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The Early Years

Birth of the Blazers

The athletic program got off to a good start with the hiring of North Lake’s first basketball coach, Neil Johnston. Neil was a 6 foot 8 inch former six-time NBA all-star who played for the Portland Trailblazers. Tragically, Neil had a fatal heart attack while playing tennis on the campus in 1979. The college adopted the name “Blazers” for their athletic teams in honor of his career with the Trailblazers. For a few years, the “Blazer Bears” were the team’s mascots, but, the “Bears” have been dropped as a mascot and the teams are just the “Blazers.”


In partnership with the City of Irving, the Irving Independent School District, and the DCCCD, an Olympic-class natatorium was built on North Lake’s campus in 1983. Today, the facility is managed by the city and used by the community as well as the college. This was the first of many successful partnerships for the college with city and civic organizations.

The Early Years: North Lake at Ten

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