W&M hires Dane Fischer as basketball coach

Accustomed to championship basketball at academically elite schools, Dane Fischer is William and Mary’s new head coach.

Fischer has spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach under Dave Paulsen at George Mason. He worked previously for Paulsen at Bucknell (seven years) and Williams College (three).

Tribe athletic director Samantha Huge introduced Fischer to the team Tuesday afternoon, after which W&M announced his appointment. He will appear at a news conference Wednesday morning in Williamsburg.

“We sought a leader who will attract and develop student-athletes of character who excel in the classroom, who will compete for, and win, championships, and who will serve as great ambassadors for William and Mary,” Huge said in a statement. “Dane Fischer is exactly who we need.

“He is a competitor. He understands what is required to win at a highly selective academic institution and he embraces all that makes William and Mary special. Throughout the process, Dane clearly articulated his belief that his role is to teach, mentor and inspire the men in his charge while establishing a level of excellence befitting a Division I university.”

A 2002 graduate of Ithaca College, where he started at point guard for three seasons, Fischer helped Paulsen steer Bucknell and Williams to the NCAA Division I and Division III tournament, respectively. Bucknell won four Patriot League regular-season titles in seven years and earned two NCAA bids; Williams reached the 2004 national championship game.

George Mason the past four seasons has gradually improved its Atlantic 10 Conference record, progressing from 5-13 in 2015-16 to 11-7 this year.

Fischer’s other coaching stop was at Rider under Tommy Dempsey, and the Broncs won the 2008 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season championship in Fischer’s final year there.

In each of his positions, Fischer, 39, is credited with exceptional recruiting. Most notably, three of his Bucknell signees won Patriot League Player of the Year honors, including Los Angeles Lakers forward Mike Muscala, the Bison’s career scoring leader and the only Bucknell alum to reach the NBA.

“Dane has been an incredibly effective recruiter, able to identify outstanding prospects and establish a rapport with them," Paulsen said in a statement. "Most important, Dane is an outstanding person of high character who will immediately become part of the fabric at William and Mary. We will miss him a great deal here but are so excited for Dane and his family."

Fischer replaces Tony Shaver, whom W&M fired last month after 16 years. Shaver’s teams went 226-278 overall, but he’s the only coach in program history to lead the Tribe to five consecutive winning seasons, a streak that ended last month.

Moreover, W&M has the Colonial Athletic Association’s best combined conference record over the last six years. The Tribe finished 14-17 this season, 10-8 in the CAA, and lost in the quarterfinals of the league tournament.

W&M’s top five scorers have eligibility remaining, but first-team All-CAA forward Nathan Knight is evaluating his NBA stock, while five other Tribe players have said they are exploring transfer options while waiting to meet W&M’s new coach.

The Tribe is among four long-time Division I members — The Citadel, Army and St. Francis (N.Y.) are the others — never to reach the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In announcing Shaver’s departure, Huge said “we have high expectations for our men’s basketball program, including participating in the NCAA tournament, and we will not shy away from setting the bar high.”

“There are very few institutions in the country that blend academic excellence with high-level athletics as well as William and Mary,” Fischer said in a statement, “and I can’t wait to get to know our current student-athletes as quickly as possible.

“My family and I look forward to immersing ourselves on this campus and in the Williamsburg community, as we strive to lead the Tribe to the top of the CAA and into the NCAA tournament.”

David Teel, 757-247-4636, dteel@dailypress.com, Twitter @DavidTeelatDP

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