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April 10, 2013

Bland takes associate head coach position at USC

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San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland has officially accepted Andy Enfield's offer to become the new associate head coach at USC.

Bland declined to discuss the specifics of his new deal, but according to a source with knowledge of the situation, he has agreed to a multi-year deal at USC that is worth over $300,000 annually. Bland was reportedly making $120,000 a year at SDSU.

Despite the promotion from assistant to associate head coach and the massive pay raise, Bland called it "the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life."

"I graduated from San Diego State; I love San Diego State," Bland said. "It's my alma mater. But this was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down."

Bland initially met with Enfield this past Saturday, but didn't reach a final decision on his future until meeting with Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher in person Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning. According to Bland, the hardest decision of his life became easier to make when Fisher gave him his blessing to leave.

"Coach Fisher gave me his blessing 100 percent. He said he didn't want to lose me, but at the same time it's a great opportunity for me and for my family and said that you'll always be an Aztec. As long as people consider me an Aztec, they'll consider you an Aztec, and that he loved me. That made it a lot easier for me to be able to deal with it. He said I will always be a friend here."

After informing Fisher of his decision, Bland also made sure he talked to every single player and staff member on the team.

"Every single person gave me their blessing. They all gave me their blessing, they were all excited for me. The only thing they wanted me to do was keep in contact and everybody knows it's a wonderful opportunity."

In his two seasons as an assistant coach at San Diego State, Bland made his mark as one of the top recruiters and hottest assistant coaches on the West Coast. In his first year on the job, Bland was the catalyst in putting together what may turn out to be the best recruiting class in school history (a 2012 class that was ranked in the Top 25 nationally according to Rivals.com) when the Aztecs landed five-star forward Winston Shepard, Rivals150 center Skylar Spencer and three-star forward Matt Shrigley. In 2013 he played a pivotal role in bringing in four-star Rivals150 forward Dakarai Allen and three-star point guard D'Erryl Williams.

"We've done a lot of research in a short amount of time," Enfield said in a recent interview with Scott & BR on The Mighty 1090 AM. "He's done a terrific job for Coach Fisher ... and Tony's one of those guys out there I think will be a terrific head coach one day so he's one of the best.

"He's certainly a guy that we have a great amount of respect for as one of the best out there in the country."

Although he'll be beginning a new chapter of his career at USC, Bland wouldn't rule out a possible return to San Diego State in the future.

"I'm an Aztec for Life. So if somewhere down the line I have an opportunity to be there again, I would love it. If you cut me, I'm still going to bleed Black and Red."

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