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Aztecs' Fisher living in the present, not past

Steve Fisher is living for the moment, just like his San Diego State Aztecs.

Although he already has a long basketball resume that features a national title at Michigan, Fisher is excited all these years later to have the Aztecs in the NCAA round of 16 for the first time.

As the No. 2-seeded Aztecs (34-2) prepare to meet the third-seeded Connecticut Huskies (28-9) on Thursday in Anaheim, Fisher could tell his players all sorts of stories from his postseason coaching experiences.

The Wolverines won the national title under Fisher in 1989, when Bo Schembechler famously declared that "A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan" after Bill Frieder accepted the Arizona State job on the eve of the tournament.

When the Fab Five came along, the Wolverines reached consecutive national championship games, losing to Duke in 1992 and North Carolina in 1993. Michigan has vacated the records from both seasons because of forward Chris Webber's involvement with booster Ed Martin.

In 1994, Michigan made it to the regional final before losing to eventual national champion Arkansas.

Stories galore, right?

"Not from me, no," Fisher said. "I'm long past that era."

A dozen seasons into his SDSU tenure, he's helping to write a new chapter at a school with precious little hoops history, a Midwestern transplant leading a team laden with Californians.

Last Thursday, SDSU beat Northern Colorado for its first NCAA Tournament victory in seven tries. Two days later, prior to a double-overtime victory against Temple, Fisher received a new lapel pin from tournament officials.

"As I said on Saturday, it's been 17 years since I put a pin on for the second round. And it felt good," he said.

What Fisher has accomplished at SDSU is remarkable. Hired in 1999, two years after he was fired at Michigan, he inherited a sad-sack program that won only four games the previous season. His first team went 5-23, including 0-14 in the Mountain West and winless away from San Diego.

He did get the Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament in his third season, ending the school's 16-year postseason drought. But the 13th-seeded Aztecs were shipped to Chicago and were routed, 93-64, by Illinois.

In 2003, SDSU got its first postseason victory, in the NIT. The Aztecs reached the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in 2009 before losing to Baylor.

Now they're in the NCAAs in consecutive seasons for the first time ever, with their highest seed. They were a No. 11 seed in 2006, when they lost 87-83 to Indiana, and again last year, when they fell 62-59 to Tennessee.

"I feel great. I'm excited to be a part of it. I'm proud that I'm part of something that hasn't happened before," said Fisher, who turns 66 on Thursday.

The 34 victories are eight more than the previous school single-season record and the Aztecs were nationally ranked this year for the first time ever. Their highest ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 was No. 4. They were sixth in the final poll.


Around the nation

* Alec Burks had 25 points and 10 rebounds, helping Colorado hold off Kent State, 81-74, on Tuesday night and advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Buffaloes (24-13) will play the winner of Alabama and Miami next Tuesday in the Big Apple. Justin Greene finished with 20 points for the Golden Flashes (25-12).

* Providence has hired former Fairfield coach Ed Cooley to replace the fired Keno Davis. Cooley led the Stags to a school-record 25 wins and a MAAC regular-season championship this year.

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