The office has an unfinished look. A framed poster of Michael Jordan, captured in mid-flight, leans against the base of a wall. It looks like the office of a man starting a new project.
“People say that we’re rebuilding,” Jason Flowers said. “I like being in a situation where I have to prove people wrong.”
Flowers is the newly hired head coach of the CSUN women’s basketball team. In his first collegiate head coaching job, Flowers is tasked with turning around a program coming off a 4-24 season. The Matadors finished dead last in a competitive Big West Conference.
For Flowers, the road to the CSUN position began at a young age. Growing up, his favorite sports were baseball and football. When there weren’t other players around to make a full team, Flowers turned to basketball. He liked that he could practice by himself and pretend to be Jordan while shooting at an unguarded net.
He starred at Bellflower High School in baseball and basketball and went on to play college basketball at both UC Irvine and UCLA. At that time, his thoughts turned to coaching. Flowers, raised by a single mother, recognized the impact his coaches had on his life.
“Without those guys I wouldn’t be sitting here, experiencing things I didn’t think possible,” Flowers said. “It started with those guys caring about me.”
Flowers would meet with assistant coach Cameron Dollar, now the men’s basketball head coach at Seattle University, on a weekly basis. The two would talk about coaching and different perspectives on dealing with players. Soon, Flowers had a new career goal.
After graduating from UCLA with a sociology degree, Flowers became the head coach of the women’s team at Valley High School. At first, he was too soft on his players. After the team failed to qualify for the postseason, his players expected easy practices to ride out the year. Instead, Flowers put the balls away. The players ran, did sit-ups and worked harder than they had all year.
They closed out their season with a 25-point win.
“Young people want discipline, want to be pushed,” Flowers said, looking back on the experience. “The lesson learned was that, in terms of expectations, women are no different from men as athletes.”
From there, Flowers moved into collegiate coaching as an assistant coach, first at Long Beach State, then at UC Riverside. Flowers was part of successful programs, winning the Big West Tournament title and an automatic Women’s NCAA Tournament berth in 2009-10 with Riverside. From their first meeting, Riverside women’s basketball coach John Margaritis said he
believed Flowers would make a great head coach.
“He understands the game, he’s an excellent teacher, and he’s a really, truly great person,” Margaritis said. “In short time he will turn (the CSUN) program around into a winner, year in and year out.”
To do so, Flowers will look to change the mindset of a team returning 11 players. The Matadors will play an up-tempo offense that promises to be entertaining, Flowers said. More importantly, the team will play tough, aggressive defense.
“Diving for loose balls and taking charges is not optional,” Flowers said.
Flowers believes developing younger players will be a key to success. Though early in preseason preparations, sophomore forward Violet Alama thinks the team is buying into Flowers’ message.
“Workouts have been pretty intense,” Alama said. “We know defense will dictate how our season goes. It’s up to us whether we want to work hard.”
Flowers’ goals are to have a team CSUN can be proud of and to prepare his players to be successful in life. When talking about his responsibility as a leader of young women, he doesn’t talk Xs and Os. Instead, he echoes the sentiment of an R. Kelly song from a Michael Jordan film.
“The basketball, wins and loses, will take care of itself,” Flowers said. “It’s my responsibility to make them believe they can fly.”