Steve Fisher and his wife were just like other Valentine’s Day couples: they shared a bottle together.
But it wasn’t bubbly champagne for the San Diego State basketball coach and his wife, Angie.
Instead of popping the cork they plopped little Max, their first grandson, on his backside and it was bottoms up.
“Our Valentine’s Day gift to each other was we babysat him,’’ a beaming Fisher said of that memorable evening in their Del Mar home. “I cooked steaks on the grill and both of us fed him his bottle.’’
The Aztecs have something that any basketball coach would love to cap and preserve. Ranked No. 6 and headed into Saturday’s Mountain West Conference showdown with New Mexico, the veteran coach has it going again.
“His style allows us freedom and that is always fun to play with,’’ SDSU forward JJ O’Brien said. “And it’s just the person he is.
“He is real helpful, real positive and real encouraging so just being with him is fun. And he is always challenging your mind to make things intriguing.’’
This season is compelling in various ways, some of which tug at your heart.
While the Aztecs tied a school-record by winning 20 games in a row, have won 20 games for their ninth consecutive year and are bound for their fifth straight NCAA Tournament, it hasn’t been all handshakes and high-fives.
That returns us to Max and his mighty courageous father, Mark, the SDSU assistant coach.
Coach Fisher’s 35-year-old son is being challenged by ALS, fighting what’s better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease with all the tenacity of anything his father can draw up.
This is a private matter and we respect Steve too much to pry.
But we respect him too much not to share our sincerity that we, too, are rooting for Mark.
Steve will say he’s proud of Mark, but also of Jay, his youngest son who’s busy breaking into the movie business.
The game-day spotlight always finds Steve, with his calm demeanor and savvy coaching usually leading the Aztecs to another victory.
Legions of SDSU boosters cheer the red-and-black at tip-off. We hope Steve knows that good will flows toward his clan long after the horn has sounded.
“That is family business and they try not to bring that to the court,’’ O’Brien said of Mark’s illness. “They just keep that within themselves and we have accepted what it is and we all are supportive.’’
That Steve has a second family — his team — to complement his other one is a plus. There’s a joy he’s experiencing with these players this year that presented him with his 300th SDSU victory, and so much more.
“They’ve been terrific,’’ Steve, 68, said. “I’ve never had a group any more willing, able, and on-point to do everything the right way.’’
When you’re coaching resume dates to Illinois’ Rich East High School in 1971, that’s a mouthful.
“We say, ‘Come at 8:00,’ and at 7:50, they’re all there. We say, ‘The bus leaves at 5:50,’ and at 5:20, they are all on the bus, here early. They do such a good job and that is how they practice,’’ he said.
“They are a great group of kids to be with and we’ve had fun, they’ve had fun. And we have talked about it: Enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it.’’
To that, we add bottoms up, and how does this bring us back to 2-month-old Max again?
“Sure I changed his diaper,’’ Steve said. “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.’’
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly.