Cal State Northridge has struggled to a 1-4 start as the Matadors look for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2009. But for those more interested in a feel-good story than immediate on-court success, the Matadors are worth a look.
On the sidelines, CSUN is led by fifth-year head coach Reggie Theus. On the court, his son, Reggie Jr., is there to provide senior leadership.
The elder Theus’s résumé starts as an All-American under Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV. He then became the ninth overall draft pick by the Chicago Bulls in 1978 and played 13 years in the NBA, earning two All-Star nods. As a coach, he has led the Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State before taking the CSUN job.
Reggie Jr. is a 6’6 forward who transferred to CSUN last year, eschewing the opportunity to play on national TV, after struggling to find playing time at South Carolina. Now, he’s playing for his dad.
It’s created an unusual father-son dynamic on the team.
“When we’re on campus or at practice, I’m usually the coach,” Theus Sr. said. “Except for the few times I have to say that mom gave me your hamper to give to you of your clean clothes.”
Theus says that he has a great relationship with his son, but that Reggie Jr. understands that he needs to be coached in the same manner as every other player on the team.
Naturally, there are occasions when the line between coach and father will be blurred, such as “when practice is over and I give him a hug and tell him that I love him,” Theus said.
The Matadors are coming off a 2016-17 season that saw them go just 11-19. They lost a handful of players to graduation and transfers, but Theus understands that the growing pains that come with roster turnover are part of the process.
CSUN is a young team with six freshman on the roster, so Theus will look to his upperclassmen to steady the ship. He is expecting a major contribution from 6’8 senior forward Tavrion Dawson, who averaged 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season, and is already ahead of his pace of last year’s totals. 6’5 senior guard Michael Warren has started every game so far this year for CSUN and Theus says that he has one of the best basketball IQs of any player in the Big West.
Theus raved about freshman guard Terrell Gomez and expects him to be a difference maker, but says that it’s his leadership and intangibles that will make him a special player for CSUN for years to come.
6’6 sophomore guard from the Philippines Kobe Paras has become a YouTube sensation, racking up millions of views for his highlights, but he won’t be eligible to play until next season after transferring from Creighton.
Theus spoke about having to create stability within the program in order to have on-court success, but says that he feels that CSUN is inching closer to becoming a force once again.
“I think we’re rounding the corner now,” he said. “And I really believe we will get there in the next few years.”