By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Clovis native and New Mexico State walk-on Chris Hall wasn’t sure what to make of Reggie Theus’ appointment as head coach of the Aggies. The only thing Hall knew of Theus was his three years on the NBC Saturday morning show “Hang Time,” not his 13 years in the NBA.
Theus had spent a year as assistant coach for Final Four team Louisville before coming to Las Cruces, but didn’t know much of the players that had gone 6-24 and won only a single Sun Belt Conference game.
So far the two have liked what they’ve seen.
“He just brings a different attitude,” Hall said of Theus, a two-time NBA all-star. “He’s not going to put up with much of anything.”
A former Clovis Wildcat and Texico Wolverine, Hall walked on after a year at junior college, but didn’t play much last season. That could change this season.
After Theus was named head coach, he dismissed two guards from the team for bad grades and another guard decided to transfer to the University of New Mexico, leaving four guards on the roster. Only returning leading scorer Duane John has any significant playing experience with the Aggies among the four.
“It’s an opportunity for him and he has to take it very serious,” said Theus. “The possibility is right in front of him.
“He’s got to be able to utilize his quickness, because he can’t utilize his height,” Theus said of the 5-9 point guard, who helped Texico win the Class 2A state title as a junior in 2001 and averaged 25 points a game as senior after transferring to Clovis High School.
Theus takes over for interim head coach Tony Stubblefield, who headed the program after longtime head coach Lou Henson had to retire for health reasons last year.
Theus wants to speed up the offense, which suits the lightening-quick Hall just fine.
“I feel like I have a better position and I can contribute better with this strategy,” Hall said. ‘It’s a lot more faster game than the fans of Las Cruces are used to.”
With the faster pace, Hall said Theus is also stressing better conditioning for the Aggies.
“We’re not going to be outworked,” said Theus. “I expect these guys to be in the best condition.”
Theus said he’s been pleased with Hall.
“He seems to play very hard and I was impressed with his effort on the court,” Theus said. “Some of the guys did not make it through the individual workouts.
“The only way we’re going to have any impact is if we’re in better condition than anyone,” Theus said.
The Aggies should face a more challenging schedule than last season, as they move from the Sun Belt to the Western Athletic Conference. NMSU also upgraded its nonconference schedule, hosting Texas Tech on Dec. 29 and opening the season on ESPN2 at UCLA in the Preseason NIT.
Hall doesn’t foresee a repeat of last year’s disappointing record.
“We plan on winning,” Hall said. “(Theus) brought a different type of leadership. He’s got a winning attitude and I know he didn’t come on down here planning on to lose.”