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Fresno State Names Ray Lopes Coach

April 4, 2002

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FRESNO, Calif. (AP) _ Oklahoma assistant Ray Lopes replaced Jerry Tarkanian as Fresno State’s basketball coach Wednesday, agreeing to a five-year contract.

``Outside of my marriage, this is the greatest day of my life,″ Lopes said at a news conference.

Lopes inherits a troubled team and said he will begin recruiting Thursday morning. He acknowledged it would not be easy to replace Tarkanian.

``Jerry Tarkanian is an unbelievable coach,″ Lopes said. ``It’s an honor for me to step in his shoes. He’s laid a foundation of success. It’s my job to build upon that foundation.″

Tarkanian turned around a lackluster program at his alma mater, but ran into problems his final season when the Bulldogs failed to make the NCAA tournament amid a series of suspensions and injuries. Fan discontent surfaced as the team struggled to a 19-15 record and an NIT berth.

Lopes, who spent the past eight years at Oklahoma, will direct the team when it moves into the new 16,500-seat Save Mart Center in late 2003 _ an arena that became reality in large part because of Tarkanian’s presence.

Lopes will be paid $112,000 per year from the school and a separate salary from a private athletic corporation, said athletic director Scott Johnson.

Lopes, 39, worked with Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson for one season at Washington State before moving to Oklahoma. Before that, Lopes, who played for Albertson College in Idaho, coached four years at California-Santa Barbara.

When he began coaching 14 years ago, Lopes said he had two goals: making it to the Final Four and getting a head coaching job at the level of the Fresno State program. In the past week, he’s accomplished both.

Oklahoma went 31-5 this season and advanced to the Final Four, where the Sooners lost to Indiana in the semifinals.

Lopes was accompanied by his wife, Pierrette, and their three children, who were decked out in Bulldogs garb. His mother and brother also attended.

Tarkanian, 71, retired from Fresno State last month after four decades of coaching.

He won an NCAA title with UNLV in 1990 and is the fourth winningest coach in the NCAA, finishing with a 778-202 record. He had 29 seasons of 20 or more wins, second only to Dean Smith’s 30.

Tarkanian will become a consultant for Fresno State, his alma mater, where he coached the last seven years and had a 153-80 record. The Bulldogs ended their season March 13 with an 81-75 loss to Temple in the NIT.

Lopes said he has always worked with winning programs and expected to continue that trend at Fresno State.

``I don’t know how to lose,″ he said. ``Our goal and our calling will be to cut down some nets.″

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