After 14 seasons, multiple Coach of the Year honors and NCAA Tournament berths, preseason training should be rote for CSUN men’s basketball head coach Bobby Braswell.
An influx of youth has added a different feel to the preparation for the 2010-11 season and has given Braswell something new to look forward to at practice.
“I really enjoy teaching and when you get them young, they are open, like sponges,” Braswell said. “And I go home with a headache.”
Despite his lengthy tenure at CSUN, Braswell faces a new set of challenges with a new-looking team. He helped raise expectations for the program by guiding the Matadors to their most successful run in school history, culminating in a Big West Conference regular season title and Big West Tournament title in 2008-09.
After CSUN fell off the pace with an 11-21 record in 2009-10, Braswell opens practice with a team featuring more new players (10) than veterans (7).
“I just have to be patient,” Braswell said, on coaching younger players. “They may not be physically mature, but they have the right attitude. The goal is to get better everyday.”
The focus on the small details in player development is one way Braswell has thrived in a profession not known for stability and longevity. Braswell is the second longest–serving head coach in the Big West behind University of the Pacific’s Bob Thomason.
During his coaching career, Braswell has noticed differences evolve over time.
“The players have changed,” Braswell said. “With AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball they are pampered. It used to be, ‘Don’t ask me why; just ask me how.’”
That change has helped highlight the ways the CSUN program differs from other teams across the nation. Braswell has been at CSUN since his time as a student, graduating in 1985 with an English degree and a minor in African American studies. He views the type of player drawn to CSUN as different.
“CSUN is special,” Braswell said. “We get players that need a second chance. That makes them hungry and it’s an opportunity for them to go to school.”
Freshman guard Josh Greene exemplifies the type of player who Braswell seeks.
“He gave me an opportunity,” Greene said of his coach. “I love hearing him speak. He’s very wise when he’s teaching and motivating me to play harder.”
Braswell has faced special challenges at CSUN as well.
“I’m not going to lie, it can be hard,” Braswell said, mentioning facility-related issues. “It’s a niche job. But I really appreciate their commitment to me from day one.”
Over his career, Braswell has been tied to several high-profile coaching vacancies, including USC. But Braswell feels secure in his connection to Matador athletics and the Northridge community.
“I never mess with happiness,” Braswell said. “I didn’t want to move my family.”
Braswell’s community involvement reaches into the lives of his players off the court. Braswell considers the academic and personal growth of his players just as important as their athletic success.
Junior guard Vinnie McGhee, who has been a part of Braswell’s program for three years, appreciates his coach’s involvement in his life.
“He’s impacted me a lot,” McGhee said. “When I first came here, I had grade problems, but he’s shown me the light. His main thing is for us to be a better person in life.”
In that way, Braswell views the upcoming season as one of his most anticipated. Taking charge of a new group of players with lowered expectations will provide Braswell with a new platform for his coaching and mentoring abilities. Even as he enters his 15th season as head coach, Braswell has one eye down the road.
“I love a challenge,” Braswell said. “To coach a group of people and watch them grow. These freshmen will be so much better as basketball players and men in two to three years.”