Volume 96, Issue 76
Thursday, February 13, 2003

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49ers new head coach

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Dennis Erickson was hired Tuesday by the San Francisco 49ers to replace Steve Mariucci as coach, a surprising end to a search that stretched nearly four weeks.

Erickson will be introduced at a news conference on Wednesday.

Mariucci, who was fired by owner John York on Jan. 15 despite leading San Francisco to four playoff berths in six seasons, signed a five-year contract with the Detroit Lions last week.

Erickson is an unexpected choice for San Francisco, which had concentrated its search on NFL defensive coaches during the 3 1/2 weeks since York surprised his front office by firing Mariucci.

But general manager Terry Donahue always said he planned to consider college head coaches in his search, which he conducted largely from his home in Newport Beach, California. Earlier, several college coaches said they weren't interested, including Washington coach Rick Neuheisel and Southern California coach Pete Carroll.

New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, Chicago defensive co-ordinator Greg Blache and San Francisco defensive co-ordinator Jim Mora interviewed for the job last week. The 49ers also seriously considered Tampa Bay defensive co-ordinator Monte Kiffin, who re-signed with the Buccaneers after the Super Bowl.

Erickson coached the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98, going 31-33. His greatest success has been in college, where he has turned four schools into winners. He went 31-17 in four seasons at Oregon State, resurrecting a formerly moribund program.

Erickson won national titles at the University of Miami in 1989 and 1991, going 63-9 over six seasons. He also has coached at Idaho and Washington State.

Mariucci was fired despite four 10-win seasons with a remarkably brief rebuilding period in between. York had a difference in philosophy with Mariucci, who led the 49ers to a 10-6 record, the NFC West title and a playoff victory over the New York Giants this past season.

Erickson is just the 49ers' fourth coach since 1979, following Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Mariucci. Walsh and Seifert both won Super Bowls.

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