In a move that stunned players and colleagues, Tony Fuller resigned as Pepperdine's basketball coach Saturday, only hours before the Waves' West Coast Conference game against Santa Clara.
Assistant Marty Wilson served as interim coach in the Waves' 87-76 loss before 1,873 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Fuller, 37, a former UCLA assistant who is in his second season as coach, could not be reached for comment.
In a statement released by the school, Fuller was quoted as saying, "After doing a lot of thinking, it is my opinion that this decision is for the betterment of the program, and is in the best interest of all parties concerned, especially the players."
Tim Wilhelm, Pepperdine associate athletic director, said he spoke to Fuller after the coach informed his players and assistants that he was resigning. The announcement came unexpectedly after the team's regular pregame meeting, about four hours before the 5 p.m. game, Wilhelm said.
"Tony said it would be better for the team and everybody involved if he went out now at this point in the season," Wilhelm said. "He said he was sorry things didn't work out.
"I think we're all a little stunned, to say the least."
Fuller guided Pepperdine to a 15-27 record after taking over the program before the 1994-95 season. The Waves dropped to 7-9 overall and 0-4 in conference play Saturday night.
Fuller, a standout guard at Pepperdine from 1978-80 and a former assistant under Jim Harrick at Pepperdine and UCLA, was the head coach at San Diego State for two seasons before returning to Malibu. His career record is 35-64.
Pepperdine Athletic Director Wayne Wright said Fuller was under no pressure because of the team's losing record.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone," said Wright, who had not spoken to Fuller before Saturday's game. "I've met with Tony several times in the last few weeks and nothing was ever mentioned or alluded to that would indicate that anything like this would happen."
Wright said he would meet with university officials Monday morning to decide what direction the school would take in selecting a new coach.
Wilson, in this sixth season as a Wave assistant, was stunned by his friend's decision to step down.
"I'm shocked and disappointed because I know how much he cares," said Wilson, a former Pepperdine player. "I know how hard he worked. I know how much he wanted things to be right.
"This [resignation] had nothing to do with wins or losses. . . . Obviously there are some other things in his head."
Wilson said he and the Waves' other coaches, Carl Strong and Jon Wheeler, planned to visit Fuller at his home after the game.
Junior guard Gerald Brown, who led the Waves with 19 points against Santa Clara (12-4, 3-1), said it was difficult to concentrate on the game because he was thinking of Fuller.
"We were trying to get it out of our heads so we could play some ball, but it was too big of a deal to get it completely out of our heads," Brown said.