Entering his second season as head coach of the New Mexico State men’s basketball program, Reggie Theus looks to continue building the Aggies back into a basketball power, both within the Western Athletic Conference, and on the national stage. Armed with one of the best recruiting classes in the country, four starters returning from his first season and the 2007 WAC Championships at home, Theus and the Aggies eye a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, the school’s first since 1999.
In his first year at the helm of the NMSU program, Theus guided the Aggies to a tie for the fifth-best turnaround in all of Division I basketball and the best single-season improvement of any NMSU squad since the 1985-86 season. After finishing the 2004-05 campaign 6-24, Theus led the Aggies to a 16-14 record last season, including wins over I-25 rival New Mexico and NCAA Tournament participants Pacific and Utah State.
Under Theus, NMSU also saw dramatic improvement in conference play as the Aggies went 10-6 in their first season as a member of the WAC. The nine-win improvement in conference play over the 2004-05 season was the Aggies’ biggest single-season turnaround in school history. The Aggies swept three conference season series (Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State) while taking two of three meetings from Hawai’i and advancing to the conference championship semifinals.
The Aggies led the WAC in conference free throw percentage (.747) and tied for the conference lead in steals per game (7.25). The team ranked third in league in conference scoring (71.5) and conference field goal percentage (.455) while finishing fourth in conference turnover margin (+0.19) and fifth in conference three-point field goal percentage (.350).
In what will undoubtedly become a mark of future Theus-guided Aggie teams, the 2005-06 NMSU squad showed an intensity and displayed all out hustle from the opening tip of every contest to the final buzzer. The Aggies tied for the conference lead with eight come-from-behind victories as NMSU finished 8-8 in games where they trailed at halftime.
In 2005-06, Theus and the Aggies posted the program’s 36th winning season at the Pan American Center in the facility’s 38 years as NMSU went 10-4 in front of the hometown crowd. The Aggies also made it clear to their new conference brethren that the Pan American Center would be a tough place to get a win as NMSU posted a 7-1 home mark in WAC play.
Theus also helped several Aggie players to breakout seasons in 2005-06. Red shirt sophomore Tyrone Nelson (Hempstead, Texas) and red shirt junior Elijah Ingram (East Orange, N.J.) both made an immediate impact in their first season with NMSU after sitting out the 2004-05 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Nelson, who was named first team All-WAC and to the All-WAC Newcomer Team last season, led the team in scoring (17.8), rebounding (8.7) and steals (48). Nelson finished the season shooting 55.1 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the free throw line. In conference play, Nelson was even better as he finished second in the WAC in scoring (19.3) and field goal percentage (.559). He also ranked third in the league in rebounding (9.4), sixth in free throw percentage (.771) and tied for sixth in steals (1.44).
Ingram, who along with Nelson became the first pair of Aggies to receive all-conference accolades in the same season since 2001-02, was named second team All-WAC and to the All-WAC Newcomer team. Ingram finished his first season as an Aggie averaging 13.4 points per game and hitting 80.5 percent of his free throw attempts. He led the club in assists with 89 and in three pointers made with 57 while shooting 37.5 percent from behind the arc. In league play, Ingram ranked 11th in scoring (14.7) and fourth in free throw percentage (.821). He finished the year ninth in conference assists, averaging 3.4 per league game, and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.02).
On March 29, 2005, New Mexico State Athletics Director Dr. McKinley Boston named Theus the school’s new men’s basketball coach. Theus, who replaced retired head coach Lou Henson, is the 23rd head coach in program history.
Prior to joining the Aggie family, Theus spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville under head coach Rick Pitino. While at Louisville, Theus was an integral part of the Cardinals’ run to the Final Four, the 2005 Conference USA regular season and tournament titles while helping lead the program to back-to-back 20-win seasons and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2004-05, Theus helped guide Louisville back to the Final Four for the first time since their national title run in 1986.
Along with being an excellent teacher on the practice floor, Theus was also Louisville’s top recruiter, helping the Cardinals sign a handful of the nation’s top high school players over the past two seasons.
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., and an Inglewood High School graduate, Theus was able to utilize a vast network of connections throughout the region to help Louisville land national letters of intent from four highly recruited prep players on the west coast, an area in which Pitino and Louisville had never recruited before Theus’ arrival.
Along with being instrumental in the Cardinals’ push to recruit the west coast, Theus also helped the Cardinals win a recruiting war for Kansas transfer David Padgett in 2004. Padgett, a McDonald’s High School All-American, was also being heavily recruited by the likes of UCLA and North Carolina. He started 19 games as a freshman for the Jayhawks and averaged 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game while blocking a team-high 43 shots.
In the spring of 2005, Rivals.com named Theus one of the nation’s top 25 recruiters and he continues to attract talent from all over the country. Since taking over the Aggie program, New Mexico State has signed 11 players, including a quartet of transfers from several top flight Division I programs and the 2006 NJCAA National Tournament MVP in power forward Hatila Passos.
Theus’ coaching resume includes a variety of diverse experiences that have helped the former NBA All-Star adjust to his first Division I head coaching position. Before joining Pitino’s staff at Louisville, Theus spent a year as a volunteer assistant at Cal State Los Angeles. He also gained coaching experience as the head coach of the Southern California All-Stars (17-and-under AAU Team) and as a summer league coach for the Philadelphia 76’ers and the Denver Nuggets.
In the spring of 2002, Theus led the Las Vegas Slam of the American Basketball Association to the Western Conference finals where they lost to eventual champion Kansas City.
Before turning his attention to the coaching profession, Theus spent 13 years as a player in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets. After being drafted by the Bulls as the ninth overall pick in 1978, Theus finished runner-up in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting to Kansas City’s Phil Ford and was named to the 1979 All-Rookie team.
Theus is one of only seven players in NBA history to score at least 19,000 points and dish out 6,000 assists, joining John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler and Jerry West with that distinction. When Theus retired he ranked 22nd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 19,105 career points and 11th on the all-time assists list with 6,453 career assists. Over his 13-year career, Theus averaged 18.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game while being named to the 1981 and 1983 NBA All-Star teams.
In 1992-93, Theus spent one season playing professionally in Italy with Ranger Varese. In 30 games with Ranger, Theus averaged 29.3 points, 5.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game. Theus was the league’s second leading scorer and leader in assists that season.
After retiring from professional basketball in 1993, Theus spent nearly a decade as an actor and television sports broadcaster. He served as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports, ESPN and was a co-star on the Fox Sports Net program “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.”
Theus’ extensive acting credits include playing Coach Bill Fuller for three years on NBC’s hit Saturday morning television show “Hang Time”.
Theus played his college basketball at UNLV for head coach Jerry Tarkanian from 1976 to 1978. In three seasons with the Runnin’ Rebels, he averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. Theus, who became one of the best players to ever don a UNLV uniform, shot 81 percent from the free-throw line for his career while amassing 1,177 career points (21st on all-time scoring list), 401 career assists and 389 career rebounds in just 91 collegiate games.
In 1989, Theus was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame and in 1997 he became one of only six players in school history to have his jersey retired by the Rebels.
As a sophomore, Theus helped lead UNLV into the national spotlight as the Rebels went 29-3, advancing to the school’s first Final Four in Atlanta, Ga. Despite losing by a single point to North Carolina in the semifinals, UNLV defeated UNC-Charlotte in the third-place game and set NCAA single-season records for most points in a season (3,426), most 100-point games (23) and most consecutive 100-point games (12). He averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 81.8 percent from the charity stripe and 49.7 percent from the field as a sophomore.
As a junior, Reggie was named a second team All-American after averaging 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
Before attending UNLV, Theus was a standout at Inglewood High School. As a senior, he averaged 28.5 points and 15.5 rebounds a game while leading the Sentinels to the semifinals of the 4A CIF state tournament. He was named the team’s most valuable player three straight years and led the squad to back-to-back Bay League championships in 1974 and 1975.
Along with a successful career as both a player and coach, Theus has also been an influential member of the communities where he and his family have lived. Among the charitable programs which have benefited from Theus’ involvement are the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, he was the spokesperson for the NBA’s Stay in School Program, “Rap with Reggie” and Reggie Theus’ Trikes for Kids.
Theus and his wife Elaine have three children; Raquel, Reggie and Rhyan.
WHAT THEY ARE WRITING ABOUT THEUS AND THE AGGIES
“The Aggies are light years ahead of ‘on pace’. They are a legitimate threat to wrestle the WAC title away from three-time defending regular season champ Nevada”
Athlon Sports Magazine • September 2006
“One of the rising coaches out West has his rising program on the doorstep of a breakout season,”
Ed Graney - ESPN Summer Session - 2006
“The Aggies not only have one of the league’s most skilled teams, but now own the opportunity to host the conference tournament for the next two seasons. Making the NCAAs might be a tad easier when an auto bid will be up for grabs at the Pan American Center in 2007 and ‘08.”
Ed Graney - ESPN Summer Session - 2006
“It’s easy to believe that the second year of the Theus era will produce a bigger story, maybe even one as big as the mid-majors who made Cinderella runs through the last NCAA Tournament.”
Andrew Skwara - Rivals.com - 2006
“The Aggies certainly aren’t afraid to play anyone. The first road trip of the season takes them to Arizona on Nov. 19 and provides a stage for the rest of college basketball to find out just how dangerous Theus and his revamped team can be in 2006-07.”
Andrew Skwara - Rivals.com - 2006
“With four starters returning and a group of four transfers that could field a quality team of their own, expectations are understandably high at New Mexico State. With just one season at the helm, Coach Reggie Theus has appeared to turn the program around.
Joel Weiser - Collegehoops.net • 2006
“Theus brings a wealth of basketball experience to the Aggies. The best thing he did to prepare for this opportunity was to learn as an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville. That will be invaluable in his first stint as a collegiate head coach.”
Dick Vitale - ESPN.com • June 2005