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August 29, 2011For weeks, months, and even years, San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher has courted recruits and their parents.
And for weeks, months, and even years, most of them generally have the same questions for the 66-year-old head coach:
"'How long are you going to be here?'" Fisher said. "'Will you be here to coach my son?'"
Fisher's never really had an answer for them, and he's certainly never been able to tell them who his successor would be. And other college coaches took advantage.
They would tell Fisher's recruits, "'You don't want to go to a place where you don't know who you're going to play for,'" Fisher said.
His assistant coach Brian Dutcher heard the negative comments from other coaches to his recruits as well.
"People would say, 'He's going to retire, he's going to retire,'" Dutcher said. "No matter how much coach would say."
So Fisher and Dutcher did something about it. They approached SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk and came up with the idea of a contract extension for Fisher, and a "Head Coach-in-Waiting" title for Dutcher. They had the deal all but wrapped up around May, when they were recruiting transfers Dwayne Polee and J.J. O'Brien, and they began selling the coaching staff's future to those recruits.
"Coach says, 'Hey listen, I'm going to be here, but also your next coach is sitting here right next to me,'" Dutcher said. "I think it gave the parents and the recruits a sense of continuity. They knew that there would be a seamless transition to the program and I think it gave them comfort."
Apparently, it worked for O'Brien and Polee, who committed to SDSU in late May / early June, and even 2012 commit Matt Shrigley, who chose SDSU just a few days after O'Brien and Polee did.
"We have told recruits, 'Not only will I be there, but you'll also know when I'm not there who the head coach will be,'" Fisher said. "And that's probably better than 99.9 percent of the schools in the country can say."
Fisher's new deal runs through the 2014-15 season, although he can retire before that if he wants. He also has the ability to ask for an extension after that year as well. And when he eventually does hang it up, whether that's in four years or 10, Dutcher will become the new head coach.
"People in this business will try to create doubt in the recruits' minds anyway they can," Dutcher said. "And so the way to create doubt is, 'Fisher is going to coach two years and your son is going to be there for four years. What's going to happen if he leaves in two?'
"And so now coach can say, 'I can coach whenever I want, whether it's four years, six years or eight years and I know who our new head coach is going to be.' So that should help with our recruiting efforts."
According to Associated Press writer Bernie Wilson, Fisher will get a $150,000 raise to $800,000 this upcoming season. Fisher said Dutcher had more than 20 opportunities to interview or inquire about another job elsewhere in the last 20 years, but has always ignored them to stay with Fisher. Fisher said he doesn't know when he will retire and even said there might be another contract extension after this one. Dutcher said the reason he never left Fisher's side was because "To draw me away from this, it had to be something spectacular." He later said his "dream job" was coaching at SDSU.
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