FULLERTON, Calif. -- Rick Vanderhook was formally introduced as Cal State Fullerton's head baseball coach Monday morning during a press conference that drew an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at Goodwin Field.
Vanderhook, a popular figure in the Fullerton community, played on the Titans' 1984 national championship team and won two more titles in his 21 years as an assistant, making 10 trips to the College World Series. He was a candidate to replace George Horton at Fullerton when Horton left for the Oregon head coaching position in 2007, but former Titans assistant Dave Serrano was hired instead. Serrano went 175-73 (.706) in four seasons at Fullerton before leaving for Tennessee on June 15.
Vanderhook, 50, spent the previous three seasons as UCLA's hitting and outfield coach, helping the Bruins reach the College World Series championship round in 2010.
"Four years ago it wasn't meant to be," Vanderhook said. "I think the experience that I had the last three years at UCLA has made me a better baseball coach. I got to experience some other things, which I never really had in my life. I had always been here. I got to see the perspective on what people think of Cal State Fullerton."
Vanderhook, who becomes the fifth head coach in Cal State Fullerton's history, said he kept receiving emails and phones calls from Fullerton supporters the last three years, even as the Titans and Bruins developed a competitive rivalry.
"To see what happened once he got to UCLA," Cal State Fullerton athletic director Brian Quinn said, "he brought that Titan brand of baseball over there. They had a fine coaching staff and great kids, but there was something different. You could see it and you could feel it in the way they played."
Vanderhook has a 1026-465-2 (.688) career record as a Division I assistant and has made 11 trips to Omaha, Neb. over 24 seasons. The Titans failed to make it out of their regional this season and have not played at the College World Series since 2009.
"This is a very special day," Quinn said. "It feels like we've brought back our family that has been missing. It's time to bring back the great tradition and get this thing moving again in the direction we want it to. We've been very, very successful, but there's something here that 'Hooky' brings to us, that toughness, that grittiness, that desire of Titan baseball."
Former Titans outfielder Felipe Garcia was one of many former and current players in attendance Monday. Garcia played on Fullerton's 2004 championship team, the last of the program's four titles.
"He can yell at you and really get in your face, but he's doing it because he cares about you," Garcia said. "He's yelling at you but telling you why. He brings a foundation of what it means to be a Titan."
Vanderhook earned credit for transforming UCLA into a stronger program during his stint. The Bruins hit .304 as a team in 2010, their highest mark since 2001.
"UCLA is an unbelievable place to work," Vanderhook said. "As I settled in, (UCLA head coach) John (Savage) and I would talk and he goes, 'What job would you take?' I said, 'Fullerton.' I never planned on leaving there but then when it came up, (Quinn) talked to (Savage). It was right off."
Blair Angulo is a regular contributor to ESPNLosAngeles.com.