THE COLLEGES / IRENE GARCIA : Administration Gets Turn After CSUN Voters Come Through

Students at Cal State Northridge did their part to support athletics when they voted for a referendum that will increase semester fees $27.

The extra money will save several programs that were targeted for elimination, including women's basketball.

Now it's time for the Northridge administration to do its part to save women's basketball--by getting rid of Coach Kim Chandler.

So she has another year left on her contract? Buy it out or reach some kind of agreement, but for the sake of the ailing program, don't let her return for what is sure to be another torturous, losing season.

Most players have threatened to quit if Chandler coaches in 1995-96. Can you blame them?

In four years as head coach Chandler has a pathetic 12-84 record, including 1-26 this season. And speaking of records, this year's team set one by losing 26 consecutive games dating back to last season.

The Matadors' only victory was over Cal State L.A., a mediocre Division II team that placed third in its conference and played against the Matadors without two of its starters. Northridge used to beat Cal State L.A. regularly when it competed in the same Division II league as the Golden Eagles.

Under Chandler's tenure, 16 players have left the program and that doesn't include the seven who have said they won't return if the coach does.

Shannon Crouse, who led the team in scoring the last two seasons, quit with a couple of games remaining. A junior forward-guard who averaged 14 points and 6.6 rebounds, Crouse was initially planning to complete the season before abandoning ship.

But she couldn't wait. It got too tough. "Kim knows basketball but she has no business being a head coach," Crouse said. "She panics in games and has no idea how to adjust. She just isn't qualified to be a head coach at this level. She could be a good assistant, though."

Crouse's former teammates agree. Every player on this year's squad has expressed reservation with Chandler's performance as coach.

So have many local high school and junior college coaches. They don't know exactly what the problem is at Northridge, but each has a different theory. And most agree on one thing: They strongly discourage their players from going to Northridge--even on scholarship.

"Cal State Northridge has a very poor image now in women's basketball," said an area junior college coach whose team went to the playoffs this season. "You mention it and kids' eyes don't light up. There's too much instability there. Only as a last resort would I recommend a player go there."

It all leads to a simple question. Why hasn't the administration done anything? Chandler, who has no real explanation--but plenty of excuses--for her program's state of disarray, is clearly overwhelmed with her job. The folks running the athletic department should take action.

"In all fairness to Kim Chandler, when there are long-term problems like those, usually it's an administration thing," said another area junior college coach whose team also made the playoffs. "It's the administration that has to cure that. This is beyond a coaching problem."

Chandler had no prior head-coaching experience when she was hired to take over at Northridge at the age of 26. If in fact she's not qualified for the job she holds, that reflects directly on those who hired her.

Judy Brame, the school's associate athletic director, will not comment on Chandler's future, stating it is a personnel matter that cannot be discussed publicly. Recently however, Brame has voiced support for Chandler.

"Every coach is reviewed at the end of the season," Brame said. "There are several categories we use, like coaching effectiveness, technical knowledge of the game, seasonal records and rapport with the student-athlete."

Brame and Athletic Director Bob Hiegert do the reviewing. Then they make a recommendation to the rest of the administration. Sounds like Chandler would score poorly in all the categories Brame mentioned.

Years ago, before Brame was promoted to her present position, she was Northridge's women's basketball coach. She knows the game. She may not speak out against Chandler publicly but she must have realized by now that Chandler is not right for the job.

The losing record, yearly player walkouts and widespread criticism among high school and junior college coaches paint the picture of a program in desperate need of change.

In these tough financial times, students at a commuter college campus are willing to sacrifice and cough up bucks to save athletics. The least the administration can do is give them programs that are worth their money.

When it comes to the women's basketball team, that could only happen by hiring a new coach. One with experience and strong local ties would be a start.

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