Peterson won two-thirds of his games at Appalachian State. He succeeds Bill Self, who left two weeks ago to take coach Illinois.
The 37-year-old coach, who roomed with Michael Jordan at North Carolina, signed a five-year contract. ESPN.com, citing a source close to Peterson, estimated his salary at $450,000 a season.
"The only thing I want is the chance to coach that team and to get to the Final Four and win the national championship," Peterson said.
Peterson impressed Tulsa with his coaching record, his recruiting skills, his down-to-earth personality and unflagging confidence, athletic director Judy MacLeod said. Endorsements from all over didn't hurt either.
"Buzz was a name that kept popping up," MacLeod said.
A fund-raising drive had been aimed at keeping Self, who joined Tulsa in 1997.
A buyout clause is a key provision to keeping Peterson in place, MacLeod said.
"But we hope we have the same kind of success so that others are going to want him," she said.
Peterson coached Appalachian State to a 79-39 record, including an NCAA tournament appearance this year. He played on an NCAA championship team for Dean Smith at North Carolina in 1982 and had Smith's endorsement.
Last year, Peterson accepted the coaching job at Southwest Missouri State but changed his mind fewer than 12 hours later to remain at Appalachian State.
In the past two years, he was a finalist for jobs at Georgia, Georgia Tech and most recently, Houston.
Appalachian State this year won the Southern Conference Tounament for the first time since 1979. The team was expected to challenge for another title next season before the death of leading scorer Rufus Leach, who drowned this month.
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