LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -Marvin Menzies wants to build on what Reggie Theus started at New Mexico State. He promised he'd stay longer at the mid-major school, too.
Like Theus, Menzies is a former assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville. He's taking over an Aggies program that Theus rebuilt in just two seasons before leaving to become the head coach of the NBA's Sacramento Kings earlier this month.
``This is a program I feel can compete at the upper echelon,'' Menzies said Friday at his introduction to the New Mexico State community. ``We are here for the long haul.''
Athletic director McKinley Boston said the terms of Menzies' contract still were being finalized, but he's expected to earn a base salary of more than $300,000 under a three-to-five-year contract.
Two years ago, Theus inherited the team after a 6-24 season. He led the Aggies to back-to-back winning seasons, including a 25-9 record this past season and the Aggies' their first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years.
Menzies was an assistant at Southern California, San Diego State and UNLV before succeeding Theus on the Louisville staff two years ago. He said getting his first head coaching job was a lifelong ambition.
``I didn't honestly think about New Mexico State when I though about being head coach,'' he said. ``But I did think about going into a place that I didn't have to rebuild. The head is gone, but the body of success is still here.''
Menzies is taking over a program that won the Western Athletic Conference tournament last season and is stocked with four returning starters and a much-heralded recruiting class that Theus lured to the southern New Mexico school.
Now it's Menzies' job to keep the incoming recruits from bolting, and No. 1 on that list is Pittsburgh-area standout Herb Pope, who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds as a senior.
The 6-foot-9 Pope was at Friday's news conference and listened intently to what Menzies had to say. But Pope said he wanted to meet with Menzies before deciding whether he would remain at New Mexico State or transfer.
``I should have a decision within 48 hours,'' Pope said.
Menzies, like Theus, grew up in California and said he and the former NBA All-Star had much in common. Besides their West Coast roots, he said the two coach a similar style of up-tempo play and then brought laughter to the room by saying he and Theus - who played coach Bill Fuller on ``Hang Time'' - share ``Hollywood looks.''
``I'm going to take what Reggie did and build on it,'' Menzies said. ``I don't see this as filling Reggie's shoes, but rather taking the baton in a relay race and running the next leg.''
Boston said Menzies was the best fit for a mid-major program, hoping to reclaim the national prominence the Aggies enjoyed in the early 1970s when they reached the Final Four under coach Lou Henson.
``We can be a program like Southern Illinois and create our own identity,'' Boston said.
School president Michael Martin said the NMSU program under Theus had taken off during the past two years and was confident the winning would continue.
``A few years ago, we could have probably had this announcement in a phone booth,'' Martin said.

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