of establishing the modern era of basketball here at CSUN."

Cassidy not only coached 25 years at Cal State Northridge, but he was also a star basketball and baseball player at CSUN. Cassidy, a 1960 CSUN graduate, was a member of the school's first official varsity basketball team (1958-59) and baseball squad (1959). Cassidy was named the basketball team's MVP following the 1959-60 season. Cassidy averaged 9.5 points per game during his two year career.

The early years of Cal State Northridge basketball were rough. Because the Matadome had not been available until the start of the 1962-63 season, Cal State Northridge (known as San Fernando Valley State in the early years) had to play in several high school gymnasiums including Granada Hills, Monroe and San Fernando High Schools. Cassidy recalls that sometimes the team had to practice outside on the asphalt; sometimes even at night.

The first Matadors game in school history was far from successful. On Dec. 1, 1958, Cal State Northridge dropped a 110-45 decision at Chapman College. The team won three games in its first season (1958-59), but a year later, tallied 14 victories.

"Baseball was actually my first love, but I tried out for the basketball team and I was good enough to make the team," said Cassidy, who was a point-guard who said his strength was to pass and handle the ball. "The only thing I remember from the first Northridge game was that Chapman had a very good team with a 6-foot-10 center."

Cassidy played with one of the early greats in Matador history, Jim Malkin (1959-62) who remains as the school's fourth all-time leading scorer (1,292 points).

"Jim was a great scorer," said Cassidy, who said he did everything as a point guard to get Malkin the ball. "He had great hands, and also was a great volleyball player. He also played solid defense."

After graduating from San Fernando Valley State, Cassidy coached at Notre Dame High School for six seasons where the team enjoyed several highly successful seasons. In his final season at Notre Dame, Cassidy coached John Vella (former NFL lineman) and Tim Foli (former major league infielder). Then in 1966-67, Cassidy returned to the Northridge campus to become an assistant coach under Jerry Ball. That year, the Matadors chalked up a 17-9 record. His appointment signaled the start of a 31-year working relationship with his alma mater, six years as an assistant coach and 25 years as head coach. He also coached the freshman team and taught classes in addition to his assistant varsity coaching duties under coach Ball.

Ball, who had a doctorate degree, coached the Matadors for eight seasons (1963-71) and retired following the 1970-71 season to take an administrative position at a university in Oregon. Cassidy assumed the head coaching duties during the 1971-72 season on an interim basis. The team won its first five games en route to a 16-9 campaign. Cassidy's first game as a head coach took place on Dec. 1, 1971 which resulted in a one point victory, 86-85, at The Matadome.

"Paul McCracken was the star of that team and he later went on to an NBA career," said Cassidy. "Paul was a tremendous athlete who we recruited out of Los Angeles City College. Paul could run the floor, play defense, rebound and could shoot."

Much of Cassidy's coaching philosophy was developed by working summer camps for John Wooden at UCLA. At the time, the Bruins were not a major basketball power, Pauley Pavilion did not exist, and the Bruins played basically in a small bungalow. But there was something special about Wooden's communication skills and his ability to teach the game of basketball.

"Coach Wooden was always receptive to ideas that he solicited from the camp coaches, and he always imparted his knowledge as well. It was a great experience."

In 1977-78, Cassidy coached the Matadors to a 22-7 record, captured the league title (9-1), and was ranked seventh in the nation. The team made its first trip to the NCAA Tournament (Div. II).

"That was probably my best team," Cassidy said. "I really thought we had a chance to win the national championship that year. Larry Singleton, who was a very good athlete, was our leading scorer. He was a left hander who could shoot. Terry Miller was a 6-foot-5 point guard who actually played three years at Boise State before transferring to Northridge to be closer to home. We played strictly man-to-man defense and we were blessed with depth. We had a lot of good players. We played hard."

The following year (20-9), Cassidy produced another championship team that finished tied for first place in the conference and again advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

"Another very good defensive team," said Cassidy.

Cal State Northridge returned to the NCAA Tournament during the 1984-85 campaign when the Matadors chalked up a 20-10 record, and finished first in the league with an 11-3 ledger.

"I have a lot of warm feelings about that team," said Cassidy. "As the season went along, we got better and better. Mike Almeido was a great kid who was our leading scorer along with Tommy Ruetten who led the team in rebounding. We also had a former Marine named Wayne Fluker who possessed great leadership qualities. We had great kids including Pat Bolden, Dale Brandsberg, Mike Lopez, Rafael Meza and Larry White."

Cassidy can talk for hours about many of the great players he coached at Cal State Northridge. Mention the names of George Robnett, Cliff Higgins, Pat Bolden, Jack Dyck and Andre Chevalier (who played for Bobby Braswell at Cleveland High School) and the positive words flow freely.

"Andre could shoot the ball, played great defense and was very strong," said Cassidy. "Robnett still holds the school record for single game rebounds (24), but he was also a player who could shoot and jump. Cliff Higgins played hard and was a good person. Pat was very athletic. Jack Dyck was a lefthander who we played at the high post. He could shoot. He was an excellent player."

In 25 years, Cassidy produced a school record 325 wins, eight top three league finishes, and coached the Matadors to three trips to the NCAA Tournament.

"I am so proud of many of the players I had the privilege to coach," said Cassidy. "I am also grateful that I was able to do what I wanted to do."

As Cal State Northridge begins another season of basketball, current head coach Bobby Braswell has a simple reminder.

"The 2007-08 season promises to be a year filled with excitement, new opportunities and many new faces as Cal State Northridge celebrates its 50th season of intercollegiate basketball."

Important Dates in Cal State Northridge Basketball History
December 13, 1958 - Cal State Northridge 73, LaVerne 64
The Matadors recorded the first victory in school history. A member of that team went onto become the school's winningest basketball coach, Pete Cassidy.

November 30, 1963 - Cal State Northridge 98, Cal Poly Pomona 89
In the season opener (1962-63), the Matadors recorded their first home victory in their new home, The Matadome, with a nine point decision over Cal Poly Pomona. Paul Edmondson led the Matador attack with 30 points.

February 1, 1966 - Cal State Northridge 123, Westmont 117
Ollie Carter, one of the great players in Cal State Northridge basketball history, set a school record with 47 points as the Matadors scored a 123-117 victory over Westmont. Carter hit 21-of-31 shots, both school records. Carter added 15 rebounds in a game played at The Matadome.

March 2, 1978 - Cal State Northridge 79, UC Davis 73
The Matadors recorded their first victory in an NCAA Tournament (Div. II) game with a 79-73 victory over the Aggies at the Western Regional at The Matadome. The seventh-ranked Matadors were led by Terry Miller, Chuck Evans and Sean Coleman with 14 points apiece. Coleman collected a team-high six rebounds. Cal State Northridge led 39-30 at halftime, opened a 15-point lead in the second half and maintained a comfortable margin to the finish.

November 30, 1999 - Cal State Northridge 69, Fresno State 66
Cal State Northridge faced a formidable opponent when the Matadors faced Fresno State, a team that was coached by Jerry Tarkanian. Cal State Northridge faced a vocal crowd of more than 10,000 fans in Fresno, but the Matadors prevailed, 69-66. The Matador defense held the Bulldogs to only 34 percent shooting and outrebounded the home team, 53-36. Jeff Parris and Hewitt Rolle combined for 23 rebounds, and also contributed 21 points. Brian Heinle led the CSUN attack with 25 points in 28 minutes of play.

December 11, 1999 - Cal State Northridge 79, Oregon 77
Head coach Bobby Braswell always seeks the challenge of playing a Pac-10 school. On this night, the Matadors traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to face the Ducks of the University of Oregon. Again, the Matadors faced a tough, home crowd of more than 7,400 fans at McArthur Court, and again CSUN walked away with a victory. Four Matador players scored in double figures led by Andre Larry with 23 points (9-for-12 shooting) along with eight rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes of play. Cal State Northridge hit 57 percent from the floor and collected ten steals in the victory over the Pac-10 opponent.

November 21, 2000 - Cal State Northridge 78, UCLA 74
Cal State Northridge scored perhaps its biggest victory in school history with a 78-74 victory over No. 15 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. A trio of Matador players, Jeff Parris (27 points), John Burrell (17 points) and Brian Heinle (13 points) scored 57 of the team's 78 points. Parris added 11 free throws in 13 attempts, and garnered five rebounds as the Matadors battled back from a 39-32 halftime deficit.

March 10, 2001 - Cal State Northridge 73, Eastern Washington 58
The Matadors earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament as a Division I member with a 15-point victory over Eastern Washington in the championship game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament at The Matadome. Senior Brian Heinle, the tournament MVP, dominated the game with 21 points (10-for-13 from the free throw line) while Markus Carr added 13 points.

March 16, 2001 - #12 Kansas 99, Cal State Northridge 75
Cal State Northridge played in its first Division I NCAA Tournament game. The Matadors faced a powerful Jayhawk team that included future NBA players Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, and Kirk Hinrich at the Midwest Regional in Dayton, Ohio. Four Matador players scored in double figures led by Jeff Parris, who scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds off the bench. John Burrell added 18 points.

November 20, 2005 - Cal State Northridge 81, USC 76 (overtime)
In the season opener, the Matadors stunned the favored Trojans at the Sports Arena as Mike Efevberha scored a game-high 20 points. Jonathan Heard added 15 points in 28 minutes off the bench. Cal State Northridge jumped to a 42-32 halftime lead, but the Trojans outscored the visiting Matadors, 38-28, in the second half. However, Cal State Northridge dominated play in the five minute overtime, 11-6. Efevberha and Jayme Miller each collected a team-high five rebounds.

November 15, 2006 - Cal State Northridge 159, Redlands 97
The Matadors shattered the school scoring record with 159 points in a 62-point win over Redlands. Cal State Northridge not only shattered the previous Northridge record for most points in a game (123 points vs USIU), but also broke the school record for most points by two teams combined (256). Other school records set in the win included field goals in a game (62) and assists (43). The Matadors' scoring total also broke the Big West record for most points scored in a non-conference game. Cal State Northridge also equaled the NCAA record for assists in a regular game with 43 (TCU, 1998) and the two teams combined for 65 assists in regulation, which tied the record set by Dayton-UCF in 1988.

Milestone Games In Cal State Northridge History
Game Opponent Date

1st Chapman 110, Cal State Northridge 45 12/1/58
100th UC Santa Barbara 79, Cal State Northridge 58 2/17/62
200th San Diego 76, Cal State Northridge 74 2/5/66
300th Cal State Fullerton 89, Cal State Northridge 83 1/31/70
400th UC Riverside 83, Cal State Northridge 79 1/19/74
500th Cal State Northridge 81, San Diego 56 12/23/77
600th Cal State Dominguez Hills 73, Cal State Northridge 64 2/21/81
700th Cal State Northridge 86, Cal Poly Pomona 69 2/8/85
800th Millersville (Pa) 81, Cal State Northridge 80 1/6/89
900th UC Santa Barbara 67, Cal State Northridge 60 12/4/92
1000th Cal Poly 66, Cal State Northridge 59 2/6/96
1100th UTEP 93, Cal State Northridge 82 12/2/99
1200th Cal State Fullerton 70, Cal State Northridge 54 1/30/03
1300th Cal State Fullerton 73, Cal State Northridge 63 3/8/06

Milestone Wins In Cal State Northridge History
Game Opponent Date

1st Cal State Northridge 73, LaVerne 64 12/13/58
100th Cal State Northridge 88, Long Beach State 84 2/4/88
200th Cal State Northridge 86, UC Riverside 85 (2ot) 2/13/76
300th Cal State Northridge 66, Chapman 62 2/19/82
400th Cal State Northridge 69, Cal State Los Angeles 55 1/13/89
500th Cal State Northridge 73, San Diego 65 11/28/98
600th Cal State Northridge 57, UC Riverside 43 12/30/04