SAN DIEGO — Sam Scholl believes he’s taking over a team on the upswing.

The University of San Diego Toreros finished this season 20-14 and return 15 of 16 players, including Isaiah Pineiro, who was named to the All-West Coast Conference first team after averaging 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.

“We have a very strong foundation,” Scholl said Tuesday as he was introduced as San Diego’s new head coach. “And we are going to win every day in every way. That is the goal of our basketball team.”

Scholl, a USD assistant at the beginning of the season, was elevated to acting head coach on Feb. 26 after coach Lamont Smith was arrested for investigation of domestic violence the day after the regular-season finale in San Francisco. Smith resigned 10 days later even though charges weren’t filed.

Scholl led the Toreros to a 2-2 record in the postseason, including a loss to BYU in the WCC tournament and then a run to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

On Easter Sunday, he learned the school was dropping the interim tag from his title.

Athletic director Bill McGillis surprised Scholl at his in-law’s home in Gig Harbor, Washington, on Easter morning with a contract.

“My reaction when I walked in the door, I said, ‘What the heck?'” Scholl said. “My mouth was probably down to the floor as he began to talk. I told him never in a million years I thought I would get the head coaching job in Gig Harbor, Washington. That meant everything to me and it blew me away.”

USD conducted a monthlong, nationwide search that included candidates from the NBA and other colleges before offering Scholl the job.

“We wanted to find a head coach that would bring to the university a number of different things,” said McGillis. “We wanted to make sure to identify someone with the values that matches this great Catholic university with integrity. We wanted to find the very best leader, the very best head coach that I felt could shape our program for the next decade, not just the next season. I just came to believe that coach Scholl was the right person to lead this team and to continue the momentum we have.”

Scholl started his coaching career in 2000 at USD, serving under then-head coach Brad Holland for seven seasons. He spent an additional eight seasons at Santa Clara before returning to USD three years ago as part of Smith’s staff.

“I am extremely honored and humbled,” Scholl said. “I had a dream since high school of being a men’s head basketball coach and I never thought in my wildest dream it would be at USD.”


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