Cal State Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell ‘shocked and saddened’ by arrests
The crisis in Cal State Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell’s locker room is also a crisis in his living room.
Saying he is “shocked and saddened” about the alleged involvement of his son and two of his basketball players in a New Year’s Day theft, Braswell announced the players will be held out of games indefinitely but would be allowed to practice and attend class.
Braswell’s oldest son, Jeffrey, 22, and Northridge players Deon Tresvant, 23, and Dallas Rutherford, 19, face felony charges along with Phannuel Gbewonyo, 28, in connection with the burglary of $6,600 worth of merchandise from a Porter Ranch Best Buy store where Jeffrey Braswell worked.
“As the father of a son whom I love dearly and am proud of, this is obviously a difficult time for him, our family and those close to us,” Braswell said in a prepared statement before taking questions after practice Thursday.
“The fact that my son is charged with a crime, for our family, could not be more serious,” he said, and later spoke about the players:
“To me it’s a double whammy, a double shock, because I do consider these guys to be a part of my family, my second family.”
If convicted, Jeffrey Braswell could face a maximum of five years in prison and the three co-defendants could face up to three years and eight months. However, a judge also could decide to sentence first-time offenders to probation.
Although the players were released after posting bail Monday, the day of their arrests, Braswell’s son spent three nights in jail after his arrest Saturday.
Asked about not bailing out his son, Braswell said, “Just put it this way: I fulfilled a promise that I made. I told my children a long time ago there are some responsibilities they have, and we just did what we thought was best.”
Asked how his son was after the experience, Braswell said, “He’s alive, he’s doing well, he’s home.”
Although Braswell repeatedly used the words “serious” and “shocked,” he also showed touches of humor. Asked whether he is embarrassed, Braswell said, “Obviously.”
“But you know, as an adult, you understand lives are at stake here. These are serious charges that are made here. You can’t worry too much about my own emotional feelings at that particular time.”
Northridge Athletic Director Rick Mazzuto backed the coach after the news conference.
“He certainly handled himself well today and I think he will continue to do so, so there shouldn’t be any concerns about his job status,” Mazzuto said.
Braswell said the decision to allow the players to practice was an attempt to support them.
Rutherford -- the son of Dudley Rutherford, the pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch, where Braswell attends services -- is a freshman who plays sparingly.
Tresvant, a senior from Long Beach, is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.3 points in a team-high 29 minutes a game.
Northridge, the preseason pick to win the Big West Conference, is 5-8 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The Matadors’ next game is Jan. 14 at UC Riverside.
“Obviously this has an impact on our basketball team, to lose a player that has contributed so much to our program over the last couple of years,” Braswell said. “But one of the things that we constantly try to teach and stress in our program is that it is a team. And when one falls or somebody’s injured or somebody’s not allowed to play or can’t play, other guys have to step up that way.”
Braswell’s son is also a Northridge student but is not a member of the team, although he was on the 2005-06 roster. Gbewonyo, also known as Nana, is a former high school player and an actor who appears in the Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino.”
“Obviously it’s easy to make character judgments about people when they go through something like this, but these are young men that I love, I’m committed to, I’m supportive of, and I will be throughout this process,” said Braswell, who said Gbewonyo does not have a history with the team.
“It’s life. Programs across the country deal with things, deal with situations,” Braswell said. “This is kind of new for us. We work hard to do things the right way. I think we have done things the right way. Things sometimes happen. You just have to keep on moving forward.”