Twelve years in the making — a graduation story

When I first started school at CSUN, I was 17 years old, hellbent on being a rock star and could barely grow a mustache. Now, at the age of 29, I’m graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism.

That seems like a long time, but not everyone’s journey is the garden-variety, four-to-six-year college plan.

Sometimes there are bumps along the way. Sometimes you make the wrong choices and have to spend years getting your life back on track.

Sometimes you have to get kicked out of your house at 20 and spend a year living on couches and in an apartment that you are eventually forced to leave (yes, this happened to me).

Sometimes you have to work the most nonsense jobs just so you have money to eat and pay expenses (some examples: tax preparation assistant, sign-flipping-on-the-street-corner guy, concessions at a movie theater, Blockbuster).

And sometimes, you get a nipple ring (actually, I kind of miss it sometimes).

The journey was full of ups, downs and all-arounds. I entered CSUN as a math major because I didn’t understand what the requirements were for the classical music program.

I figured it would be better to major in something rather than nothing, and since I really did like math, that seemed like the obvious choice. However, after getting a “C” in calculus, I quickly looked elsewhere for career choices.

I wanted to switch my major to creative writing, but never formally did so. My girlfriend at the time was a singer, and I played guitar. We both wanted to be professional musicians.

A mutual friend who worked at Hot Topic told us about a school called Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, and we ended up dropping out of CSUN and attended MI instead.

Although the aforementioned girl ruined the next few years of my life by physically and emotionally abusing me, I mustered the wherewithal to finish MI and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Music Performance in 2008. Translation: a piece of paper about as useful as poop-flavored lollipop.

The next four years went something like this: work, open mic performances, looking for band members, finding band members, a month or two of band practices and shows, band members quitting on me, searching for new band members, repeat all of the above.

I was trying pretty hard and getting absolutely nowhere. I thought I was talented and with the right people around me, we would make great music and live an exciting life as touring musicians.

What I didn’t know was this: I actually wasn’t any good, and I didn’t work nearly as hard as I should have. I spent so much money and time going after something for which I wasn’t suited. But it took a particular journalism class to get to realize that.

In 2012, I was attending Santa Monica College and I had joined their student newspaper, The Corsair. I already took an introductory journalism class online the previous summer, and I liked it enough to see what the student publication was like.

But I only wanted to write about basketball. But I had two months until the season started, and I was expected to produce articles right away.

So I chose an opinion story because I figured that would be a good way to ease myself into journalistic writing. What can be so hard about writing I think?

It turned out that not only was it harder than I thought, but my article turned out be lower than garbage. It was just terrible. But that didn’t stop me.

Over the next few months, I was writing about things I had no idea about, but I was enjoying myself and working harder than I had ever worked before. I found myself spending more of my time writing, researching and interviewing, and less time playing, rehearsing and songwriting.

I ended up quitting the two bands I was in at the time. Needless to say, it was very difficult to make the choice to leave something I was working toward since I was 15. But it was the best decision of my life.

I almost didn’t come back to CSUN. When the time came to move on from SMC, I felt I could benefit from a new school, a new area and a new start.

It was between Cal State Long Beach and CSUN — I don’t have to say where I chose.

Just in these past two years, I’ve grown immensely. I somehow started caring about my grades, which I never did when I was younger (I failed strength training because I was too lazy to go class). I also became much more sociable and joined a ballroom dancing club (I previously couldn’t dance to save my life).

So no matter what your journey to graduation is like, make sure you do it to the best of your ability, and stick with it. That’s the only way you can walk on that stage, turn your tassel from one side to the other, and be truly proud to call yourself a college gradate.

I know I am.



Getting the Lakers from zeros back to heroes

The Los Angeles Lakers were once the powerhouse of the NBA. They were in the playoffs year after year, won 16 championships with the help of Hall-of-Fame players, and carried an aura with them whenever they stepped foot on the basketball court.

Now, with a record of 24-48, they are one of the laughing stocks in the league. For the past two years, they have been ridiculed for not being able to keep Dwight Howard. They recently suffered the worst defeat in franchise history to the Clippers in a 142-94 massacre. Even I, a die-hard Laker fan and apologist, look at games on the schedule and say, “Yeah, they’re losing by 25 tonight.”

If the season were to end today — and many fans of the purple and gold wish it would, already — the Lakers would get a top-six pick the upcoming draft. Teams with even worse records include the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics (life isn’t all bad) Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers (who just broke their 26-game losing streak) and the Milwaukee Bucks.

So what went wrong? How can a team that epically won the 2010 title against their long-time rivals, the Celtics, have the proverbial pie thrown in their faces just four years later?

The quick answer: bad luck. No one could have predicted then-NBA Commissioner David Stern would rob the Lakers of Chris Paul in 2011, only for Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to say, “Well screw you, Stern, I’ll get Dwight Howard,” then actually get Howard only to lose him to free agency for nothing one year later.

No one in their right minds thought Jim and Jerry Buss would pick Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson, arguably the best coach in the history professional sports, when the team fired Mike Brown last year after only five games. How is that possible? For those of you keeping score at home, Jackson has won 11 NBA championships. D’Antoni’s count? Negative 50 championships.

Did the Buss family forget who Jackson and D’Antoni were? I feel like the conversation over who to choose as the next Lakers coach went something like this:

Jim Buss: “Dad, Phil Jackson wants to coach the team.”

Jerry Buss: “What team?”

Jim Buss: “Our team.”

Jerry Buss: “Really?”

Jim Buss: “Yes. But Mike D’Antoni’s available too, and he’s very interested.”

Jerry Buss: “Isn’t that the guy who coached the Knicks the last few years but left because Carmelo Anthony hated him and he lost the team’s respect?”

Jim Buss: “Maybe…but his teams always score at least 110 points a game!”

Jerry Buss: “110?!?!?!”

Jim Buss: “Yes, daddy, 110!”

Jerry Buss: “It’ll be Show Time all over again!”

JIm Buss: “Exactly! So what do we do?”

Jerry Buss: “Well Phil has the resume. And he’s coached the team before. And Kobe thinks the world of him.”

Jim Buss: “But dad…..110 points…PER GAME.”


Also, no one thought this season’s Lakers would be hit with the worst injury bug since the Portland Trail Blazers were stung so badly, their coach got severely injured during a practice because the team didn’t have enough healthy players.

So instead of LA trotting around with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, they are left with C-list players like Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Kendall Marshall (who is actually a D-list player since he came from the D-League) and an occasional sighting of a fragile, paper-mache marionette dressed like Nash, which breaks after one or two games and doesn’t come back for a month. I need to lie down.

Bryant is in no mood to wait around during a rebuilding period, and recently said he expects to contend for a title next season. But with their current roster, they have a better chance of changing their names to the Washington Generals and beating the Harlem Globetrotters. Who am I kidding? They’d lose to the Globetrotters by 25, too.

But there’s hope. The Lakers have over $21 million in cap space next season, and only three of their current players are under contract after this year, which means they are in a great position to completely overhaul their roster and, thereby, their outlook for Kobe’s twilight years.

Here is what the Lakers need to do to give themselves the best chance to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy in the next two years, barring major injuries to key players (possible due to age of Bryant and Gasol), California getting hit by an earthquake so big it separates from the United States (definitely possible) or the zombie apocalypse (might have already happened…you’ve seen Steve Nash).


1. Replace Mike D’Antoni

Sorry Mike. It’s not you…it’s…yeah, it’s you.

D’Antoni’s Lakers have been atrocious this year. They’ve lost two-thirds of their games and get blown out with regularity. Yes, a lot of it is due to injuries to Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and every other point guard, but that’s no excuse for a lack of effort — defensive effort to be exact.

The Lakers allow 108.9 points per game, which is the second-most in the NBA, according to This is not an anomaly. D’Antoni-led teams have been among the worst in points allowed ever since he started coaching, with one exception: the 2011-12 New York Knicks. That team ranked 11th in the league in defensive efficiency.

The irony: that was the year D’Antoni resigned in the middle of the season, and was subsequently replaced by Mike Woodson, who is all about defense. I will bet my cat, the incorrigible Johnny Stripes, that it was Woodson who made that team better on defense to end the year.

Coaches available right now that can fill this void include Lionel Hollins, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy and, my personal favorite, Nate McMillan.

All of these coaches play at a slower pace (perfect for an aging Kobe and Pau), have stressed defense with their teams, and always seem to put together winning seasons with deep playoff runs.

2. Keep Kobe and Pau Together

So many analysts are saying the Lakers should get rid of Gasol, that he needs a change of scenery, that he has a better chance of winning a title elsewhere.

But the fact is, Gasol doesn’t want to leave. He wants to be a Laker for life. Also, Kobe Bryant wants The Big Spaniard to stay put, and has said so multiple times publically and to Lakers management.

Kobe and Pau have history. They’ve won two back-to-back rings together. They communicate in Spanish on the court together. This bond should not, and cannot, be broken. If the Lakers want to really appease Kobe, keeping Pau at all costs should be at the top of their list.

3. Add a third difference-making player

It’s Kupchak Time.

As previously mentioned, the Lakers have a lottery pick this summer that could be as low as number six — or even lower if they get any worse. If they land one of the best players in what’s supposed to be a stacked draft class, the Lakers could be on their way to a title soon.

But there’s another way — a faster way — to get better, and that’s by trading their lottery pick and packaging it in a deal to acquire Kevin Love.

It’s been rumored that Love wants to play in Los Angeles and some other teams. He’s from the LA area and even attended UCLA. The Lakers seem like the perfect fit for him.

But if they Lakers use their cap space to acquire, say, Carmelo Anthony this offseason, they may not have enough room for him and Love. In fact, if the Lakers get Carmelo, Love is pretty much off the table. With the lottery pick as a bargaining piece, the Lakers could send that and some other pieces (Kent Bazemore, Marshon Brooks and the Laker Girls maybe?) to Minnesota in exchange for Love. The Timberwolves would certainly be tempted to consider, at the very least.

Or, Kupchak could go into his magical GM laboratory and somehow devise a way to keep his lottery pick and get Love in the summer of 2015. You mean to tell me you wouldn’t be surprised if this happened? This is the same Mitch Kupchak who got Pau Gasol for almost nothing in 2008 and won two titles in three years.

If this did happen, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kupchak held a press conference after the deal was finalized, brought up Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, kicked him into a giant abyss in the ground next to the podium, and yelled, “THIS. IS. KUPCHAAAAAAAK!!!”

4. Bring back current role players

As bad as the Lakers are, their roster has some surprisingly good players. Jordan Farmar is a solid, starting-caliber point guard who can shoot 3-pointers at a high clip and wants to play in LA. Nick Young scores at will and isn’t afraid of the big moment. Jodie Meeks has carved himself into a multi-dimensional player who also plays solid defense.

As for the big guys, every team needs a scrappy, rebounding, energy guy like Jordan Hill, and Kaman can still put up points and is an underrated rim protector.

And for a D-League guy, Kendall Marshall knows how to run an offense and distribute the ball.

The Lakers don’t need to pay these players much more than they’re making now, and a few of them will make solid additions to the bench unit. Keep these guys around and add a couple of superstars, and you’ve got yourself a contending team for at least the next two years.


$10 million cash gift donated to College of Business and Economics

A CSUN alumnus is giving a $10 million cash gift to the College of Business and Economics, which will be renamed after him, CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison announced at the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday.

“On behalf of the entire Cal State Northridge community, first I would like to thank David Nazarian for his philanthropy and leadership,” Harrison said. “His leadership of a $25 million initiative launched with his personal gift of $10 million. The renaming of the college will have a transformative impact. His involvement will make a good college of business and economics great.”

David Nazarian, who graduated with a degree in business in 1982, is donating the money as part of a $25 million fundraising project, Harrison said.

The CSUN president said the money will be used for entrepreneurship, student mentoring, real estate and professional development to improve the college.

The college will be renamed to the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics. This marks the fourth occasion in which a college at CSUN has been renamed, the most recent being the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication in 2006 after a $10 million donation by Curb.

The amount given by Nazarian is the largest cash donation in the university’s history.

Whitney Shepard contributed to this story


Brief: Career Center to host CSUN spring job fair

More than 100 employers from various industries will line the Northridge Center of the University Student Union on Thursday for this semester’s job fair.

The event is hosted by the Career Center and will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Students will have the opportunity to meet with recruiters of companies such as AT&T, Dreamworks, New York Life, Enterprise and others, said Akriti Shrivastava, employee and relations and event coordinator assistant for the career center.

The companies offer part-time and full-time positions as well as internships, Shrivastava said.

“I think its a great opportunity for students because the positions are for a while they are attending school or after graduation,” Shrivastava said.

Students are encouraged to come to the job fair dressed in business attire, with resumes in tow.

Shrivastava said this semester’s job fair will set itself apart from previous fairs.

“This time, we have a variety of companies for a lot of different majors that we usually don’t have,” Shrivastava said.

All the companies represented in the job fair were recruited by the university’s Career Center.

“It’s a good networking opportunity, and I think that’s very important for students,” Shrivastava said. “I think it’s going to be a really good event.”


Big West Tournament: Improbable run ends as men fall to Mustangs in title game

ANAHEIM – The clock struck midnight on CSUN’s Cinderella story Saturday night.

Only the prince did not come with with a glass slipper, which for the Matadors, would have been the Big West Tournament trophy and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” head coach Reggie Theus said after the game. “I’m really proud of the effort. Nobody thought we would be here. It’s a real credit to the university and these players. They worked hard all year.”

The Matadors (17-18) lost to the Cal Poly Mustangs (13-19) 61-59 in the final game of the Big West Tournament.

Junior forward Stephen Maxwell led the offensive charge for CSUN with 18 points while senior forward Chris Eversley had 18 points for the Mustangs.

Down by only one point at 60-59, sophomore forward/center Tre Hale-Edmerson made a move toward the basket and made a jump hook. But he ran over a Cal Poly defender in the process, prompting a referee to call an offensive foul and wipe away CSUN’s go-ahead basket with four seconds left in the game.

“Sometimes the calls go against you, sometimes they don’t,” Theus said. “That’s how it goes sometimes. It’s unfortunate.”

Senior guard Kyle Odister was immediately fouled on the next possession and made his first free throw. But he missed the second, giving the Matadors a chance to get one last look at the basket.

Maxwell rebounded the ball and looked for an outlet pass. He threw it to freshman junior forward J.J. Thomas who was still inside the Cal Poly three-point line. Thomas was unable to get a shot off as the final buzzer sounded.

Theus said the plan for the final play was for Greene to break free and receive a pass, but that never transpired.

“I thought Josh (got) a running start,” Theus said. “Max didn’t see him. Thus, in my opinion, he threw it to the wrong guy, and we didn’t get a shot off. I thought Josh was open. He could’ve gave him the ball.”

The Matadors went up 59-55 when Maxwell made a basket with 1:32 left in the game. After a pair of free throws by sophomore swingman David Nwaba, the Mustangs could themselves only down by three.

A missed 3-point attempt by Greene led to a scrum for a loose ball. Cal Poly was awarded the ball with the possession arrow in their favor.

Then with 33.7 seconds left, freshman guard Ridge Shipley drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Mustangs up 60-59, forcing a Northridge timeout.

“I thought they played an excellent game, well-coached game,” Theus said about Cal Poly. “They made the shots down the stretch.”

The Matadors let a double-digit first-half lead get away from them for the third straight game. They led by as many as 11 points early, but the Mustangs closed to within four after back-to-back 3-pointers by Shipley and Odister brought Cal Poly’s halftime deficit to 29-25.

After a Cal Poly timeout early in the second half, they scored six unanswered points to get their first lead of 31-29. The game was back and forth after that, and had nine ties and seven lead changes overall.

The Mustangs started the game slow from the field, but ended the game shooting a respectable 45.1 percent, and 59.1 percent in the second half.

The Matadors, however, were a ghastly 33.3 percent from the field for the game.

While Greene and junior guard/forward Stephan Hicks had strong offensive performances in their first two games of the tournament, they only shot a combined 8-for-27 from the field against Cal Poly.

“I had a lot of easy buckets that I usually make, but I didn’t make it tonight,” Hicks said.

Greene was in tears after the final horn went off, clearly disappointed about the loss.

“It’s tough because we fought all year,” Greene said. “Each game to get up to this point was a grind-it-out battle, and we just didn’t come up with the win.”

The loss marks the end of a season in which the Matadors exceeded expectations. They brought in a brand new coach in Theus and incorporated seven new players.

CSUN also improved on last year’s 14-17 record, which was not good enough to get them to the Big West tournament.

Even after a heartbreaking loss, Theus was already looking forward to what his roster could do next season.  CSUN will be welcoming four transfers, including 6-10 sophomore center Kevin Johnson from Seton Hall and 6-10 senior forward Devonte Elliott from St. Johns.

“Everybody’s coming back for this team except Josh and (senior center Dominique Youmans),” Theus said. “That motivation should kick start us into next year.”


Big West Tournament: CSUN men defeat Long Beach to advance to Big West final

ANAHEIM, CALIF – The Matadors did it again.

After blowing a 16-point lead to the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors Thursday night only to end up squeaking by in overtime, the Matadors lost a 15-point lead to the Long Beach State 49ers the very next night.

And again, they escaped.

“Every game it’s a concern,” head coach Reggie Theus said about his team giving up big leads.

Cal State Northridge (17-17) narrowly defeated the Long Beach State 49ers (15-17) 82-77 on Friday night to advance to the final game of the Big West Tournament.

Junior guard/forward Stephan Hicks led the Matadors in scoring with 27 points and 13-13 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Josh Greene had another strong game with 21 points.

Junior guard Mike Caffey led the way for the 49ers with 19 points.

With CSUN up 44-32 to start the second half, the Matador offense came to a grinding halt, allowing the 49ers to complete a 17-3 run off a Caffey 3-pointer.

But CSUN kept driving the lane and getting fouled, making six straight free throws to take a 61-59 lead.

The 49ers then took the lead back after two back-to-back 3-pointers by redshirt freshman Branford Jones, putting Long Beach up 65-61.

The two teams exchanged blows like prize fighters down the stretch, but CSUN prevailed due to their exceptional foul shooting. They shot a blistering 87.5 percent from the charity stripe, while Long Beach only converted on 60 percent of their attempts.

“When the game became a free-throw shooting contest, the game was over,” Theus said.

Greene had a monster first half, scoring 19 of his 21 total points in that frame. But he picked up his fourth foul early in second half and had to sit out.

With Greene sidelined due to foul trouble, Hicks came out firing and scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half alone.

“I think once I got my first bucket in the second half, it got easier for me,” Hicks said. “Things started going my way, so I decided to turn it up a notch.”

CSUN struggled to get going early, and found themselves down 7-2. After a quick timeout, the Matadors pulled to within two, but junior guard Tyler Lamb drained a wide-open 3-pointer, giving the 49ers a five-point lead.

Greene’s 3-pointer tied the game at 11, but Long Beach went a 5-0 run after Spencer drove for a layup.

CSUN then went on another one of their timely runs, scoring 14 straight points to take a 27-18 lead. The 49ers were down by as many as 15 points in the half.

Greene credited his teammates with picking up the slack while he was unavailable for most of the second half.

“They’re my brothers,” Greene said. “We’re all a family. I just became a good cheerleader on the side and as long as I can be out there being vocal and they can still hear my voice, that’s still leadership.”

The Matadors will face the Cal Poly Mustangs in the Big West Championship game Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Honda Center.

“Tournament basketball fits their style because the game gets more physical and the game becomes more of a half-court game,” Theus said about Cal Poly. “This is a game that if we can’t fight through contact, we can’t win the game.”


Big West Tournament: CSUN advances to semifinal with late comeback

ANAHEIM, CALIF — Weird games have a tendency to end that way.

With 17.7 seconds left to go in overtime, down one and the game on the line, CSUN head coach Reggie Theus elected to run an isolation play for a guy who hadn’t made a basket since the opening seven minutes of the first half.

“Calling his name, going against a player one-on-one, I’ll take Max all day long,” Theus said of junior forward Steven Maxwell.

Maxwell found himself at the top of the key, facing single coverage from the Hawai’i defense and his team looking to him to make something happen.

As he drove down the lane and shook the defense with a spin move, he banked in a shot off of the glass that proved to be the game-winner for the Matadors.

The Matadors (16-17) won a nail-biter in overtime against the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (20-11) on Thursday, 87-84, to advance to the semifinal round of the Big West Championship.

Senior guard Josh Greene led the Matadors with 27 points on 7-13 shooting, including 4-8 from downtown and 9-9 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Stephan Hicks was lights out from the floor, making nine of his 12 shots en route to 21 points.

Standout senior forward Christian Standhardinger finished with 28 points for Hawai’i while junior guard Keith Shamburger added 20 points and senior guard Brandon Spearman chipped in with 17 off the bench.

Adding to the confusion, the Matadors found themselves in a dogfight after being up by as many as 16 in the first half, only to hit an extended dry spell and trail by as many as 13 in the second half.

With 5:34 left to play in regulation and CSUN down by nine, Greene’s 3-point game decided to flip the “on” switch. After missing his first three attempts from beyond the arc, Greene drilled one to cut the Rainbow Warrior’s lead to six. Two minutes later, he splashed another to pull the Matadors to within three.

“I just didn’t want to lose,” Greene said about what went through his mind when making his 3-point shots.

Then, with fire in his eyes, Greene launched a third attempt from downtown and drilled it, tying the game at 74 to send it into overtime. All of a sudden, the Matadors breathed new life.

“When this game got to overtime, I told our guys, ‘This is our game, this is the kind of game we play, this is what we do,’” Theus said. “We grind it out, and that’s what they did.”

With both teams going scoreless in the first minute of overtime, Shamburger broke the seal of the extra frame with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. Then, sophomore guard Landon Drew came right back and scored a layup in traffic to cut Hawai’i’s lead to one at 77-76..

After a back-and-forth shootout between Greene and Shamburger ended in a pair of made free throws by Greene, the Matadors were able to force a turnover in the Hawai’i backcourt with less than 20 seconds left in overtime. The unlikely return of possession led to the improbable lefty bucket by Maxwell.

“We all collectively kept fighting, we stuck to the game plan and we just kept grinding it out,” Greene said about CSUN’s win.

While Greene got CSUN to extra minutes and Maxwell sealed the deal, Hick’s strong performance kept the team afloat.

“Before the game, coach (Theus) gave me a lot of confidence at shootaround,” Hicks said. “He told me wanted me to be aggressive. He needs me to score 30. He tells me that every day.”

The Matadors will play the Long Beach State 49ers (15-16) in the semifinal round on Friday at 9 p.m at the Honda Center.   CSUN defeated the 49ers in the season finale at the Matadome last Thursday 91-83.

“They’ve a very good team,” Green said of the 49ers. “They’re a dangerous team. They have some good players on their team. But we have some very good players on our team too, so it’s going to be another dogfight tomorrow.”