Steve Fisher revived his career, SDSU

Fisher was a relatively unknown assistant for the bulk of the 1988-89 season. After that national championship run, however, he was a rock star.

"I went from an obscure assistant to the White House," Fisher said. "I stayed all night in the White House. Went up to President Bush's home, walked in the Rose Garden with he and his wife, sat next to Bob Hope and Audrey Hepburn at a state dinner. Bob Hope jumped up and knew who I was. Three weeks ago, half the people in Ann Arbor didn't know who I was. Strange things happen in life."

Nothing as strange and unexpected as his exit.

As a pay-for-play scandal surfaced, athletic director Tom Goss fired Fisher in 1997. In 2002, a federal investigation revealed that Webber and three other players had been paid $616,000 by booster Ed Martin. That same investigation did not identify any direct ties between Martin's scheme and Fisher. But it still stained the coach's legacy, especially after the school forfeited 112 victories.

It was a dramatic shift in the forecast of his career; the sunny skies had given way to a rainstorm.

"I know that I did a good job in every regard," Fisher said. "I know I didn't cheat. Was firing fair? I was the leader of the team, the captain of the ship. I think had they wanted to they could have worked through it, but they didn't want to."

Fisher is a glass-half-full guy. And today, he speaks about that difficult period without anger. He's moved on. But the troubling days and weeks that followed his firing comprise the pages of his worst chapter.

His son, Mark, had been a freshman at Michigan for a few weeks when he was fired. He had another young son, Jay, and a wife, Angie, who wanted to know what was next for their family.

"Initially, you feel all the things that go into when you get fired from a very high profile, public position," Fisher said. "You're sad, mad, embarrassed, feel sorry for yourself and then, that wears off and you say, 'OK, I've got a life. What do I want to do? What will I do from there?'"

After sitting out the 1997-98 season, Fisher got the itch again. So he called Geoff Petrie, then the general manager of the Sacramento Kings, who offered him a job as an assistant for the 1998-99 campaign. He was comfortable, even though his family had remained in Ann Arbor for the season.

Later that year, San Diego State athletic director Rick Bay called. Fisher toured the university, talked to folks on campus and looked around Viejas Arena.

He knew he'd found a new home.

The next, final chapter

Fisher recognizes that he can't coach forever.

But if he retires soon -- "I'm for sure going to stay another year and what happens after that will all be year to year," he says -- it won't be the result of limited energy. He's still spry and vibrant.

"He still grinds at the job," said Dutcher, who has been named SDSU's head-coach-in-waiting. "He watches the tape, he puts the hours in. It's not like he's just riding off. He still wants to get this program to a Final Four. That's what his goal is, to get us to the Final Four and have a chance at a national championship. He's not going to rest until that happens."

Even if it doesn't, his legacy at SDSU is unmatched.

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