- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus is going home again -- back to the NBA and back to the Kings, but this time in Sacramento, not where he starred in Kansas City.
The Sacramento Kings named Theus their next coach late Tuesday night and plan to introduce him at a news conference on Wednesday.
Theus would not confirm the figures, but sources said he will get a three-year deal worth an estimated $6 million.
Theus will replace Eric Musselman, who was fired after the Kings went 33-49 and missed the playoffs in his only season as coach.
"I'm stunned," Theus told ESPN.com. "As of Sunday, I believed I was the dark horse."
Theus said he spoke with Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie early Tuesday evening and was told he had the job.
"I'm an NBA guy coaching in college," Theus said.
Sacramento first offered the job to Stan Van Gundy, but he was hired by Orlando once Billy Donovan asked out of his signed contract to return to the University of Florida.
Theus interviewed with the Kings twice and won the job over Lakers assistant Brian Shaw. The Kings also talked to Kurt Rambis, another Lakers assistant.
"During the course of working through all the interviews and
different possibilities, we really felt in the end that we wanted
to go with a young coach, someone we could grow with," Petrie told The Associated Press. "I think Reggie brings a lot of enthusiasm and charisma."
Theus led New Mexico State to the NCAA Tournament after winning the WAC tournament in Las Cruces. The NCAA berth, which ended in a first-round loss to Texas, was the first for NMSU since 1999. Theus led NMSU to back-to-back winning seasons in his two seasons at the school. He coached them to a 25-9 record this past season. NMSU was 6-24 in the season before he arrived in 2005. Theus came to NMSU after a two-year stint as an assistant to Rick Pitino in Louisville.
Theus said that Pitino and his college coach, UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian, whom he played for from 1976-78, called Petrie on his behalf. He said he first met Petrie when the Kings were interested in drafting Louisville's Francisco Garcia after the Cardinals went to the Final Four in 2005.
"Coach Pitino and coach Tarkanian helped me because they know me as a person," Theus said. "I don't think anyone has looked at me as a college guy. People always looked at me as a pro guy. That's my pedigree. I spent 13 years as a player. I don't know why other college coaches haven't been successful. But most of the guys didn't play in the pros. I just know that I'm different. My credibility going in the door isn't as someone who hasn't played the game."
Theus got to know the Kings owners, the Maloof family, while at New Mexico State since the family is from New Mexico and supports the program. But Theus said as soon as he was told he was a possible candidate, he asked for 10 tapes of Kings' games from the NBA and started watching the team.
"I don't think it's going to be a quick fix," Theus said. "I do believe that we have to start out and create an identity. From the games I've seen, I couldn't figure out who they were as a team."
"I want to find out from them how we make this work since it's their team," Theus said. "I'm the leader, but it's their team. I remember as a pro myself that I always liked it when the coach came to me to talk about how we can make it work.
"Both players are high-caliber players, and at this point in their careers how much are they willing to sacrifice? But before that, we have to start out with an identity and play a certain style to be successful," Theus said.
The Maloof brothers are ready to let him try.
"He's the King of Kings," Gavin Maloof told AP. "He had a great career as a player with this franchise, and now he has a chance to be the head coach of the team. He did a wonderful job with the New Mexico State program. He's very well thought of and revered in Las Cruces, and were just really excited to have him on board."
Theus had a contract on the table from NMSU that would have bumped his annual salary from $355,000 to $466,000, with a new five-year rollover.
Theus had been outspoken this spring about his desire to return to the NBA, where he was an All-Star. He played in the league for 13 seasons, mostly with Chicago and Kansas City, which became Sacramento in 1985. He also played for Atlanta, Orlando and New Jersey before going to Europe in 1991.
Theus coached as a volunteer at Cal State-Los Angeles in the summer leagues for the Sixers and Nuggets, and then the ABA's Las Vegas Slam before Pitino hired him on a whim. Theus also worked in television as an actor.
But his dream was to get to the NBA as a coach. He told ESPN.com many times over the past month that he was an "NBA guy" and could relate to a player as well as any other coach.
Theus said he would start calling recruits either late Tuesday night or Wednesday to let them know that he has left New Mexico State for the NBA. He said that includes highly touted newcomer Herb Pope out of the Pittsburgh area.
"I'm happy for coach and extremely pleased with the shape our
program is in," New Mexico State athletic director Dr. McKinley
Boston said in a statement released by the school. "We will work towards an appropriate transition that will protect the welfare of our
student-athletes as well as our incoming recruits.
"We're happy and disappointed, but at the same time we
recognize what a wonderful opportunity this is for Reggie and that
in time he will do a wonderful job."
Theus said he is indebted to Pitino and Boston.
"Dr. Boston knew this day would probably come, but what it means is that this program is on solid ground," Theus said. "It's one of the top two or three mid-major programs in the country with our schedule, facilities and administration. I don't know who they will hire, but maintaining continuity will be key with a veteran team."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.