Life on the Road - The Matadors Journey to Colorado

Dec. 6, 2010

Editors Note: Life is never easy on a road trip. Traveling during an intercollegiate season has many hazards that one cannot control. Plane delays, time zone changes, early wakeup calls, eating at odd hours and missed practice times are just a few reasons why visiting teams rarely beat the home team. Road trips are simply more than packing your tennis shoes and uniform, and showing up at an arena far from the Cal State Northridge campus. Join us as the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team recently traveled to the Midwest to play at Air Force (12/2/10) and at Denver University (12/4/10).

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)

Denver, Co. - The Cal State Northridge basketball team, like all NCAA Division I programs, travels first class.

This doesn't mean this is a vacation away from home. As the coaches always remind the players, it's a business trip and when you travel to far away arenas to play a game, you are representing the University so act like mature adults and be respectful of the opportunities to see another parts of the country, meet new people, compete at some of the finest Universities in the United States, and portray a positive image of your University, Cal State Northridge.

The basketball team, like other Matador teams, brings their school books and at every opportunity, school work takes a high priority in addition to preparation for a game at the oppositions arena.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
10 a.m. - Each member of the basketball team is given an itinerary detailing their activities and their responsibilities during the five-day trip that takes the team to games at the Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs) and at Denver University. The team immediately departed from campus at 10 a.m. for the bus ride to the Los Angeles International Airport. The team arrives at the airport in plenty of time to check-in with the airline, study, relax and grab a quick breakfast. As the team arrives at the boarding gate, the Matadors see the UCLA Bruins team that is en route to play at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell and UCLA head coach Ben Howland enjoy a friendly conversation and Howland offers his congratulations to the CSUN coaching staff and the team for their recent 88-66 victory over DePaul University.

1:45 p.m. - The plane takes off from LAX one hour later than scheduled. Not good since the team will arrive late in Denver, and it could put a damper on a scheduled practice at the Air Force Academy that evening. The plane is nearly packed. A few players catch up on their school work, others listen to the iPods, and a few others catch a few winks.

In the Air
The nearly three-hour flight is the first for team manager Alex Sandoval. Two staff members with the team remind Sandoval there is always some sort of turbulence flying over the snow capped Rocky Mountains and on the descent into Denver. Sure enough, the plane hits some rough air. Hang on everybody. The choppy air makes for some nervousness. However, Sandoval handles the bumpy flight with the precision of a seasoned veteran.

5:45 p.m.
Sure enough, the Matadors are 60 minutes late in arriving in Denver, Colorado, because the flight from Los Angeles leaves late. Colorado Springs, where the team will play Air Force on Thursday night, is at least an hour away and practice is scheduled for 7 p.m. Because it's near the dinner hour, Coach Braswell wants to make sure the team is well fed. Shortly after the team bus leaves the airport, the team stops at a mall where there are plenty of restaurants to dine.

6:30 p.m.
The bus driver sure loves the oldies. As the team embarks on the ride from Denver to Colorado Springs, the driver cranks up the radio in the bus to a radio station that features the oldies - Remember Billy Ocean, the Whispers, Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, and of course the soulful sounds of Frankie Beverly and Maze? The coaches and the team's staffers (Bob Vazquez-Media Relations. Steve Grech-Athletic Trainer, Alan Zinsmeister-announcer) appreciate the great tunes. The players don't mind the music of yesteryear. They have their own iPods to tune out the oldies.

7:20 p.m.
The team finally arrives at the team hotel in Colorado Springs. Coach Braswell makes a tough decision. Because the team has arrived late, all because the plane took off late from Los Angeles, Coach Braswell decides to cancel practice (the team was suppose to practice at the Air Force arena from 7-to-9 pm). There just isn't enough time to check into the hotel, change into their practice gear, and head to the arena. However, later in the evening, the team gets together for an extended video session and scouting report review at the hotel. Curfew is 11 p.m. ... The day is finally over!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010
9:00 a.m.

Up early, time for breakfast, and off to the Air Force Academy for the pre-game morning shoot around at Clune Arena, the home of the Air Force Falcons. Because the team didn't have a chance to practice on Wednesday night, head coach Bobby Braswell doesn't waste a second to get his team ready and to offer a detailed scouting report on the Air Force team. The shoot around also gives the team a chance to get used to the high altitude level of Colorado Springs. The city is certainly one of the prettiest areas in the country. The cold air is clean and crisp, the temperature in the low 40's with traces of snow on the ground. As the team nears its return to the hotel, two deers run alongside the bus. You certainly don't see that in the San Fernando Valley.

9:30 p.m.
Tough, tough loss. Cal State Northridge out rebounds Air Force by 19 boards and scores two more baskets. Yet, the Matadors drop a 73-62 decision at Air Force. Go figure!!! A little more than 1,000 fans attend the game. Two of those fans are rooting for CSUN, former Matador assistant coach Louis Wilson and former Operations Director Ryan Dodd. Wilson and Dodd made the long trek from Alamosa, Colorado, where Wilson is now the head coach at Adams State and Dodd is an assistant coach. It is always good to see old friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010
10:00 a.m.

Pack your bags, it's time to drive one hour from Colorado Springs to the Mile High City to play Denver University on Saturday afternoon. Before boarding the bus, the coaches and the team hold an extensive meeting on the team's next opponent, Denver University, and a review of last night's game at Air Force. Meanwhile, in the hotel lobby, the staffers and the team bus driver discuss some of the more serious topics of the day; The national economy, Nope!!!; foreign relations, Nope!!!; President Obama's approval rating, Nope!!! ... Today's HOT topic, who was the best entertainer and performer of all-time, James Brown or Michael Jackson? ... Sorry, Michael ... James Brown remains #1, the God Father of Soul ... Right On, James!!!

11:15 a.m.
The team bus is on the move to Denver. The coaches prepare their video scouting report on Denver while the players either study, sleep or just gaze out the window at the scenic landscape that is Colorado. The bus also serves as a make shift laundromat. Because of the quick turnaround between Thursday's game at Air Force and Saturday's game at Denver, the game uniforms and the practice jerseys have to be washed, dried and ready to go. Everything is completely washed at the team hotel and all the uniforms and practice jerseys are hung up on the overhead railings in the bus to dry. Life on the road!!!

12:30 p.m.
Sunny, cool, windy weather greets the Matadors when they arrive at their downtown Denver hotel. The afternoon is reserved for study hall followed by an early evening practice. There are plenty of places for the team to enjoy dinner after practice near the hotel. The coaches prefer to eat in the hotel while several staffers dined at a nearby Chinese restaurant. When in Denver, try Ming's Dynasty Restaurant. Great food!!! ... Good night!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010
9:00 a.m.

Breakfast, a team shoot around at Magness Arena, a pre-game meal, a quick nap, and a quick peak at the television to check out the Oregon-Oregon State and Auburn-South Carolina football games are on the agenda before the team heads to Denver University for a 4:30 p.m. afternoon game against the Pioneers. A surprisingly large crowd of 5,500 greets the Matadors as they await the tipoff against Denver University. There is only one CSUN fan among the 5,500 spectators; a young woman who proudly wears her red CSUN alumni shirt and cheers on her team!!!

6:45 p.m.
Go figure ... Just like last Thursday's game at Air Force, Cal State Northridge scores more baskets, outrebounds its opponent (Denver), shoots .514, but still falls short to the home team, 66-63. The Matadors just can't find the right combination to get a road win that leaves everybody just a bit disappointed. Silence prevails on the bus trip back to the hotel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010
5:45 a.m. (mt)

It's really 4:45 a.m. (pt) on the body clocks of the Cal State Northridge entourage when the alarm clock awakens everyone. The wake up call is greeted with collective groans on the sixth floor of the team hotel. And how does a person feel at such an early time of the morning where even the sun is still sleeping? Grumpy, cranky, crabby, sleepy are just some of the looks as the players, coaches and staff awake, shower, pack their luggage and board the team bus for the 30-minute journey to the Denver Airport for the nearly two and one-half flight to Los Angeles. On this Sunday morning, the passenger traffic is at a trickle at the Denver Airport. The Matador basketball team and the Bryant College women's basketball team dominate the foot traffic at the airport.

The Matadors are finally home as they team bus pulls up to the Matadome parking area on Lindley Avenue after their five-day excursion through the Midwest. But the day is not over. There is no rest for the weary. Remember, the team members are STUDENT-athletes. Finals start next week. Study Hall starts in a couple hours. Attendance is mandatory!!!

Homeward Bound, Home Cooking, Home Sweet Home!!!