SACRAMENTO, CA - The Sacramento Kings have an agreement in principle with Reggie Theus to become the team's 21st head coach, it was announced today by Kings' President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie. Details for a Wednesday (June 20th) afternoon press conference will be released tomorrow morning.
“We’re really excited about hiring Reggie," explained Petrie. "During the course of working through all the interviews and different possibilities, we really felt in the end that we wanted to go with a young coach, someone we could grow with. I think Reggie brings a lot of enthusiasm and charisma, along with his background with Rick Pitino at Louisville, his history as an NBA player in the community of Sacramento, and what he did as a head coach at New Mexico State. He has a unique combination of abilities, and we think he’ll grow and be an exciting coach for us going forward.”
Theus, who played 13 years in the NBA and was a member of the 1985 inaugural Sacramento Kings, is fresh off the heels of leading New Mexico State to a berth in the NCAA Tournament (a first for the school since 1999). Theus coached the Aggies for two seasons, compiling a 41-23 record. In his first year at the helm of the NMSU program, Theus guided the Aggies to a tie for the fifth-best turnaround in all of Division I basketball and the best single-season improvement of any NMSU squad since the 1985-86 season. He turned around a program that went 6-24 the year before he arrived (2004-05), leading the team to a 16-14 record, including wins over rival New Mexico and NCAA Tournament participants Pacific and Utah State. Theus' Aggies improved to 25-9 last season, winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
“Reggie is a coach who has a tremendous passion and love for the game of basketball," said Kings' co-owner Joe Maloof. "He’s got a terrific work ethic, and I think that, combined with his passion for the game, will help lead us into the future.”
Under Theus, NMSU also saw dramatic improvement in conference play as the Aggies went 10-6 in their first season as a member of the WAC. The nine-win improvement in conference play over the 2004-05 season was the Aggies’ biggest single-season turnaround in school history. The Aggies swept three conference season series (Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State) while taking two of three meetings from Hawai’i and advancing to the conference championship semifinals.
“Obviously we’re very excited about the hiring of Reggie," said Kings' co-owner Gavin Maloof. "He’s the King of Kings. He had a great career as a player with this franchise and now he has a chance to be the head coach of the team. He did a wonderful job with the New Mexico State program. He's very well thought of and revered in Las Cruces and we’re just really excited to have him on board.”
Prior to his NMSU assignment, Theus spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville under head coach Rick Pitino. While at Louisville, he was an integral part of the Cardinals’ run to the Final Four, the 2005 Conference USA regular season and tournament titles while helping lead the program to back-to-back 20-win seasons and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2004-05, Theus helped guide Louisville back to the Final Four for the first time since their national title run in 1986.
“I’ve never been speechless in my life, and I’m struggling to find words right now," expounded Theus. "When you’ve worked this hard to get into coaching, even as a former NBA player, it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s very difficult to put into words how happy I am. And as much as anything else, it’s such a great thing when people recognize how hard you’ve worked for something.
“I’m just very happy. To be able to go back and be the head coach of the Kings—I could not write a better script myself. It fits the term ‘dream job’. There are only a couple of those opportunities out there. I was a part of the history of the first team that played here, so it’s not just a job for me, it’s a passion. I’ve always loved the organization and I’ve always been involved. From being a player to doing games to being an analyst on the Kings' TV package, I’ve always kept in touch with the people that are involved with the Kings. To be able to go back and be the head coach of the Kings is absolutely a dream come true. I have absolutely come full circle now.”
Along with being an excellent teacher on the practice floor, Theus was also Louisville’s top recruiter, helping the Cardinals sign a handful of the nation’s top high school players over the past two seasons. He coached current Kings' swingman Francisco Garcia at Louisville.
A native of Los Angeles, and an Inglewood High School graduate, Theus was able to utilize a vast network of connections throughout the region to help Louisville land national letters of intent from four highly recruited prep players on the West Coast, an area in which Pitino and Louisville had never recruited before Theus’ arrival.
Theus’ coaching resume includes a variety of diverse experiences. Before joining Pitino’s staff at Louisville, Theus spent a year as a volunteer assistant at Cal State Los Angeles. He also gained coaching experience as the head coach of the Southern California All-Stars (17-and-under AAU Team) and as a summer league coach for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets.
In the spring of 2002, Theus led the Las Vegas Slam of the American Basketball Association to the Western Conference finals where they lost to eventual champion Kansas City.
Before turning his attention to the coaching profession, Theus' 13 years as a player in the NBA were spent with the Chicago Bulls, Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets. After being drafted by the Bulls as the ninth overall pick in 1978, Theus finished runner-up in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting to Kansas City’s Phil Ford and was named to the 1979 All-Rookie team.
Theus played for the Kings for five seasons (1983-84 to 1987-88), averaging 18.8 points, 8.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game through 346 contests. He's ranks fourth on the Kings' all-time assists list (2,809).
Theus is one of only seven players in NBA history to score at least 19,000 points and dish out 6,000 assists, joining John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson, John Stockton, Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler and Jerry West with that distinction. When Theus retired, he ranked 22nd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 19,105 career points and 11th on the all-time assists list with 6,453 career assists. Over his 13-year career, Theus averaged 18.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game while being named to the 1981 and 1983 NBA All-Star teams.
In 1992-93, Theus spent one season playing professionally in Italy with Ranger Varese. In 30 games with Ranger, he averaged 29.3 points, 5.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game. Theus was the league’s second-leading scorer and leader in assists that season.
After retiring from professional basketball in 1993, Theus spent nearly a decade as an actor and television sports broadcaster. He served as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports, ESPN and was a co-host on the Fox Sports Net program “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.”
Theus’ extensive acting credits include playing Coach Bill Fuller for three years on NBC’s hit Saturday morning television show “Hang Time.”
Theus played his college basketball at UNLV for head coach Jerry Tarkanian from 1976 to 1978. In three seasons with the Runnin’ Rebels, he averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. Theus, who became one of the best players to ever don a UNLV uniform, shot 81 percent from the free-throw line for his career while amassing 1,177 career points (21st on all-time scoring list), 401 career assists and 389 career rebounds in just 91 collegiate games.
In 1989, Theus was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame and in 1997 he became one of only six players in school history to have his jersey retired by the Rebels.
Along with a successful career as both a player and coach, Theus has also been an influential member of the communities where he and his family have lived. Among the charitable programs which have benefited from Theus’ involvement are the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, spokesperson for the NBA’s Stay in School Program, and Reggie Theus’ Trikes for Kids.
Theus and his wife Elaine have three children; Raquel, Reggie and Rhyan.