Arizona State University basketball Coach Steve Patterson resigned Saturday hours before the struggling Sun Devils were to face California in a Pac-10 game.

Assistant Coach Bob Schermerhorn assumed Patterson's duties immediately. Schermerhorn, 44, joined Patterson's staff for the 1986-87 season after four years as head coach at Southern Utah State, where he compiled a 68-42 record.Patterson was in his fourth season with Arizona State, which had lost seven of its last 10 games entering Saturday's contest. After a 7-2 start, the Sun Devils dropped to 10-9, including 3-7 in the Pac-10, entering Saturday's game.

Patterson, 40, said he made his decision Saturday morning after a meeting with Athletic Director Charles Harris.

"Charles Harris and I have agreed that it would be in the best interests of the program if I resigned," Patterson said. "This is a decision I have not made lightly. I loved Arizona State and the head coaching responsibilities."

He added, "I think the time has come for me to step down and let someone else drive them home."

Harris described Patterson's resignation as "a very amicable kind of separation."

"Steve embodies many, many of the qualities that you would want in an employee," Harris said. "He has had to work with a lot of obstacles to get his job done here."

Columnists for Phoenix's major newspapers had called for Patterson's resignation in the past week. Patterson said he was not upset with that suggestion, but was disturbed that it put the focus on him instead of the team.