The profile of San Diego State men's basketball rose considerably March 26, 1999, with the hiring of head coach Steve Fisher.
The presence of Fisher, along with the new Cox Arena at Aztec Bowl, and San Diego State's upcoming role as host of the NCAA Tournament, have combined to make college basketball a blossoming presence in San Diego County.
Since his hiring, Fisher has gone about the immediate tasks of recruiting and scheduling while at the same time steering the Aztec program toward long-range success.
And no one knows that path better.
Fisher, 54, spent the past season as an assistant coach for the NBA's Sacramento Kings. However, he is best known for his efforts at the collegiate level. He became a household name at Michigan, where he transformed a prominent program into a perennial national-championship contender - and winner.
No head coaching career, at any level, started quicker than that of Steve Fisher. Six games into his career he was undefeated and sporting a national championship ring. And the success didn't stop with the national title.
Fisher's eight-plus seasons at Michigan produced a 184-82 (.692) record, nine postseason tournament berths and three trips to the NCAA championship game, including the magical run to the championship in 1989.
Under Fisher, the Wolverines also claimed an NIT championship, won at least 20 games four times and finished among the top three in the powerful Big Ten Conference five times. In 1995, Michigan set a league record by holding opponents to just 39.4 percent shooting from the floor.
Fisher and company raised the bar even higher in the postseason. His seven NCAA tournament teams combined for a 20-6 record, ranking him second among active coaches and ninth in NCAA history with a winning percentage of .769 in the national bracket. Only 13 coaches have taken more teams to the Final Four, including just five that are currently active. He is one of just three coaches to guide three teams to the Final Four in the first five years of a head-coaching career and one of just six coaches that sport a championship in the NCAA Tournament as well as the NIT. The others to accomplish that feat are Bobby Knight of Indiana, Adolph Rupp and Joe B. Hall of Kentucky, Al McGuire of Marquette and Dean Smith from North Carolina.
Add to the accolades the fact that Fisher coached perhaps the most famous group of players in modern NCAA history. In 1991, Fisher and current Aztec assistant Brian Dutcher inked a recruiting class that would later be known as the "Fab Five". The group included Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber. They were the core of a pair of NCAA runner-up squads in Ann Arbor. In all, Fisher's years in Michigan resulted in seven players that would be taken in the first round of the NBA draft, including three members of the "Fab Five".
Steve Fisher was born March 24, 1945. He grew up in Herrin, Ill., and played his college basketball at Illinois State, where he picked up three varsity letters. He was a member of the the university's Division II Final Four team as a senior. Fisher earned a bachelor's degree from ISU in 1967 in math and physical education. The following year he completed work on his master's degree in physical education.
Fisher began his climb up the coaching ladder in Park Forest, Ill., where he served as an assistant and later head coach at Rich East High School. In eight years at the helm, he accumulated a 141-70 record as the school's head coach.
In 1979, Fisher jumped into college basketball at Western Michigan, where he spent three seasons as an assistant to Les Wothke, whom he worked under at Rich East.
He joined the Michigan staff in 1982 and helped Bill Frieder and the Wolverines to a pair of conference titles in the early and mid 1980s.
Seven years later, on the verge of the NCAA Tournament, Bill Frieder accepted the head-coaching job at Arizona State and Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler quickly moved Fisher to the front of the bench. Fisher moved himself into the national spotlight.
He assumed the role of interim head coach in 1989 and promptly led a team that finished third in the Big Ten race to the NCAA title.
In all he carved out one of the most successful tenure's in Michigan history, but he is clearly planted in Southern California.
"My family and I are elated to be at San Diego State," he said upon being named Aztec head coach last March. "I feel this basketball program has unlimited potential. This is an outstanding university that exists in a beautiful community. I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to make sure that the potential is achieved."
Fisher, the 14th head coach in San Diego State history, is married to the former Angie Wilson. They have two sons. Mark, 21, is a junior at Michigan. Jonathan is 13.