Flower Power

Jason Flowers has turned the CSUN women’s basketball team into Big West Champions (twice!), while his wife, Tairia, a two-time Olympic medal winner, has spearheaded a big west win for Matador women’s softball.

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    Susan Spillman

From the get–go Jason and Tairia Flowers had a lot in common. Both were born with a competitive streak, and both were standout athletes at UCLA. He played basketball; she played softball. 

Now as head coach of California State University, Northridge’s women’s basketball and softball teams, respectively, their offices are a stone’s throw from one another in Matador Hall. And the similarities continue. Both have been awarded the coveted title of Big West Conference Coach of the Year, and both have coached their teams into NCAA competitions—a big deal for CSUN.

Now in their 30s, they still like to push themselves physically. Take, for example, Jason’s daily CSUN staff workout. “There’s about eight of us in our group,” he says, breezing into Tairia’s office, fresh off the day’s regime of high-intensity repetitions with kettlebells and on the rowing machine. “We’ve had others join us at times,” he adds, “but they haven’t continued.” 

Tairia bursts into laughter. Seated at her desk, which is covered with framed photos of the couple’s two kids, she’s quick to explain. “He’s taking shots at me.”

“We do talk a lot of trash about people who start but don’t continue,” Jason admits. “That’s just part of the entertainment.” 

 “I didn’t always like the workouts that they did, so I basically made excuses to get out of it,” she concedes. “He likes to remind me that I was once in it.” 

This playful rapport, along with a mutual can-do attitude, are the keys to the Flowers’ success in balancing marriage, competitive careers, constant travel and raising children. Tairia is also quick to point out that helpful grandparents make life easier. The family includes son Jayce, 5, and daughter Trystin, 2. Jason also has an 18-year-old daughter, Jasmine, from a previous relationship, who attends college in northern California.

“I think it helps that we both understand what the other is going through,” says Tairia, a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Softball Team that won gold in Athens in 2004 and silver in 2008 in Beijing.

She also credits Jason’s sense of humor and directness. “He’s blunt and tells the truth all the time—whether it’s about coaching or our relationship, which works well for me,” shares Tairia.  

“She is sweet and has a really good heart,” he says. “I’m a little more fiery and stubborn. We balance each other out.”

Tairia and Jason both grew up as only children—he in the Bellflower neighborhood of LA, she in Tucson. The couple met at UCLA in 1999. “We had a history class together,” chuckles Jason. “I got a higher grade.”

They married in 2003 and spent their early years together moving around Southern California. Each did stints as an assistant coach at Long Beach State and the University of California at Riverside, though not at the same time. Then within a month of one another in 2010, both landed top spots at CSUN. That was the same year Jayce was born.

“Jason was hired first, and I was sort of leaning into the idea of being a stay-at-home mom when the softball position opened,” says Tairia. 

Both share positive, work-hard attitudes that have paid off big. Under Jason the women’s basketball team won the Big West Tournament Championship in 2014 and 2015. They also won the Big West Regular Season Title in 2014 for the first time in program history. Under Tairia the 2015 women’s softball team scored its first outright Big West Championship.

As for coaching styles, “He’s more direct with his players than I am,” says Tairia. “I try not to hurt their feelings. He wants them to be better right away, so he doesn’t take three sentences to get his point across like me. He can do it in two words.”

CSUN games are a three-generation family affair, with the Flowers kids getting almost as much exercise as the players. Win or lose, after games Jayce and Trystin can be found on the basketball floor shooting or on the softball field practicing their swings and getting chased around the bases by Tairia’s players.

Support comes from the grandparents when Jason’s mom drives in from Orange County to cheer the Matador basketball team at home games and help with Jayce and Trystin. Tairia’s parents fly in from Tucson to watch the kids wherever her team is on the road.

These days, Porter Ranch is “totally home,” says Jason. Fortunately none of the family suffered symptoms or had to relocate as a result of the recent Aliso Canyon gas leak. 

During the week Tairia is up at 5 a.m. “I get a little workout in. I have a spin bike or do burpees in the living room. Nothing too crazy,” she says.

 Next she makes breakfast and packs lunches. Jason is up by 6 a.m. and out the door a half-hour later, grabbing yogurt and fruit or skipping breakfast altogether. “I’m bad with breakfast,” he admits. “Some days I go to the convenience store on campus for an apple fritter.”

“She’s way more disciplined when it comes to diet stuff,” says Jason, who’s also partial to The Habit Burger Grill and Chick-fil-A or Rocky Road ice cream before bed.  “I’ll work out hard, but I’m not going to work out and diet.”

“I try and do better,” says Tairia. “Lately I’ve been on this beets kick, so I have beets with just about every meal.” 

“You won’t catch me eating beets,” declares Jason.

“If I make smoothies I’ll put some kale and beets in his,” Tairia confesses.

Not one to be fooled—Jason insists, “I do taste the beets.”

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