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It's Official: Titans Give Horton the Job


FULLERTON — As a player, George Horton hit the winning home run against Pepperdine in 1975 that put Cal State Fullerton in the College World Series for the first time.

As the Titans' associate head coach since 1991 under Coach Augie Garrido, Horton helped to lead three other teams to Omaha, including the one in 1995 that won the national championship.

And Wednesday, as expected, Horton was given the opportunity to lead the Titans back to the College World Series, this time as head coach.

"This really means a lot to me," Horton said. "This is the institution I would havepicked for becoming a Division I coach. This is the best of all worlds for me."

Garrido resigned a month ago to accept a $1.68-million, six-year contract to replace Cliff Gustafson at Texas, opening the door for Horton, 42, to succeed him.

"I don't think they'll miss a beat with George taking over," said Long Beach State Coach Dave Snow, who hired Horton as an assistant when Snow coached at Los Angeles Valley College. Snow was an assistant at Fullerton when Horton played there.

"He's obviously replacing a legend, and that's no easy task," Snow said, "but he has had a lot of success on his own. I think he's the perfect fit for Fullerton."

Horton was head coach at Cerritos College from 1985 through the 1990 season before joining Garrido's staff at Fullerton. His Cerritos teams were 226-53 (.810) and won three state community college championships in six years.

Horton's selection was well received by returning Fullerton players.

"I have no worries at all about how we'll do with Coach Horton at the helm," first baseman C.J. Ankrum said. "All the players respect him, and this takes a lot of the pressure off."

Ankrum said he would have transferred, probably to Oklahoma, had early indications not pointed to Horton as Garrido's successor.

"He's one of the reasons I came back for this season," said catcher-infielder Mike Lamb, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. "I think he'll do a great job."

Pitcher Scott Hild said he will miss having Horton as his pitching coach, but is excited about having him in charge of the program.

"Having him as our head coach is that much better," Hild said. "We all know what he can do."

Horton indicated he plans to hire Tennessee assistant Dave Serrano as his replacement.

Serrano has been pitching coach at Tennessee for two seasons. The Vols had a 3.51 earned-run average last season, which ranked 15th in the nation. They had a 3.78 ERA in 1995 when they reached the College World Series, along with Fullerton.

Serrano was an assistant under Horton for three years at Cerritos and was head coach there after Horton left. Serrano was a community college All-American pitcher there.

Garrido's other assistant, Rick Vanderhook, will remain on the Fullerton staff.

Horton said he has been pleased about the support he has received for the job, including that from Garrido. "It came from alumni, fellow workers. . . . a lot of people, and Augie certainly was a significant one," Horton said.

Horton said his patience for a head coaching job was wearing thin when Garrido surprised him by taking the Texas job. Horton had turned down an offer to become head coach at Washington State three years ago.

Horton was the only candidate interviewed by the screening committee and Athletic Director John Easterbrook, who said Horton also received strong recommendations from other coaches around the nation.

Horton was introduced at a late-afternoon press conference by university President Milton Gordon.

Gordon pointed to Fullerton's success in the past and said he expected the program to "be great in the future."

Gordon also said he remains committed to continued improvements to Titan Field to make it an attractive site for NCAA regional tournament play.

"I feel I can help fulfill the mission of completing the facility, and keeping Fullerton baseball at the same high level," Horton said.

Horton said he would sign a three-year contract. The salary amount was not disclosed, but Garrido was making slightly less than $100,000 per year when he left, a figure that did not include money from his summer baseball camp and his equipment endorsements.

"I won't be under Augie's contract, but it was a fair offer, and I'm happy with it," Horton said.

The Titans will begin fall workouts Oct. 7.

The regular-season schedule has not been completed, but Horton said earlier plans for Garrido to bring his Texas team to Fullerton this year "probably won't happen."

The Anaheim Hilton & Towers did not renew its contract as a title sponsor for the regular-season tournament, which traditionally has included the Titans and three of the nation's top teams. That decision put the event in jeopardy. Texas, Miami and Pepperdine were tentatively scheduled to play in the 1997 tournament.

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