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Northridge's Reggie Theus relishes return to college coaching

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Reggie Theus, among the coaches speaking at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Wooden Award Tipoff luncheon, says he doesn't want to 'deal with the politics in the NBA.'

September 25, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • Coach Reggie Theus said he was "fired up" about being in charge of his own program at Cal State Northridge at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Wooden Award Tipoff luncheon.
Coach Reggie Theus said he was "fired up" about being in charge… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

There are five new Division I basketball coaches in Southern California this year, and of them three are well-known names.

Coming to UCLA to try to live up to John Wooden standards is Steve Alford, who once played high school basketball in the same gym where Wooden played prep ball in Indiana.

Coming to USC is Andy Enfield, who was teased about his former model wife Wednesday at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Wooden Award Tipoff luncheon.

But possibly the most well-known newcomer is former Nevada Las Vegas and NBA star Reggie Theus, who pointed out he had scored more than 19,000 points in the NBA but was willing to take over the woebegone Cal State Northridge program that was 14-17 and 5-13 in the Big West last season under longtime coach Bobby Braswell.

"It's a big decision in life, to coach in the NBA or to coach in college," Theus said. "The difference for me is I don't want to deal with the politics in the NBA. In the end, in college it's your program and that gets me fired up. The ability to have an effect on young men."

Theus said he is particularly excited about senior guard Josh Green, who averaged 14.5 points a game last season and was honorable mention All-Big West Conference.

Alford said he was looking forward to coaching fifth-year senior twins Travis and David Wear and sophomore Tony Parker. Parker, from Atlanta, had been vocally unhappy at UCLA last season, when he appeared out of shape and hinted more than once on social media he might want to go home.

Enfield, rather than speaking much of individual players, spoke more about program-building.

"I'm the new guy on the West Coast," he said. "My plan with USC is to build a program that can be sustained. There's a lot of competition out there, but California is a hotbed of talent.

"We're trying to do things the right way and everybody is nice now. We're undefeated. Let's see who sticks with us as we build. We'll have eight new players this year, and next year I expect we'll have 12 or 13 new ones."

Tall order

UC Irvine Coach Russell Turner, beginning his fourth season, was proud to state that his team had 21 wins, third-most in the 48-year history of the school, and was 12-0 when holding opponents under 60 points last season.

Turner was also eager to talk about the three 7-footers on the team this season.

The Anteaters have 7-foot Conor Clifford, a sophomore from Huntington Beach; 7-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos, a freshman from Greece; and 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, a freshman from Senegal who played at tiny Brethren Christian High in Huntington Beach. Turner said Ndiaye has an 8-foot, 3-inch wing span. "We're going to have to remove a few seats on the team bus," Turner said.

Turner also said anyone suspicious about how Ndiaye got into school should listen to the freshman speak any of five languages — Arabic, French, two African dialects and English. "And he has more charisma than height," Turner said. "He's a fascinating guy."

Rough road

Long Beach State Coach Dan Monson doesn't start the season slowly.

With eight newcomers on his roster, Monson will need to get everybody on the same page fast. The 49ers' schedule includes games at Arizona; at Kansas State; in a tournament with Michigan, Georgetown, Virginia Commonwealth, Charlotte and Florida State; at Washington; Creighton; at North Carolina State; at USC; at Nevada; and at Missouri before beginning Big West Conference play.

One of the newcomers is UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb.

Monson said that when people ask how his team will be this season, he tells them to ask again after December is over.

"I didn't like last season," Monson said. "I didn't like how we represented. We've got nine new guys. I've got no idea how it will go, but I want to get the culture of our program back. No breaking team rules, no flunking out."

The 49ers finished 19-14 overall and 14-4 in the conference last season.

Legend of coaching

Tara VanDerveer, the longtime women's basketball coach at Stanford, was named the 2014 winner of the John. R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching award.

Beside VanDerveer, only Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma have won the award while coaching women's teams. The first recipient in 1999 was North Carolina's Dean Smith. VanDerveer's teams went to five straight Final Fours during one stretch and won NCAA titles in 1990 and 1992.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

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