Theus leaving Louisville for New Mexico State

Updated: April 1, 2005, 8:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Louisville assistant coach Reggie Theus confirmed Saturday night he has accepted the head coaching job at New Mexico State.

"I think that job has great potential," Theus said shortly after Louisville advanced to the Final Four with a 93-85 win over West Virginia in the Albuquerque Regional championship game.

New Mexico State has scheduled a news conference Monday to announce Theus' hiring, which was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Friday.

Theus, who has been on Rick Pitino's staff for two years and is a former NBA All-Star, said details of his contract with New Mexico State are still being worked out.

This will be Theus' first head coaching job in Division I. He expressed excitement and confidence that he can turn around a program that finished 6-24 last season, the Aggies' worst season since 1966.

"What sells that program for me is you can sell the future," Theus said.

Theus said New Mexico State is committed to improving all its athletic programs under the leadership of athletics director McKinley Boston. Boston, a former athletics director and vice president at the University of Minnesota, was hired by NMSU in December.

"It's going to be a new beginning," Theus said. "I know everybody is on the same page or I wouldn't have taken the job."

Theus would not comment on the length of his contract or the salary, but noted that the details that need to be worked out are "relatively small."

He said he will accompany Louisville to St. Louis for the Final Four, where the Cardinals will play Illinois. He said he does not expect to meet with the NMSU players until after the Final Four.

Theus, 47, joined Pitino's staff in 2003. Before that he was a volunteer assistant for a year at Cal State Los Angeles. He also was head coach of the Las Vegas Slam of the ABA during the 2002 season.

Theus said he has learned much from Pitino about the game and about being a head coach.

"I've had conversations with coach Pitino about when he's taken over programs," Theus said. "I've had some great words of wisdom from him."

Theus also said Pitino supported his decision to take the job with the Aggies.

"When coach hired me, he asked me, `Reggie do you want to be a head coach.' I said, 'absolutely.' He said, 'good, I hire future head coaches, not assistant coaches."'

Theus, who played for Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV from 1976-78, spent 13 years in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City, Sacramento, Atlanta, Orlando and New Jersey. He was a two-time All-Star with the Bulls in 1981 and 1983 and is one of only five players in NBA history to score at least 19,000 points and have at least 6,000 assists.

Theus takes over a program that operated this past season under interim coach Tony Stubblefield. Stubblefield took over after longtime coach Lou Henson was stricken with viral encephalitis last September.

Henson, 73, was left partially paralyzed by the disease.

Unable to walk on his own and in a wheelchair, Henson retired in January, 21 wins shy of becoming only the fifth coach in Division I history to win 800 games.

Henson has battled a series of health problems in recent years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, two years ago. The cancer is now in remission.

Henson was the Aggies' coach from 1966 to 1975 and from 1997 until his retirement. He also spent 21 seasons at Illinois and led both the Aggies and Illini to The Final Four. Henson's first team at New Mexico State in 1966-67 finished 15-11 and went to the NCAA Tournament. The previous year NMSU was 4-22.

Henson, a member of the search committee for a new coach, endorsed the hiring of Theus.

"I've known him for a long time, since he played at UNLV," said Henson. "I think his name recognition will be great for recruiting. He played pro ball and he's been an assistant [to Pitino]. I think he's a very good choice."

Reminded of Theus' slim resume on major college coaching, Henson said he does not think the Aggies are taking a gamble.

"He's got a tremendous background. He played for Tarkanian," Henson said. "He's been around coaches and he knows how to coach."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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