Reggie Theus on taking the Bethune-Cookman job: ‘How can you pass that up?’
The former NBA star will be the athletic director and men’s basketball coach
For the past three years, Reggie Theus has been enjoying life on the golf course, putting together a potentially lucrative business venture in Las Vegas and doing enough work as a basketball analyst on radio and TV to keep him busy.
Then came an opportunity to be the coach and athletic director at Bethune-Cookman University.
The challenge was too enticing.
“The opportunity to continue to coach and reinvent myself as AD, how can you pass that up?” Theus wondered. “Is it going to be hard? Yeah. Will I run into some snags? Of course. Is that part of the game? Absolutely.”
There’s a gamble anytime you hire someone to do a job they’ve never done. Theus will have a learning curve and he’ll make mistakes.
None of that bothers him.
He believes his ability to lead honed over the last 40 years as a former NBA All-Star – he averaged 18.5 points per game in his 13-year career – and professional and college coach has prepared him for this moment.
“There’s a learning curve for me. I’d be foolish to say I know everything about being an AD, because I don’t, but I know how to lead,” Theus said. “I know how to bring people together. I know how to speak on behalf of the university.
“I’m a throwback to the ’80s. Most of the ADs back in the day were former athletes that took the job not because they had a lot of experience when they took over the job. It’s something you learn. There’s no great coaches without great staffs. Name me one great coach who doesn’t have a great staff.”
The 63-year-old Theus, who replaces Lynn Thompson as athletic director, is in charge of seven NCAA Division I men’s programs and eight Division I women’s programs. Fundraising is also a key component of the job.
The Wildcats, who left the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) after four decades, are now part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“The Wildcats could not be any more excited about Reggie Theus taking the lead,” Hiram Powell, Bethune-Cookman’s interim president, said in a statement. “We have a respected and beloved athletic program with a remarkable legacy, and like our peer institutions, our programs have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having Reggie launch our new season and directing the future of our athletes will take us to the next level.”
Theus hasn’t coached since Cal State Northridge fired him after the 2017-18 season. He was 53-105 (26-54 in the Big West Conference) in five seasons.
He led New Mexico State to a 41-23 record from 2005 to 2007, including an NCAA tournament berth. Theus went 44-62 as the Sacramento Kings head coach in 2007-08 and part of the 2008-09 season.
Bethune-Cookman, which has never made the NCAA tournament, has gone 48-45 the past three seasons under Ryan Ridder, now the coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Bethune-Cookman won the regular-season MEAC title in 2018.
“Coaching is about sincerity and knowing how to get your point across,” Theus said. “You coach them hard but you know when to put your arms around them.”
Theus joins Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders and Tennessee State football coach Eddie George as former high-profile professionals who are now trying to make an impact at historically Black colleges.
“I’m just so happy to know we can reach back and get involved. It’s not always about the glitz and the glamour,” Theus said. “I’ve done so many great things in my life and this is an opportunity for me to do more. I have a platform that is about mentoring and leadership.
“I’ve prayed many nights and ask God what he was preparing me for. I’ve always prayed to have this type of an opportunity, that’s why I call it an opportunity of a lifetime. To do what I love to do in coaching and have the opportunity as the head of an athletic department is great.”