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Cal State Fullerton Notebook : Sneed Gets Chance to Make the Titans His Own

John Sneed got his start in coaching while still a student at Cal State Long Beach, when Jerry Tarkanian, then the 49er coach, stopped him in a hallway and suggested that he apply to assist a young coach named George McQuarn at Verbum Dei High School.

Five days ago, Sneed got his first victory as a college head coach, once again with an assist from McQuarn, who resigned last month, leaving the Cal State Fullerton team to Sneed.

With a surprising 59-57 victory over Utah in Salt Lake City Thursday, Sneed already has become the first basketball coach to guide a Titan team to a victory in his debut since Alex Omalev won the first Fullerton basketball game, defeating Westmont, 69-67, in 1960.

Every other Titan coach--Moe Radovich, Bobby Dye and George McQuarn--lost his opening game.

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Tonight, Sneed makes another debut, this one in front of the Fullerton fans against Pepperdine in the Titans’ home opener.

Despite the ties to McQuarn--Sneed assisted him during all of McQuarn’s 9 years at Fullerton--it will be clear from the moment the Titans take the court that this is Sneed’s team, and not McQuarn’s.

The somewhat unorthodox pregame warmup that was one of McQuarn’s trademarks--the step-slide defensive drills, the defensive shadowing drills--are gone. Instead, the Titans warm up more traditionally, with layups and jump shots.

Sneed clearly has been influenced by McQuarn, but he also is determined to run his own program, as became clear at the first practice Sneed held after being named acting coach for the season.

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“Everything is different,” said Randal Moos, a senior guard, after the first practice.

Under Sneed, the team spends less time working in position groups and more time together. Defense is still important, but there is more emphasis on offense and ballhandling. The forwards and centers, who under McQuarn rarely had to dribble, take part in full-court layup drills under Sneed.

In addition to assisting McQuarn, Sneed has been a high school head coach--taking over for McQuarn at Verbum Dei in 1974 and leading his team to a 30-2 record and a Southern Section 4-A championship in the first of his 3 seasons--and an assistant for 1 year at Arizona and 2 at San Diego State.

He also played several places, including a year at East Los Angeles College and one under Tarkanian at Long Beach. He tried out for the Chicago Bulls and was cut, and played professionally in Italy for a year.

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Sneed’s game coaching style, of course, is evolving.

He has coached Fullerton in games before, taking over in two games when McQuarn could not be there. But now, by his own analogy, he is the teacher for a whole semester, and not the substitute in for the day.

“This is completely different from other games, where stepping in you could have no impact, just make things run smoothly for a day,” Sneed said. “This time, I have time to prepare them myself, have my own game plan incorporated. You don’t take a team over for a day and expect them to do anything different.”

Titan Notes

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The women’s basketball team, led by Gena Miller and Jill Maytuch, is off to a 3-1 start. . . . The wresting team also is off to a strong start, and is shooting for a victory over Fresno State this week, which would be the first against the Bulldogs for Coach Dan Lewis. . . . Inside linebacker Jerry Leggett has been chosen to play in the Senior Bowl Jan. 21 and defensive lineman Alex Stewart has been chosen to play in the Blue-Gray game Dec. 25.


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