Posts Tagged ‘Dan Monson’

Steve Fisher has retired as San Diego State basketball coach and it certainly is the right time for his departure.

His final team wasn’t all that good — 19-14 to snap a streak of 11 straight 20-win campaigns — while playing in a Mountain West that was mediocre at best and now firmly entrenched as a one-bid league when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

Several times this season, I tossed out social media comments that it would be Fab Five Fish’s final season. It just had that feeling about it.

Longtime assistant coach Brian Dutcher — one of the most genuinely nice people in college basketball — takes over the program.

Fisher, 72, went 386-209 in 18 seasons with the Aztecs and posted 12 20-win seasons and led the program to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a string of six straight.

Making six straight NCAA Tournament appearances was surreal for a program which was among the worst in the nation when Fisher was hired.

Remember, I was covering that awful program when Fisher was hired and he was far from the preferred target.

I broke the story that then-Utah coach Rick Majerus interviewed for the job and Majerus was close to taking it a few days later before he said no. Fran Fraschilla also was offered the job (nope, I didn’t break that one) as was then-Gonzaga coach Dan Monson (yep, broke that one and was waiting at the airport for his Sunday night flight to arrive and when he didn’t come out of the jet way, I knew that was a problem for San Diego State).

At that point, then-athletic director Rick Bay turned to Fisher, who was desperate to get back into college coaching. He had been fired at Michigan a few years earlier and I still remember how stunned I was upon meeting him that he had gray hair in 1999, just a few years after having a full head of brown hair while coaching the Wolverines.

The Aztecs were putrid in his first season and went 5-23 and then Fisher booted five inherited players off the team to free up scholarships.

Two seasons later, led by junior-college transfer Randy Holcomb, the Aztecs made the NCAA Tournament. Credibility had arrived for a program that previously had none.

Eventually, the 20-win seasons became an annual thing but there was still the matter of the program having ZERO NCAA Tournament wins. And you really don’t have a program if you’ve never won an NCAA Tournament game.

Finally, the Kawhi Leonard-led Aztecs had the best season in program history in 2010-11 with a 34-3 mark — a season that will still be the best in school history in 2117 if the world exists.

San Diego State finally got that elusive NCAA tourney win by beating Northern Colorado and eventually lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Connecticut. The Aztecs also topped 30 wins when they went 31-5 in 2013-14 and again reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Arizona.

If you haven’t figured it out, 30-win seasons aren’t supposed to be accomplishments achieved by the San Diego States of the college basketball landscape.

Last season’s final hurrah was not a good one for Fisher but he certainly elevated the program to heights nobody foresaw. Dutcher has been his right-hand man for all of those 18 seasons so the program philosophy won’t change.

The challenge for Dutcher is to have last season’s subpar campaign be an aberration. Once programs like San Diego State fall back into being just another mid-major program in a poor basketball league, it becomes harder to rise back up. Isn’t that right, UNLV?

But know this: Dutcher steps into a far better situation than the one Fisher inherited. The days where nobody cared that San Diego State even had a basketball program seems like centuries ago.

It was a good run for Steve Fisher but good for him to recognize that it was time for him to depart.


The 2010 college football season will be forever recalled as the year San Diego State had a better head coach than Michigan.

We know the former Big Ten powerhouse school feels that way because Michigan has just hired Aztecs coach Brady Hoke to replace Rich Rodriguez as coach.

Nothing can describe how far the Wolverines have fallen than looking to San Diego State to find its new coach.

Hoke is just the second San Diego State football or men’s basketball coach to leave without being fired since legendary Don Coryell left for the NFL after the 1972 season. Only hoops coach Tony Fuller (for Pepperdine in 1994) had left the school by his own volition.

Hoke guided the Aztecs to a 9-4 record in 2010 and the school’s first bowl game victory since 1969. San Diego State hadn’t experienced a winning season since 1998 prior to this season’s breakthrough campaign.

But just as quickly as the Aztecs began building some momentum in a county of 3 million people who are largely apathetic towards them, Hoke is gone. Off to Michigan, where he served as defensive line coach from 1995-2002.

Hoke did a solid job turning the Aztecs around after the disastrous three-year Chuck Long era but he left before anyone could figure out if he was capable of building a program for the long run. He arrives at Michigan with that question hanging over his head after the Wolverines dipped to embarrassing levels under Rodriguez, who went 6-18 in Big Ten play in three seasons.

Rodriguez was 15-22 overall after the Wolverines lured him away from West Virginia.

Hoke had a 12-win campaign at Ball State in 2008 but the Cardinals went 6-18 in the two seasons since Hoke departed, leaving the impression that Hoke left a very bare cupboard.

He’ll now be asked to return Michigan to championship status and it’s unclear how long that might take or if Hoke is capable of such a task. Beating Ohio University, Akron, Colorado State and New Mexico is a slightly easier task then defeating Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa.

Hoke was third – if not lower – on Michigan’s pecking order behind Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles. But you don’t always need to be at the top of the list to be the right fit.

San Diego State’s basketball program is enjoying unprecedented success under Steve Fisher but Rick Majerus, Fran Fraschilla and Dan Monson all turned down the job before Fisher rose to the top of the interested candidates list.

So how Hoke came to get the job is only a concern in the short term. How he fares on the field in the next two falls will begin to answer whether he was the right choice.

Michigan has been a mess defensively under Rodriguez but had productive offenses. It will be no surprise to see San Diego State offensive coordinator Al Borges follow Hoke to Michigan and one of the first tasks is making sure multi-dimensional quarterback Denard Robinson – a pro-Rodriguez guy – buys into the Hoke regime and doesn’t transfer.

As for San Diego State, the logical choice to replace Hoke is defensive coordinator Rocky Long, the former New Mexico head coach. If you’ve ever been to Albuquerque, you are likely amazed that Long had a nine-win season in 2007 and guided the Lobos to five bowl games in a seven-season span.

The Lobos football history basically begins and ends with Brian Urlacher. New Mexico has gone 2-22 in the two seasons since Long resigned.

Long might not be the sexy choice but neither was Hoke when the Aztecs hired him 25 months ago.

Hoke will be remembered for delivering a much-needed bowl victory but he’s off to a bigger stage and greener pastures (much greener, I might add). Production of “Brady Hoke University” T-shirts can end just as the ink was ready to get rolling.

We’ll eventually know the answer on whether or not Hoke was a good hire for Michigan, but here’s a date to mark down per Michigan’s 2011 season – Sept. 24.

The Wolverines host the Aztecs that afternoon.

Should make for one very interesting contest.