George Solomon, assistant managing editor for sports at The Washington Post for 28 years and the longest-serving AME in the newspaper's history, is stepping down June 1 and will be succeeded by his deputy, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, The Post announced yesterday.

Solomon, 62, has worked at The Post for 31 years and is credited with developing the careers of sports journalists across the country. He joined the newspaper in June 1972 as a reporter and columnist and was named assistant sports editor in 1974. He became sports editor the next year -- at the recommendation of the man who preceded him as sports editor, Donald E. Graham, now chairman of The Washington Post Co.

"He and Shirley Povich, his great friend, are two of the greatest figures in the history of sports journalism," Graham said yesterday. He credited Solomon with increasing the diversity of the sports staff and making "terrific hires" who went on to distinguished sports writing careers at The Post and elsewhere.

In announcing the management change, Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said in a statement that Solomon "has simply been the best and most influential American newspaper sports editor of his time." He praised him as a media leader in covering hard news about sports off the playing fields, particularly the Olympics; enforcing strict ethical standards for sports journalists; and increasing coverage of women's sports.

"Just as [former executive editor] Ben Bradlee created the modern Washington Post newsroom, George Solomon created the modern Washington Post sports section," Downie said in a separate interview. "He was a tough, demanding editor, with high standards. . . . He was also warm, supportive and extraordinarily funny."

Greeting well-wishers in his newsroom office yesterday, Solomon said he still hasn't decided what he will do after June 1 but said he is "leaning in the direction" of staying at the paper as a writer. He is helping to put together an anthology of writings by Povich, The Post's late sports columnist, whose career spanned 75 years.

"Every day around here is electric, and the stimulation of being in this newsroom is unequaled," Solomon said. "There were a lot of late nights, takeout Chinese, good newspapers and laughs."

Solomon, a recipient of The Post's Eugene Meyer Award for distinguished service, said he enjoyed being involved in breaking sports news, competing with other news organizations and overseeing coverage of big events, including four Redskins Super Bowls, the Olympics, NBA and NHL finals, and the World Series.

During his years at the helm, he said, The Post "expanded every area of our sports coverage and tripled coverage of high school and other local sports." He praised the support of Graham, Bradlee and Downie and said it had been a thrill to work with such a talented staff of reporters and columnists, including Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, whose "20 years of banter in the newsroom has been transferred to a TV show," ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption."

Solomon said he was especially pleased to have hired his successor, Garcia-Ruiz, 41, who came to The Post in 1987 from the Prince George's Journal and whom Solomon called "the best young sports editor in the country."

"Without George, I'd still be a punk covering high school sports," Garcia-Ruiz said.

In the 1990s, Garcia-Ruiz was an assistant sports editor at the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times before becoming sports editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he supervised a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of academic irregularities in the University of Minnesota basketball program. Garcia-Ruiz was lured back to The Post in 2001.

Solomon, who was born in New York City and grew up in Miami, is a graduate of the University of Florida. He began his journalism career with the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel and later worked at the Washington Daily News before coming to The Post.