SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Reggie Theus scored the first basket in the history of the Sacramento Kings nearly 22 years ago - and the club put the ball back in his hands Wednesday.
The Kings formally introduced Theus as the franchise's 21st head coach at Arco Arena after signing him to a three-year deal. With a natty suit and a TV-star smile, Theus vowed to return excitement and wins to a once-successful team that floundered last season.
``I've come full circle. This is an amazing dream to be sitting here,'' said Theus, who played three high-scoring seasons in Sacramento after the club's move from Kansas City to California's capital.
``I remember flying in for the first time over the rice fields and the farms, and I was reflecting on that as I flew in today. The only time I can remember having this feeling is the day I got drafted.''
Theus went 41-23 over the last two seasons at New Mexico State in his first significant head coaching job that didn't take place on a Saturday-morning sitcom. Theus energized the long-suffering program and earned an NCAA tournament berth while sealing a reputation as one of his profession's rising stars despite just four years of experience at the major-college level.
Theus, a 13-year NBA veteran, made no secret of his desire to get back to the pro league. But even after interviewing with the Charlotte Bobcats and then wowing the Maloof brothers and top Kings executive Geoff Petrie last week in Las Vegas, Theus didn't expect to get his wish quite so quickly.
``Geoff has a great poker face,'' Theus said.
Theus replaces Eric Musselman, who won 33 games in his only season with the Kings. He replacement Rick Adelman, who led the Kings to eight consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances, including the 2002 Western Conference finals.
Most of the ill-tempered veterans who made up last season's squad are under contract for next season and beyond, including Ron Artest and Mike Bibby. Sacramento, which has the 10th pick in next week's draft, is expected to shake up a roster that stagnated last year despite Musselman's aggressive coaching style.
``There's really only one way to play the game, and that's up and down,'' said Theus, who already spoke to Artest and Bibby by phone in the 24 hours since getting the job. ``Defense is an important aspect, because there was none here last year. ... The game is supposed to be fun, and I don't think it was fun here last year.''
Theus' credentials are short, but his charisma and success were compelling to the Kings. Before two seasons as Rick Pitino's assistant at Louisville and his time in New Mexico State, Theus stayed close to the NBA as a television analyst - when he wasn't playing coach Bill Fuller on ``Hang Time,'' that is.
The Kings waited two months to name a successor to Musselman, who was fired April 20. Stan Van Gundy nearly accepted the job before choosing the Orlando Magic two weeks ago, and the Kings' top brass gave lengthy interviews to five candidates. Theus, Kings assistant coach Scott Brooks and Lakers assistant Brian Shaw were the unofficial finalists.
``He wants to be here,'' Kings owner Joe Maloof said of Theus. ``Other people didn't want to be here. We want a coach that's proud of Sacramento and wants to coach this team, and he does.''
Petrie cited Theus' relative youth and energy as decisive factors. His ties to Vegas - as a star at UNLV - and New Mexico, the Maloof brothers' home state, also helped.
``He has a great charisma and energy,'' Petrie said. ``He has a love for this franchise and a real affection for this community.''
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