May 6, 2013

A Day With Reggie Theus, CSUN’s New Head Basketball Coach

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)

Northridge, Calif. – Life would be so much easier if cell phones didn't exist.

Just ask CSUN head basketball coach Reggie Theus.

His cell phone NEVER stops ringing.

"I recently had 60 text messages all in one day," admits Theus. "After 10 o'clock in the morning, the phone probably rings every five minutes."

Conducting an interview can become time consuming with incoming cell phone calls, but that's ok. Theus knows the value of communicating and returning ALL phone calls to fans, friends, donors, recruits, coaches, parents, the news media and anybody who is interested in elevating the Matador basketball program.

"I just got a new cell phone because the old phone just wore out," Theus laughs.

Theus' cell phone calls have included conversations with such notables as former Lakers and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. On this day, Theus is talking basketball strategy on the cell phone with former NBA teammate and former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles.

"I have always been intrigued by the drive-and-kick game that Scott has employed in the teams he has coached," said Theus. "I wanted to know what drills he conducted because I am a fan of that type of play. This is something we are going to implement in our program – drive hard to the basket, and kick it out to the open man. It sounds simple but it's the way you play."

Theus has had extensive cell phone conversations with numerous coaches around the country since he became only the fifth head coach of the CSUN basketball program that has existed for 55 years. Theus' conversations have included Rick Pitino, head coach of the NCAA champion University of Louisville Cardinals, and Jamie Dixon, who has coached the University of Pittsburgh to elite status in the country.

"The phone calls have given me the opportunity to catch up with some of the things that have happened in the past three or four years, … " says Theus. "It's all about communicating."

Theus has also talked with his former head coach at UNLV, Jerry Tarkanian, who was recently voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Theus enjoyed an illustrious playing career as a Runnin' Rebel (1975-78) under Tarkanian that resulted in the program going to the NCAA Final Four during the 1976-1977 season.

California has an abundance of talented high school players, and Theus is not afraid to extend a friendly hello to potential recruits, to promote the values of a Cal State Northridge education, and to talk about his plans to elevate the Matadors into one of the elite teams in the Big West Conference, and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"People see me around campus with an ear piece because I am literally returning calls all day long," says Theus, who enjoys being back in college athletics, and thus devoting his entire energy to his new job as head coach at CSUN.

Theus is hoping he can build CSUN into the success he enjoyed as head coach at New Mexico State (two seasons including during the 2006-07 season with a 23-9 record to earn an NCAA Tournament berth), and as an assistant coach under head coach Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns.

Theus helped Louisville to the NCAA Final Four in 2005. Theus called the experience "tremendous."

Theus has always kept in contact with Pitino. Theus attended this year's NCAA Final Four at the George Dome in Atlanta, an arena that housed more than 74,000 seats.

Theus had tickets far above the court, but Pitino helped CSUN's new coach move to a prime location near courtside. Theus appreciated Pitino's gesture of friendship.

"Reggie, I got you covered," Pitino told Theus. According to Theus, "They were great seats. I didn't realize they were going to be that great a seat."

Sitting at the Final Four and watching the championship game between two great teams (Louisville vs Michigan) was something special, according to Theus. The event reminded Theus about a bucket full of agenda items he wants to take care of.

"The Masters (the golf tournament) was also underway in Georgia, and to be at the NCAA Final Four championship game and then heading over to the golf tournament would have been great. But I couldn't attend the Masters because I had a lot of work to do back home. I needed to get back. Maybe another time."

As a writer chronicled Theus' first two weeks as CSUN head coach, the phone rang AGAIN. "Things would be so much calmer without cell phones," laughs Theus. "The business of basketball will always go on, but it would not be as instantaneous as we now see it. All kidding aside, it's a good problem to have.

"People want to know what I am looking for in a player," says Theus. "Friends have called me from the East Coast. I just got a phone call with some friends in New Jersey. They wanted to talk about their players."

Theus admits the new job has been a "bit overwhelming," but it's "full-speed ahead" in generating an on-the-court product that Matador fans will be proud of.

"I promise that you will be able to go over to your friend or your neighbor's house or wherever you are hanging out and talk about CSUN basketball with your chest pumped up and your head high."

The day starts early and ends late into the evening for Reggie Theus. After a productive day and the long drive home, walking into his home and being greeted by his wife (Elaine) and three children (Raquel, Reggie, Rhyan) means the cell phone becomes a secondary priority.

"After I eat dinner, relax and help the kids with their homework, the phone stays on, but the ringer goes off," Theus acknowledges.

Theus enjoyed a dynamic 13-year NBA career. Theus is one of only seven players in NBA history to score at least 19,000 points and dish out 6,000 assists, joining such NBA Hall of Famers as Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, John Havlicek, John Stockton, Gary Payton and Clyde Drexler.

Theus was told as a youngster he would have had better success as a baseball player despite his 6-foot-7 frame.

"I don't know if that's true or not," said Theus, who pitched and played third base in addition to playing football as a quarterback and wide receiver in school.

Many years have passed since Theus played championship basketball at Inglewood High School and UNLV. But the memories still remain in sharp focus thanks to constant communication with his old teammates.

"My old teammates are still my friends," says Theus. "I still see them, and we still call each other. The stories get more embellished (about their on-the-court success) but that's ok"

Many years of playing basketball have taken their toll on his knees, but he still has dreams that if healthy, he would like to step onto the court and play the game he has loved since he was a child.

"I still would like to go out and play in an NBA game if my knees were healthy," admits Theus. "But at this point, I would like to go out and play hard with the players (at CSUN). I would like to go out 100 percent to show them what it's really like. However, I will go hard for five minutes and then stop because of my knees."

Theus has earned "high praise" for his ability to communicate with people he meets. At the recent "Reggie Theus Press Conference" that was attended by nearly 300 people at CSUN, Theus spent nearly three hours talking not only with the large group of news media that attended, but also with Matador fans, high-ranking school administrators, donors, faculty and staff, and members of the community. Theus challenged them to show their support of CSUN basketball. Theus made a promise in return.

"The Matadors will be the 'hardest-playing' team in the Big West Conference. It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

The 'star power of Reggie Theus' has extended not only into the Northridge community, but nationally as well. Theus' hiring has generated newspaper articles from such media notables as the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, ESPN.com, FoxNews.com, CBSSports.com, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, CSUN's Daily Sundial, USAToday.com, SportsIllustrated.com and the Kansas City Star.

Not all of Reggie Theus' day is consumed by basketball. He finds enough time to have an abundance of activities that he can squeeze into a 24-hour day. Here is a peek into Theus' likes.

Favorite Food –
"Chocolate cake. That's my favorite food. Also pancakes (with butter and syrup). I eat everything. But let me remind you that I'm a healthy eater. I'm very health conscious."

Favorite Music – "I'm old school so I am Motown all the way. The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Dianna Ross & the Supremes, the Stylistics and the Dramatics. I'm also an Earth, Wind & Fire fan. Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston have always been big favorites of mine (from the modern era). At the same time, I like certain types of rap and hip-hop. But I don't like the extremes of anything like gangster rap. I'm also a big fan of contemporary jazz. I also enjoy the sound of a piano and the xylophone."

Favorite Movie – "I love the super hero movies. I can't wait for Iron Man 3 to be released. I grew up with Thor as my super hero. I go back to the original Superman movie. I even go as far back as the Superman television show."

Someone I would like to meet –
"Presidents intrigue me. Philosophers intrigue me."

Hobbies – "I  enjoy the outdoors so my hobbies include being an archer, hunting and fishing. It is something I have done for many years."

Greatest Heroes –
"My dad had an influence in my life. My high school coach (at Inglewood HS), Mike Spalding, has been an influence. My mom is 90-years-old this year. She is in great health."

If someone gave you a million dollars – "I used to work with the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. That has always been a passion of mine. I think St. Jude Hospital is a wonderful, wonderful charitable organization that we should get involved in. I also believe in taking care of family. We often miss the people in front of us."

Now about that cell phone !!!