UFC 270 set for Jan. 22 at Honda Center with two title fights

After more than two years away, the UFC is coming back to Southern California.

The UFC announced Saturday that Honda Center in Anaheim will be the site of UFC 270 on Jan. 22, 2022, featuring championship fights in their heaviest and lightest men’s divisions.

UFC 270 will be the first time the MMA promotion has held a card in Southern California since UFC 241 on Aug. 17, 2019, which was also at Honda Center.

The arena made the announcement on Twitter:

ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨 @ufc 270 is coming to Honda Center on Saturday, January 22! Don’t miss Francis Ngannou vs. Cyril Gane, Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo and more.

🎟 Tickets go on sale Friday, November 19 on https://t.co/sgjOBMIwRb pic.twitter.com/vGoZ5JHgtg

— Honda Center (@HondaCenter) October 23, 2021

Tickets for UFC 270 will go on sale on Nov. 19 at ticketmaster.com.

The main event is scheduled to pit heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou against top contender Ciryl Gane. It will be the first title defense for the massive Cameroonian, who won the belt at UFC 260 on March 27 with a vicious knockout of two-time champion Stipe Miocic.

By coincidence, the second reign for Miocic commenced at UFC 241 at Honda Center with a knockout of Daniel Cormier.

Ngannou is no stranger to Anaheim, having thrown out the first pitch before an Angels game on Aug. 28 at Angel Stadium.


The Angels’ Mike Trout, left, and UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou pause for photos before the Angels’ game against the San Diego Padres on Aug. 28, 2021, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou throws the ceremonial first pitch before the Angels’ game against the San Diego Padres on Aug. 28, 2021, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The co-main event is expected to be a trilogy showdown between flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and former champion Deiveson Figueiredo. After they fought to a scintillating draw in November, Moreno dethroned Figueiredo via rear-naked choke at UFC 263 in June.

This will be the first 125-pound title defense for Moreno, a Tijuana native who in a July visit to Los Angeles spoke about the whirlwind rush of becoming the UFC’s first Mexican-born champion.


UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, who became the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history with his third-round submission of Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263 in June. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Here are some of the fights, in no particular order, anticipated for UFC 270, with some bouts still to be added:

• Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane

• Flyweight champion Brandon Moreno vs Deiveson Figueiredo

• Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson, middleweights

• Michael Morales vs Trevin Giles, welterweights

• Greg Hardy vs Aleksei Oleinik, heavyweights

• Cody Stamann vs Said Nurmagomedov, bantamweights

• Tony Gravely vs Saimon Oliveira, bantamweights

• Poliana Botelho vs Ji Yeon Kim, women’s flyweights

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Video review reveals that Capistrano Valley QB Trey Kukuk set OC record for passing yards

Capistrano Valley quarterback Trey Kukuk did break the Orange County record for passing yards in a game Friday night, finishing with 615 yards, Coach Sean Curtis said Saturday morning.

The Cougars originally had him with 611 yards, short of the county mark of 613 yards set by El Toro’s Conner Manning in 2012.

But after watching a video of the game and doing a play-by-play review of the stats, Curtis said, it was discovered that Kukuk had passed for 4 yards more than he had been credited with on Friday night.

Kukuk’s record-setting effort came in a wild Sea View League contest against Trabuco Hills, which the Cougars won, 59-56, with Dane Benedix’s 30-yard touchdown catch with six seconds left.

Capistrano Valley QB Trey Kukuk had a memorable night Friday for a lot of reasons, including this game-winning TD pass to Dane Benedix in the final seconds.
📽 @capofootball
@MAlvarez02 @SteveFryer @ocvarsityguy @mikehuntley63 pic.twitter.com/rFjVC7AXXU

— ocvarsity (@ocvarsity) October 23, 2021

Kukuk completed 40 of 61 passes with six touchdowns to go with the ninth-most passing yards in state history. He also rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns.

The completions, passing attempts and total touchdowns are all school records.

More details to come. 

 

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Recipe: How to bake restaurant-quality bread

It is hard to imagine, but I’m pretty sure that there must be a few diners who eat at Fable and Spirit restaurant in Newport Beach that don’t include the Irish Guinness Brown Bread in their order. Too bad. To my palate, it is a must-have winner. I suspect that the Michelin inspectors enjoyed a slice or two before recently honoring the eatery with a Bib Gourmand award.

Served with honey butter (Irish Kerrygold butter mixed with clover honey and topped with coarse salt), it is the kind of treat that could play center stage in sweet daydreams. Cookbook maven and Food Network star Ina Garten has a recipe that comes close in delectability.

Her formula calls for a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan. My pan is slightly smaller, with the same depth but is only 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inches. So, when I bake it, I make two, the second one in a tiny loaf pan. That puny loaf is for this baker’s secret pleasure.

Ina’s Irish Guinness Brown Bread

Yield: 1 loaf (see story)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup McCann’s quick-cooking oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle Guinness extra stout beer, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, shaken before measuring

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing pan

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For serving: honey butter (unsalted butter combined with honey to taste, topped with coarse salt)

PROCEDURE

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In large bowl, place oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with whisk to combine. Set aside.

2. In separate bowl, whisk together beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the well. With your clean fingers, stir batter from middle of bowl to the outside, until it is well mixed. It will look more like cake batter then bread dough.

3. Brush a 9-by-5-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn bread out onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with honey butter.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network

Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at cathythomascooks@ gmail.com

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California is 2nd toughest place in U.S. to find a job

Californians looking for work are battling for paychecks in the second-most competitive job market in the nation.

The state had 1.1 million job openings in August, the largest count in the nation, according to the first monthly state-by-state Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But my trusty spreadsheet found the apparent jobs gold mine looks meek in light of the state’s 1.43 million officially unemployed, also the highest in the U.S.

Simply put, there were 130 California job hunters for every 100 openings in August. Only job seekers in Hawaii faced tougher competition for work among the states by this yardstick.

These new numbers, released Oct. 22, run counter to all of those “Help Wanted” signs posted everywhere.

How hard is it to find work in California? In all other states in August, the ratio averaged 80 unemployed for every 100 jobs opportunities, or 40% less competition.

Virus volatility

The pandemic’s upheaval of our health and economy has prompted grand debates about what is stymying California’s job market.

Why does the state still have 6% fewer workers than its pre-virus levels? Why was the unemployment rate at 7.5% in August, the nation’s second-highest behind Nevada?

Now, thanks to this JOLTS data, we can add comparatively meager hiring opportunities to a long list of employment challenges that include a mismatch of skills, COVID-19 fears, childcare headaches, unemployment benefits, and certain lingering business limitations — not to mention a broad rethinking of work itself.

California is certainly not alone. Seven other states including Connecticut, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada and aforementioned Hawaii have more job seekers than openings. All have unemployment rates above 7% vs. the nation’s 5.4% for August.

And as you’d expect, states with the most openings also had little joblessness.

Imagine looking for work in Nebraska, where there are just 34 job seekers for every 100 openings and the nation’s lowest jobless rate of 2.2%. Or Utah — 36 unemployed per 100 openings and a 2.5% jobless rate. Or Vermont — 42 jobless per 100 opportunities and a 3% jobless rate.

Gosh, pre-virus California had only 103 jobless for every 100 opportunities — one-fifth less than today.

If those trends don’t depress the enthusiasm for a job search, ponder this: California’s unfilled positions in August equaled 6.2% of all its workers. Only 12 states had a lower share of openings.

But there is a glimmer of hope: August’s job openings were up 9% in California compared with the previous three-month average.

Fresh look

The timing for this JOLTS data could not be better.

Since 2019, the bureau has produced several special reports on state JOLTS data derived from a monthly survey of 21,000 employers nationwide. The stats offer a significantly different view of employment patterns compared with traditional monthly reports on job trends by industry.

Those old-school stats show California’s large leisure and hospitality sectors — slammed by pandemic business limitations — are still 20% below pre-coronavirus employment. That sluggish return presents a significant roadblock to the state’s overall jobs recovery.

JOLTS figures give us snapshots into each state’s pace of posting, hiring, firing and quitting. Previously, we just saw the “net” change — total employment differences between two periods. Now we also can track the workplace additions (job creation and worker replacement) and subtractions (exits, voluntary or not).

This kind of detail is critical because the pandemic’s volatile job market has produced lots of finger-pointing over the economy — especially between business leaders and politicians. At the same time, the workplace ups and downs have frustrated employers and job seekers alike.

For example, many California industries that serve consumers indoors now are short of workers, prompting owners to increase wages as incentives or minimize the hours they operate.

At a minimum, the JOLTS stats suggest California has a jobs problem — but it’s not the workers.

Other hints

Other JOLTS stats confirm there are numerous hurdles for California job seekers. Let’s explore …

Hires: Bosses added new staff modestly in August, bringing 646,000 new people on board. Yes, that’s No. 1 among the states. But it’s 3% below the previous year and it equals only 3.9% of all workers. Just 12 states had lower hiring shares. Hope grows, however, as California hiring expanded by 3.8% vs. the previous three-month average — the nation’s 11th fastest pace.

Firings: Bosses aren’t booting many workers, either. Just 130,000 were laid off or discharged in August. That’s a scant 0.8% of California workers, the 14th smallest share nationally. And forced exits are down 40% from August 2020, the third-biggest drop. Yet a warning was found in the data: August firings were up 12% compared with the previous three-month average vs. a 2.4% drop nationwide.

Quits: Job-hunt challenges trimmed voluntary departures, too, suggesting less-than-confident workers. August’s 408,000 quits were only 2.5% of all workers, the eight-smallest share. Quits are up 3% vs. the three-month average, but that bump is only the 39th largest.

Just a reminder: California is still a huge employment hub. Its 16.67 million workers in August was not only the nation’s largest workforce, its bosses also added 865,000 more employees statewide in a year — the nation’s No. 1 increase.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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‘Selling Sunset’ star Jason Oppenheim drops $7 million on Newport Beach mansion

  • The wine cellar. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • Beyond the dining room is the living room. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The theater. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The home office. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The game room. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • A view of the garage, which contains a home gym. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The gym. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The primary bedroom. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The primary suite’s office can double as a nursery. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The tub in the spa bathroom. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The outdoor kitchen. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • The backyard pool and spa. (Photo by Noel Kleinman)

  • Jason Oppenheim with Zelda and Niko. (Photo by Mario Barberio)

  • The Oppenheim Group’s new Corona del Mar headquarters. (Courtesy of The Oppenheim Group)

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With spacious new headquarters in Corona del Mar, Netflix’s “Selling Sunset” star Jason Oppenheim wanted to be close.

So he dropped $7 million on a Newport Beach mansion.

This is the second home the 44-year-old president and founder of the Oppenheim Group has bought here in the last six months. In May, the luxury brokerage’s boss put $2.825 million on a 2,450-square-foot traditional style in the Dover Shores area, property records show.

But his latest purchase dwarves that home, making it look quaint in comparison.

At more than 13,000 square feet, Oppenheim affirms his newest abode is “the third-largest house sold in all of Newport in 2021.” The mansion features six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and two garages for 11 cars.

“One is connected to the house, the other has a huge home gym, which is great,” Oppenheim said of the garages. He spoke by phone Friday, minutes before he closed on the house that he summed up as “just gorgeous.”

Built in 2017, the house holds a wine cellar, an office and a gourmet kitchen fitted with state-of-the-art appliances, leathered granite counters, a butler’s pantry and two islands whose Kedra porcelain countertops are scratch- and stain-resistant.

“No expense was spared,” the listing reads as it highlights limestone floors and baseboards, 12-foot wood beam ceilings and “palatial corridors.”

Entertainment offerings include a soundproof home theater with memory foam carpet, a game room and a resort-style backyard. There’s a pool, spa, outdoor shower and massive loggia. Lounge areas, a bar and a 1,500-square-foot kitchen equipped with an oversized glass refrigerator, nugget ice machine and a built-in barbecue that features a rotisserie grill and warming drawer add to the perks.

It has an attached guest house with a private entry.

The house’s interior dedicates a 1,000-square-foot wing to the primary suite, with a boutique-style walk-in closet and spa bathroom. It opens to an office that can double as a nursery.

Upstairs, there’s a full-size laundry room and a dog-washing station for Oppenheim’s pups, Zelda and Niko.

The property has been on and off the market since 2018. It re-appeared in July 2021 for $9.995 million and dropped its price by $1 million in August. The sale to Oppenheim closed Oct. 22.

Oppenheim handled both ends of the deal and shared the listing with colleague Alexandra Dominguez.

His boutique real estate brokerage recently opened a new office on Pacific Coast Highway managed by Heather Rae Young, an Anaheim native and former Playboy Playmate of the Month. Young posted on Instagram that she and her fiance Tarek El Moussa, the star of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” will say “I do” this weekend in Santa Barbara.

According to Oppenheim, “Selling Sunset” will cover the new office in the new season when it returns to Netflix on Nov. 24.

 

 

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For Rams’ little Donte Deayon, persistence pays off big

THOUSAND OAKS — Donte Deayon grew up in Rialto, in San Bernardino County, the youngest of four brothers, trying to play with the big boys.

“(They would say), ‘No, you’re too small, you’re too young. Go sit on the side,’ Deayon remembered this week. “I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to be out here.’ ‘All right, if you get hurt, it’s not our fault.’ ‘All right, well, I’m out here.’”

The Rams cornerback told that story to explain the persistence that finally paid off last Sunday in a chance for a 5-foot-9, 159-pound sprite from Summit High (Fontana) and Boise State to play with the biggest boys.

In his sixth year in NFL practice-squad purgatory, Deayon was pressed into service with cornerback Darious Williams on injured reserve, and played 88% of defensive snaps in the Rams’ 38-11 victory over the New York Giants.

It was sweeter because Deayon had signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but was waived in 2018 before the Rams picked him up.

“It was really exciting,” Deayon said, beaming as he usually is. “Not to prove to them (the Giants) or prove to anybody, but to prove to myself that I put in the work (and could) play on Sundays and play well.

“It was amazing for it all to come to life.”

With the Rams (5-1) hosting the Detroit Lions (0-6) Sunday, the intriguing story is quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff facing their former teams.

But this week’s feel-good story is Deayon.

Deayon, 27, led Summit to a CIF championship in 2011, establishing an Inland Empire record with 22 career interceptions and gaining 2,020 yards rushing and receiving as a senior.

If anyone thought a player his size had topped out in high school, Deayon went to Boise State and intercepted 17 passes, earning second-team All-Mountain West three times.

And if the NFL seemed too big for him, once again, he’s out here.

Not easily, though. Deayon has been waived or released six times, signed to practice squads five times and shuttled to 53-man rosters three times. The Rams waived him Aug. 31, brought him back to the practice squad Sept. 1, and signed him to the active roster Tuesday.

Deayon is getting the chance to show he’s more than the locker-room jester who made a splash on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” by mimicking Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s bodybuilder pose, comparing his meager musculature to one of the NFL’s legendary physiques.

“He’s an incredibly intelligent player. He’s got great short-space quickness,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I’ve been really happy for him. He’s a great story of continuing to work, overcoming some things, whether it be the size (issue) or, ‘Uh, can he really play?’

“And then he gets his opportunity, and he capitalized on it. I think you’re going to see him have more opportunities as we move forward.”


Donte Deayon, is pictured playing for Summit High in Fontanta in 2011 on his way to a touchdown. (Frank Bellino/Press Enterpise)

Deayon was credited with four tackles. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones completed only five of 11 passes, for 25 yards, to receivers Deayon covered.

This is why Deayon persevered.

“It’s that desire, that hunger, and grit. I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder,” Deayon said after practice Thursday. “And I love this. I love this game. I love everything about it.

“And I love being able to play with teammates who are great. Being around guys who are growing as well, or can say they’re the best at their position. I love that feeling of being out there, helping and learning from them.”

For three seasons on Rams practice squads and scout teams, Deayon helped Goff prepare for games.

“Now, in a real-life setting, it’s going to be exciting,” Deayon said of Sunday’s game, for which he expects to have 15 relatives and friends at SoFi Stadium.

Nobody in the Rams’ facility shows their excitement about being in an NFL practice facility quite like Deayon.

“He’s the guy that brings all the energy,” rookie cornerback Robert Rochell said.

Deayon suspects his joyous personality has helped him to stick around.

“I definitely would say it helps with (creating) opportunity,” Deayon said. “Now, what you do with your opportunities, that’s all going to be (about) what you put on the field, what you put on tape.

“(I) come in every day with a positive attitude and a smile on my face because I love what I’m doing. Whether it goes my way or not, I’m going to be the same way every day.”

He’s still not ready to sit on the side.

NOTES

Rams running back Sony Michel (shoulder) was listed as limited in practice for the second straight day Friday and questionable for Sunday’s game, but Sean McVay said he’ll play. Center Brian Allen practiced Friday after missing a day with a stomach bug. … With Johnny Mundt (knee) on injured reserve, McVay indicated the No. 2 tight end role Sunday could go to Brycen Hopkins or practice-squad member Kendall Blanton. Rookie Jacob Harris is the other tight end on the rotser. Jared Pinkney was signed to the practice squad this week. … The Rams-Lions point spread climbed to 16-1/2 Friday. It’s the third time McVay’s Rams have been favored by two touchdowns or more. They were favored by 14-1/2 when they beat the Cardinals in 2018 and 17-1/2 when they lost to the Jets in 2020.

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High school football Week 9: Live updates from Friday’s games

The high school football season continues in Southern California with outstanding matchups in Week 9 as playoffs approach.

Follow along Friday night for live updates from Southern California News Group reporters including scores, stats, photos, video and much more from the sidelines.


Support our high school sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber. Subscribe now


A Twitter List by SoCalVarsity

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Casino Insider: Meet your new host

Casino Insider is a weekly newsletter with all the best bets for food, entertainment and fun at Southern California’s casinos. It’s delivered to your inbox on Thursdays. Subscribe now.



Charlie Vargas

Hello Casino Insiders,

My name is Charlie Vargas, and I am the new casinos reporter at the Southern California News Group. I am excited about the opportunity to take part in this fantastic newsletter.

A little bit about me:

I grew up in Fontana and went to Chaffey College before I transferred to San Diego State University to finish my bachelor’s degree in journalism. San Diego is a beautiful city, but it wasn’t home. I am happy to be back!

As I get settled in, I’d like to know more about you. What kinds of stories would you like to see more of? What are your favorite casinos? What makes the experience special each time? Email me at cvargas@scng.com to let me know.

More casino news

Beyond Southern California

New Jersey is leading the way in sports betting by becoming the first state to take over 1 billion dollars in bets in a single month. The Associated Press has more.

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17-year-old arrested in Fullerton shooting that killed 1, sent car slamming into house

A 17-year-old boy was arrested in Fullerton Thursday, Oct. 21, on suspicion of firing shots at a car that later slammed into a house in May, killing a man and wounding another, authorities said.

Fullerton police made the arrest while responding to a request for service in the downtown area that involved the boy, who had been sought as a suspect in the shooting, with a warrant out for his arrest, Sgt. Brandon Clyde said.

The shooting occurred in the 3500 block of West Valencia Avenue, May 28, Cpl. Billy Phu said. Police were initially called after a Toyota Prius went through a gate and crashed into the front of a home.

Arriving officers found the victims inside with gunshot wounds.

Residents were inside the home at the time, but no one inside was injured, Phu said.

The boy was identified through a combination of video, witness statements and evidence left behind, Clyde said.

He knew the victims and had been in the car with them at one point, Clyde said, but it wasn’t known if he shot the victims while inside the car or if he had stepped out beforehand.

The boy, a Fullerton resident, was not identified by police because he is a minor.

It wasn’t known if the gun was found.

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Lakers’ David Fizdale is back home, and finally happy to be here

Before David Fizdale had money, he had guile. And in the 1980s, the heyday of the “Showtime” Lakers at the Great Western Forum, that was all you needed.

As children, Fizdale and his friends couldn’t afford Lakers tickets. But they entreated security guards. They befriended popcorn vendors or anyone who could crack open the entrance, who could let them sneak into the soaring nosebleed seats and turn a blind eye.

“Man, those were the days,” said Alexous Scruggs, one of Fizdale’s childhood friends. “As a little kid, you beg. You ask, ‘Come on man, we’ll be good. We’ll be quiet. I ain’t never seen Magic before.’ You beg your way in, or if someone walks out, and no one’s paying attention, you slip in then – whatever the best way you can get.”

It was a benevolent system of unlocked doors and blue-collar ushers who looked the other way. And those children took it all in: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley. They stationed themselves on sidewalks for hours to watch championship parades sail down the streets.

Now Fizdale, 47, works under the glint of a neat row of trophies surveying the Lakers’ El Segundo facility. He has shared a few championship parades with Riley himself. When a reporter told him of Johnson’s approving tweet of his hire last month (Fizdale himself is not on Twitter), he did a double-take.

“Did he for real? You better stop that,” he said with wide eyes behind his thick, black glasses. “You’re gonna give me goosebumps.”

There are a few sons of Los Angeles who are suiting up in purple and gold this season: Russell Westbrook, who grew up in Hawthorne and was a star at Leuzinger High and UCLA; Trevor Ariza, who attended Westchester High and also was a Bruin. Then there’s Fizdale, a two-time head coach who has stepped into the role as the Lakers’ lead assistant coach.

On a recent day, the trio was admiring the spoils of the Lakers’ 17 championships and retired jerseys on the walls around them. They swore to each other not to cheat their hometown of their best efforts.

“It all makes this make sense now,” Fizdale told Southern California News Group. “All of the stuff I was doing all of the time on the playground, I was working on my baby hook over the Celtics, it was this. It all led to this.”

NATIVE SON

Fizdale can claim to be from a patchwork of L.A. neighborhoods: He grew up near Cadillac and Corning streets on the Westside near the 10 Freeway. When violence surged there, he spent more time with his grandfather on 56th and Hoover, where he learned to fish, to garden, to read the Bible – “whatever it was I had to learn to become a young man, he taught it to me.” When he was old enough to take his burgeoning basketball skills to the prep ranks, his mother sent him to John C. Fremont High, where his second cousin Sam Sullivan was on his way to becoming an L.A. coaching legend in his own right.

Today, he lives in Calabasas, a short drive and a world away. But he’s around family: Some 40 or so family members recently came up to his new home (with COVID-19 precautions in place), visiting his wife Natasha and infant son Maximilian. He has coached in the NBA for a long time, with stops in Miami, Memphis and New York. But this is unlike any of them.

“Top to bottom, we were raised Laker,” Fizdale said of his family. “And so for them, it’s a real treat to see me with these guys and to have a chance to win a title.”

It can be hard to stand out in a town that breeds basketball talent like rabbits. As a kid, Fizdale was neighbors and court rivals with Kevin Ollie and Cedric Ceballos. One of his close friends was Tina Thompson.

Fizdale was a late bloomer, earning the nickname “Dinky” for his height (one of many unfortunate nicknames), but he commanded the court with a sense of ease that belied his size and years. Fizdale’s advantage was not in his gifts, but in knowing where to be, and where to put the ball.

“He would play the passing lanes, getting steals,” Scruggs said. “He was good at getting guys the ball in their pocket. On his passes, he wouldn’t just throw it at you, but put a little soft touch on it so the guy could handle it.”

Fizdale had another nickname, favored by another childhood friend, Todd Whitehead: “Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier. He was always in control, always the smart person in every situation.”

Los Angeles was a dangerous place – even to this day, Fizdale can remember which blocks were off-limits, which ones were controlled by which gang. But for athletes who were granted something of a “pass” in these territorial conflicts, L.A. was also a series of playgrounds, and Fizdale played at all of them – well, with a qualifier: “south of the 10,” he laughed.

Maybe the best team he ever played on was the 1991 Fremont boys squad, which was nationally ranked and reached a CIF State championship game. They had the misfortune of running into a force of nature in the final: Jason Kidd. The then-phenom from up north torched them for 25 points, including seven in the final minutes.

Whitehead, Fizdale’s teammate on that squad, remembers it bitterly, but he left Kidd with at least one souvenir: a hard foul that left him spilled onto the hardwood – “he wasn’t gonna put me on no poster. He remembers me to this day.”

For Fizdale, too, there’s a groan of regret. Between Kidd’s Alameda St. Joseph squad besting Fremont, and the Dallas Mavericks besting the Miami Heat in 2011, he noted that Kidd is now 2-0 against him in the playoffs. But it’s hard to hold that grudge, especially since Kidd heading back to Dallas this summer to become the Mavs’ head coach allowed Fizdale to plunge back into the NBA for his hometown team.

“It’s an honor to be able to follow a guy like that, and to be able to help a team to get to a title like that,” Fizdale said. “That game is another moment in time, and we have that connection. That’s a pretty cool dude to be connected to.”

NEW LEASE ON COACHING

Back in June, Fizdale was out of the game. He did a lengthy interview with The Undefeated, reflecting on two brief head coaching stops that didn’t go the way he wanted, and he vowed: “I want to come back to the game with my mind totally on service.”

That’s the way he’s tried to approach being an assistant again, playing a supporting role on a bench for the first time since 2016 when he was a fixture with the Heat. Fizdale had a 50-51 record in Memphis, and a 21-83 record for the perpetually rebuilding Knicks. And being in the front seat made him realize a few things he didn’t know about the job.

Now he jokes to Lakers head coach Frank Vogel: “I went from being the decision-maker to being the suggestion box.” But now that he knows the gravity of a head coach’s choices and how tricky balancing assistants’ voices can be, he tries to bring a sense of order to his communication.

“As assistants, we get so creative and see all these great things, but Coach is getting suggestions from eight, nine guys, so he’s gotta juggle all of them,” he said. “So really understanding, ‘How do we keep his head clear? How do we get ahead of Coach sometimes so he doesn’t have to ask for it?’ Anticipating ahead of time, ‘Coach will probably need this.’”

In part, Fizdale was hired for his experience with LeBron James, who has been one of his biggest supporters over the years. Fizdale’s impression is, while he’s gotten older, James has somehow retained his youth – but his head for the game has matured.

“In Miami, he was just like this monstrous, freakish athlete who we almost had to slow down a little, because he was just so powerful; he was just a freight train,” Fizdale said. “And he still has that, but now he has become so much of a savant, the way he just uses his mind so clearly to dissect people, and then his body.”

Fizdale told James he would approach the job as if he never coached him before. That’s allowed him to absorb habits he sees from James, now in the hunt for his fifth championship ring. He notices when James speaks out, and when he speaks softly. He observes when James asks questions during film sessions, not because he doesn’t know the answer, but because others in the room don’t know.

“He should have the biggest ego, but what he does is he puts himself back in the group to make sure everybody understands, ‘Hey, we’re in this together,’” he said. “And this isn’t about making sure one guy gets more shots, or minutes and all of that. This is about us holding a trophy.”

APPETITE FOR CHANGE

Even before his thick-framed glasses completed the bookish image, Fizdale was known to his friends as a serious student – or at least one who wanted to go to college. And he wanted to take his friends with him.

Scruggs swears if not for Fizdale, he wouldn’t have gotten a qualifying score on the SAT. It was Fizdale who sat up late at night with flashcards, drilling lessons into Scruggs’ brain. They had a friendship like that.

“We share shoes and clothes, we drink out of the same Big Gulps,” Scruggs said. “If he had a dollar, I knew 50 cents was mine. If I had an extra pair of socks and he had a hole in the bottom of his, I’d give it to him.”

That giving, communal spirit was one of the gifts from his grandfather, Robert Hamilton, who met a violent end in 1993: He made a withdrawal at the bank, and men followed him home, threatening to enter. When he denied them, they shot him. Hamilton clung to life for three months before finally succumbing in February 1994.

That trauma had a profound effect on Fizdale, shaping his attitudes toward pushing back against gun violence. Along with morals shaped by being profiled by police officers and seeing his neighborhoods burn during the Rodney King riots, Hamilton’s life and death gave him motivation and drive.

It also made Los Angeles a haunted place for him. It happened when he was already out, a student-athlete at the University of San Diego, and for decades, he tried to stay away.

“For a long time, that incident made me not come home a lot,” he said. “I’d dive into my work and stay in the cities I was living in. L.A. just reminded me of that. It was really hard to enjoy the place that raised me.”

Over the years, Fizdale has become one of the most vocal NBA coaches for social change, speaking out about the death of George Floyd and cases of unarmed Black people being shot by police. That wish to change the world now is beginning to hover over his hometown: He’s made discreet contributions already, and he has plans of doing more in Los Angeles to quell violence and expand opportunity in neighborhoods he has known since he was a boy.

“Once he gets settled,” Whitehead said, “you’re gonna hear his name doing more.”

Home is no longer a place Fizdale wants to avoid. This is his version of paying it forward, of cracking open the Forum door to let a few would-be spectators slip in.

Fizdale cited a lofty T.S. Eliot quote when talking about his return: “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/and know the place for the first time.”

It’s not the first time David Fizdale has been here, but it might just be the first time he can soak it all in, with the good memories and the tragic ones, and feel like he’s where he’s meant to be, back with the Lakers. The circle took a long time to traverse, but to him, it feels complete.

“I found grace and I found wisdom in understanding. One, you gotta find a way to forgive people and let things go, but also you gotta continue to live and be a loving family member,” he said. “ I don’t let things haunt me like that no more.”


In part, Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale, left, was hired for his experience in Miami with LeBron James, who has been one of his biggest supporters over the years. Fizdale’s impression is, while he’s gotten older, James has somehow retained his youth – but his head for the game has matured. “In Miami, he was just like this monstrous, freakish athlete who we almost had to slow down a little, because he was just so powerful; he was just a freight train,” Fizdale said. “And he still has that, but now he has become so much of a savant, the way he just uses his mind so clearly to dissect people, and then his body.” (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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