At New Mexico State, the baton passes from Theus to Menzies Print
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Wednesday, 31 October 2007 12:04
NCAAB Headline News


 LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -When Reggie Theus left New Mexico State for the NBA last summer, athletic director McKinley Boston went looking for a coach.
He stuck to what worked before: He placed a call to Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
Enter, Louisville assistant Marvin Menzies.
Boston took the usual steps to fill a coaching vacancy. He drew up a list of about 12 names, hired a national search firm and consulted the outgoing coach.
``There were a lot of good people out there,'' Boston recalled. ``But when the cards are being shuffled, it starts coming to light. More than anything else, if there was a key word that evolved, it was 'continuity.'''
Yep, Menzies and Theus have plenty in common.
It starts with working for Pitino and the strong endorsements each received from him. Both built their reputations as recruiters before becoming head coaches.
And the look of their teams? Theus is coaching the Sacramento Kings these days. Menzies said Aggies fans can expect more of what they've enjoyed the past two seasons.
``There are a few plays I'm doing a little differently, maybe tweaking the endings,'' Menzies said Wednesday. ``But the fast-paced style of quick-hit NBA sets is going to be a running theme from coach Pitino to Reggie to me.''
Still, finding a new coach wasn't as simple getting Pitino on the phone.
Boston needed to find the right person, the right fit. It took a few weeks but he said everything turned out well, a sentiment echoed by former New Mexico State and Illinois coach Lou Henson.
``They've got an outstanding coach. He's going to do a great job,'' Henson said.
Menzies has much going in his favor for his first coaching job. The Aggies are coming off a 25-9 season, their first NCAA tournament appearance in nine years and a senior-heavy team with a top recruiting class.
On the flip side, he's already facing high expectations. New Mexico State was favored to win the Western Athletic Conference in a preseason media poll. League coaches picked Utah State, with NMSU second.
The forecasts don't worry Menzies.
``It's really a great opportunity to walk into a situation that is already established,'' he said. ``My family and I are excited about being here, living in a great college town. There's great support. Everybody's an Aggie.''
To understand Boston's desire for coaching continuity, just look at the roster. Five seniors return from last season's squad, which won the WAC tournament in Las Cruces and lost to Texas in the NCAA tournament's first round.
Three senior starters are back, including WAC tournament MVP Justin Hawkins, point guard Fred Peete and Brazilian center Hatila Passos.
If Menzies felt any need to show he was the right man for the job, he did it less than a week after his hire by keeping a prized recruiting class in place.
``With the freshmen we had coming in, I felt Marvin would give us the best chance for continuity,'' Boston said.
Leading the way is 6-foot-8 Herb Pope of Aliquippa, Pa., perhaps the most heralded recruit in school history.
``We're better instantly as soon as he starts practice,'' Menzies said. ``He's very versatile for his size. He can play multiple positions and he's got a great feel for the game. I didn't know he was such a prolific passer.''
Also coming in are: San Diego point guard JayDee Luster, Seattle swingman DeAngelo Jones, forward Wendell McKines of Oakland, Calif., and shooting guards Gordo Castillo of Las Cruces and Jahmar Young of Baltimore.
There have been some holdups while the NCAA checks eligibility. Pope has been in and out of practice, Young remains out and Menzies just received word Tuesday that McKines was cleared.
Menzies had ``a major concern'' early on, wondering about the team chemistry as the veterans blended with the newcomers.
``The more I've seen them interact, I feel the seniors have made my transition easy,'' he said. ``They are very open. It's not an egotistical group. They want to win and they understand to the winner goes the spoils.''
 

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