SDSU to Hire Fuller : College basketball: School chooses UCLA assistant over former Nevada Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego State will end a month of speculation today by naming UCLA assistant Tony Fuller as the new Aztec basketball coach, sources said Tuesday night.

The announcement will put an official end to the candidacy of former Nevada Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian, whose name provoked more interest this winter than the SDSU basketball team ever did.

Fuller, 33, will become the 14th basketball coach in SDSU history and succeed Jim Brandenburg, who was fired Feb. 11. Sources said that Fuller will retain Jim Harrick Jr., who was SDSU's interim coach after Brandenburg was released.

A native of Detroit, Fuller is in his fourth season at UCLA and in his 10th as a member of Bruin Coach Jim Harrick's staff. He does not have Division I head coaching experience, but he will be asked to turn around an SDSU program at its lowest point in school history.

Fuller did not return phone calls Tuesday night.

"(Fuller) covers the whole umbrella," UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said. "He's a very good coach and a terrific, terrific recruiter.

"He knows what he's doing. He knows the game. He can speak. He would be great with the media and boosters, and he will graduate kids.

"He has the whole package. He's ready."

He had better be. The Aztecs' 1991-1992 record of 2-26 was the worst in school history, and the Aztecs finished the season with a 21-game losing streak--also a school worst.

They were 0-16 in Western Athletic Conference play, becoming the first WAC team to go winless through 16 conference games.

The Aztecs have had seven consecutive losing seasons and have not made an appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1985.

A 1983 Pepperdine graduate, Fuller was a guard on Harrick's first Pepperdine team in 1979-80. The Waves went 17-11 that season and were invited to the National Invitational Tournament.

Fuller played for the Detroit Pistons in the 1980-81 season and then spent two more seasons with Anchorage in the Continental Basketball Assn.

He joined Harrick's staff at Pepperdine during the 1982-83 season as a graduate assistant; became a part-time assistant in 1983 and was promoted to a full-time assistant's position in 1985.

Fuller's strong Los Angeles ties fit well with San Diego State Athletic Director Fred Miller's belief that SDSU needs to recruit the Los Angeles more heavily. Only two players on this year's SDSU team were from Los Angeles, and the Aztecs have historically not recruited well there.

Also, sources have said that SDSU President Tom Day insists that the new coach improve SDSU's academic performance, which has been abysmal. Fewer than five basketball players have graduated since 1987.

Fuller also seems to fit this requirement. He earned a master's degree in Education from Pepperdine in 1989 and has been involved in tutoring players in Harrick's programs. While Harrick and Fuller were at Pepperdine, more than two-thirds of the players earned degrees.

Tarkanian, meanwhile, denied a San Diego radio station's report Tuesday that he has been told by SDSU officials that the university is moving in another direction.

"I haven't heard anything," Tarkanian said. "I don't know anything. I haven't talked to anybody."

Tarkanian's son, Danny, an attorney, said Tuesday afternoon that he hadn't heard, either, that the former Nevada Las Vegas coach was out of the running at SDSU.

"We knew since the point-shaving allegations came out in February, though, that it looked pretty remote," Danny Tarkanian said.

A Las Vegas source said Tarkanian has an interview scheduled for next week with an unidentified NBA team, and long-time Tarkanian assistant Tim Grgurich was hired as an assistant Tuesday by the Seattle Supersonics.

Fred Miller, SDSU athletic director, continued to decline comment regarding Tarkanian or any other aspect of SDSU's search for a new coach.

"We're still in an orderly process of selecting a basketball coach, and I intend to keep it orderly," Miller said Tuesday afternoon. "I don't comment on candidates."

Fuller, Pepperdine's Tom Asbury, Yale's Dick Kuchen, Washington State's Kelvin Sampson and Arizona assistant Jessie Evans have been on SDSU's short list of candidates, sources have said, along with SDSU interim coach Harrick Jr.

And, of course, Tarkanian, who has the highest winning percentage in NCAA history (83.7%).

SDSU athletic department officials obtained and studied reports from both the NCAA and UNLV documenting Tarkanian's history of NCAA troubles, sources said, but Day remained skeptical because he was worried about tarnishing the university's reputation.

Tarkanian, who owns a condominium in Pacific Beach, is scheduled to be in a San Diego bookstore today to autograph copies of a new book on him.

In February, Tarkanian said that he wanted the job SDSU "badly."

But when asked Tuesday if he still held out hope of getting the Aztec job, Tarkanian declined comment.

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