Steve Fisher and his San Diego State staff do their homework before they see recruits, like all good coaches do.

They know players' backgrounds, playing styles and outside interests. And then, when they're visiting recruits at their homes, Fisher will often ask for another tidbit of information, something that hits close to home for him.

" 'What classes do you like?' – that's what we say to them," Fisher says. " 'Do you like it because you're good at it? What is it you have struggles with?' Invariably, math will come up on one side or the other.

"Well, I'm a math teacher. 'I can help you with that on the road,' I say. 'I can stay one step ahead of the teacher with you. I can be a good asset.' We laugh about that."

But he's not kidding. Xavier Thames, a SDSU senior guard in the midst of a breakout season, can vouch for that. "He helped me with my math class my first year," Thames says, laughing. "He knows his stuff."

Fisher started his coaching career at Rich East High in Park Forest, Ill., back in the 1970s. There, he doubled as a math teacher – something he enjoyed and something that's stuck with him during his long career in college basketball, which has taken him all the way from Western Michigan to Michigan to San Diego State.

"Coaching is teaching," Fisher, now 68, says. "Our classroom is our (basketball) building. We're going to help them get better, but we're also going to look after them the way a mom and a dad would want us to look after them. They won't like everything we do or say. But we're going to do what we think is in their best interest.

"From that standpoint, the teacher in all of us comes out by the way we do things and how we relate to them."