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Steve Fisher (born March 24, 1945 in Herrin, Illinois, USA) is a basketball coach currently at San Diego State University.
Steve attended Illinois State University, where he helped led the Redbirds to the 1969 Division II Final Four. After school, he became a high school coach in Park Forest, Illinois. In 1979, he accepted an assistant coaching position at Western Michigan University. In 1982, he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan and took another assistant job at the University of Michigan. In 1989, then head coach Bill Frieder abruptly took the coaching job at Arizona State University just before the NCAA tournament, leaving a huge vacancy at Michigan. Though Frieder offered to remain as the head coach through the tournament, athletic director Bo Schembechler insisted that "a Michigan man is going to coach Michigan!", and hired Fisher on an interim basis.
Initially, Fisher was not expected to retain the position after the season. However, Fisher led the Wolverines to an improbable NCAA championship that season, thanks to a strong performance by guard Glen Rice. Schembechler hired him as the school's permanent head coach a week after the championship game.
In 1991, Fisher signed one of the most talented incoming freshman classes of the decade. High school stars Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, and Juwan Howard all signed with Fisher and Michigan, forming what became known as the "Fab Five". Together, they helped lead the Wolverines to a national title game berth as freshmen, only to lose to Duke. As sophomores, they again reached the title game, this time losing to North Carolina when Webber was called for a technical foul after, with 11 seconds remaining in the game, he signaled for a timeout that Michigan did not have.
After the title-game loss to the Tar Heels, Webber went pro; Rose and Howard followed a year later. The Wolverines never reached the same heights again, and in October 1997 Fisher was fired as Michigan's head coach, in the wake of the first of three NCAA investigations involving Michigan booster Ed Martin's cash gifts to current and former Wolverine players.
In 1999, Fisher took over as coach of a San Diego State program that had suffered losing records in 13 of the previous 14 years. In the season before he arrived, the Aztecs had won just four games, but within two seasons Steve had brought the team up to a .500 record, and led them to a 21-12 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance in year three of his regime.
In the midst of Fisher's impressive work at San Diego State, though, more facts surfaced surrounding his stint with the Wolverines that further damaged his reputation. In 2002, an indictment unsealed in a Detroit federal court charged former Michigan booster Ed Martin with running an illegal gambling operation and money laundering. Additionally, it claimed that Martin gave Webber $280,000 in illicit loans while Webber was in high school and college, with another $336,000 allegedly going to three other former Wolverine players - Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock.
As a result of the revelations, the University of Michigan decided to "vacate" all games involving Webber, Traylor, Taylor and Bullock in the lineup (including 1992 Final Four games versus Cincinnati and Duke, plus the entire 1992-93, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons). Additionally, the school issued a self-imposed postseason probation for the 2002-03 season, and removed the banners hanging in Crisler Arena that commemorate the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, along with all official records of the Wolverines' participation in those tournaments.
While the discoveries have not impacted Fisher's career with San Diego State (and no new allegations have occurred in conjunction with that program), they have caused his reputation to be tarnished in the eyes of some, as is true for other coaches whose schools were found guilty of NCAA rules violations.
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