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CSUN names Trent Johnson as interim coach as Mark Gottfried investigation continues

Trent Johnson and Fred Washington on the sideline.
Coach Trent Johnson talks to Stanford player Fred Washington on Nov. 5, 2007. Johnson has been named interim head coach at Cal State Northridge.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Cal State Northridge’s internal review into potential NCAA rules violations within its men’s basketball program is ongoing, but the school has moved forward in naming its next head coach.

Former Stanford coach Trent Johnson will come out of retirement to lead the Matadors on an interim basis for the 2021-22 season, the school announced Tuesday. Head coach Mark Gottfried and his staff remain on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the school’s investigation.

Northridge placed Gottfried and his assistant coaches on leave April 29. The nature of the potential rules violations remains unclear.

Gottfried already has one NCAA infractions case pending from his time at North Carolina State, and it’s a big one. The NCAA in July 2019 accused N.C. State of two Level I violations involving Gottfried, assistant coach Orlando Early and star point guard Dennis Smith Jr. for an allegation that was part of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

Prosecutors in the U.S. District Court in New York alleged former Adidas consultant Thomas Gassnola funneled $40,000 through Early to Smith’s father in 2015 to guarantee his son would play for the school.

College athletes are about to be compensated for their fame because of a movement started in California by Nancy Skinner, Ed O’Bannon and others.

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After hiring Gottfried in 2018, a Northridge spokesman said there were “no red flags whatsoever” with Gottfried, and his contract with the school included language denying he or his assistants participated in any activities linked to the federal investigation.

The NCAA forwarded N.C. State’s case to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, a group created for complex cases to be investigated without any perceived conflicts of interest.

The IARP was reportedly in its process with N.C. State as of December 2020, but has not given a ruling.

In three seasons with the Matadors, Gottfried’s teams have gone 37-51 and 22-24 in the Big West. They’ve finished with a losing record each season.

Johnson owns a 276-264 career record and has been named conference coach of the year three times in three different leagues: Western Athletic Conference (2002-03 with Nevada), Pac-10 (2007-08 with Stanford) and the Southeastern Conference (2008-09 at Louisiana State).


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