July 18, 2008
By AUSTIN WARD
Cindy Fisher isn't second-guessing -- she's celebrating.
The former Wyoming Cowgirls coach isn't wondering why she never had the benefit of massive crowds in the Arena-Auditorium, she's just trying to copy the blueprint in San Diego.
Most important, Fisher isn't jealous of the NCAA Tournament bid UW earned last spring -- her Toreros got their own.
"I think for me, I have so much pride still for the program, I was really just excited for both of us," Fisher said. "I think it's ironic, I think it's pretty funny that it happened for us in the same year.
"I was kind of thinking about it, you know, 'If I'd have signed that five-year contract at Wyoming this would have been my fifth year.' It's just so funny that I still could have been there if everything had gone right."
Everything has worked out pretty well for both programs since Fisher resigned in 2003, though not because she couldn't succeed in Laramie.
Fisher merely chose a different path, one that ultimately led to the same destination for both teams.
Her departure at UW paved the way for Joe Legerski's five-year plan that led to the Cowgirls' first trip to the Big Dance.
And after a stint as an assistant at Nebraska, Fisher helped San Diego accomplish the same feat -- actually beating UW onto the dance card with a surprising West Coast Conference tournament win that provided an automatic berth.
But even if the Toreros had come up short last season, Fisher wouldn't have felt any resentment at UW's success.
And if the Cowgirls hadn't snuck into the field at the last minute, the Cheyenne Central product wouldn't exactly be picking up bragging rights.
"Ever since I was a little girl I've been a huge fan of anything the University of Wyoming has been a part of," Fisher said. "I was pushing for them like crazy. The fact that it happened for both of us in the same year was really rewarding to me. It meant a lot to me that when I saw their name up there I got chills.
"Just that tradition, wanting to be a part of everything that they do, we're trying to brand that here at USD."
The process is well under way, and the NCAA Tournament appearance has certainly helped speed it up.
The Toreros aren't quite drawing as much media or fan attention as are the Cowgirls, though they have to compete in a much more crowded marketplace.
While both schools have high standards in recruiting, Fisher also has to deal with tougher admission requirements at the private school. But she raved about her latest recruiting class.
And after Fisher signed a multi-year contract extension last month, those freshmen can be sure that she's not leaving anytime soon.
Unless a school can match the surf, sand and culture in SoCal.
"For me personally, it's absolutely a great situation to be in," Fisher said. "Obviously the cost of living is so different, but as far as the job itself and being the women's basketball coach here, I couldn't be any happier. I feel like it meets all of my needs and I feel really, really fortunate to be in a great situation.
"The city of San Diego, I love the beach, I love to surf, those kinds of things that I only dreamed about before."
They're clearly not a part of the Wyoming lifestyle.
And they also leave little time to doubt her decision to leave.
"There's always that part of you that wonders if that could have happened for us," Fisher said. "For me it's always, you know, I'm happy for them. I haven't looked back. I really miss the people there. But the other half, programs and where I want to be, being able to do the things I want to do, I don't think I've ever looked back.
"But I'll always be a Wyoming girl at heart."
Which sometimes gives twice as much reason to celebrate.