He has proved capable of rescuing a troubled program, but that was on the junior-college level. Can Chris Fuller, introduced as Morgan State's men's basketball coach in early August, do for the Bears what he accomplished in Erie, Pa.?
This is the burning question at Morgan, and Fuller won't touch it.
"I'm not in the business of making predictions," he said. "All I can say is, I'm going to try as hard as I can to put things in place, and if we do things the way I think they should be done, we'll see some progress."
It's not exactly a guarantee of success, but making one would be foolish. Morgan hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 1988-89, when it was 15-14. And it hasn't won more than nine games
Caution, as Fuller understands, makes more sense than cockiness.
"How big a task it will be is a matter of perception," he said. "Some folks might perceive it as monumental. I don't. I see it as a challenge that I'm extremely excited about. I'm not in awe."
Fuller didn't bring name recognition to Morgan, but he carries some strong qualifications. At Erie Community College, he inherited a team that had gone 7-22 and led it to a 19-11 record in his first season. Last year, the Kats won 20 games and reached the NJCAA Region III Final Four for the fourth time in Fuller's eight seasons. His Erie teams averaged 18 wins.
At Morgan, he takes over a program that went 5-22 last winter and has seven new players.
"I worked a lot of years to get to this level," he said, "and I'm certainly going to continue to work hard. It's a big job, but what job isn't?
"One of the differences between Morgan and Erie is the support here has been tremendous. There's hope here. Erie's not really a place where they expected basketball to do that well. But here, there's a tremendous amount of pride, and therefore expectations are tremendous as well. And that's fine."
As he did at Erie, Fuller has taken over a program on probation -- Morgan's will last three years -- and he has tried to shift the players' focus toward what needs to get done, "which is winning basketball games and helping to mold successful student-athletes, people who can graduate and go out and be good citizens," he said.
"We don't talk about the probation. We know it's not going to last forever. We have to concentrate on our immediate goals, which include building a real solid program."
Fuller is the 10th coach at Morgan since Nat Frazier left for the first time in 1976. He replaces Lynn Ramage, who served on an interim basis last year after Michael Holmes (26-79) resigned.
Junior swingman Scott Deas said the Bears are busier since Fuller assumed control. "He's got us in the gym more often than we were in past years. We have practices, but we also have individual workouts. We're working a lot harder than before," he said.
Fuller wants to see big changes at Morgan, but he took one look at the Bears and saw a relatively small team. He must recruit size, but he got a late start this year. "We need to grow as fast as we can," he said.
That's about as close to a timetable as you're going to get from Fuller. "When you use one of those, you limit yourself. You place yourself on a scale that probably would change every sin
gle day," he said. "We'd like to go as far as we can as fast as we can. As a coach, you want to win every game. You never want to lose. I don't think anybody does."
Some people have just gotten more used to it at Morgan.
"I want these guys to carry themselves like winners," Fuller said. "When I came in, I adopted a theme that said,'the pride is back.' It starts inside the individual.
"I don't think we have any losers here. Even the kids who were here last year aren't losers. They just lost some basketball games."
The schedule of college basketball previews in The Sun:
Tomorrow: Navy, Loyola
Saturday: Mount St. Mary's, UMES
Monday: Towson State
Tuesday: Coppin State
/# Area College Basketball Preview