Wednesday, April 3, 2013 | 7:05 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Former UNLV standout Reggie Theus is returning to college basketball to coach at Cal State Northridge.
Athletic director Brandon Martin announced the hiring on Wednesday. Theus was a finalist in 2011 for UNLV’s coaching position, but current coach Dave Rice was picked instead.
Theus succeeds Bobby Braswell, who was fired March 17 after 17 years that included three 20-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances and a 251-258 record.
Martin calls it "a game-changing hire" for the Big West school, saying it will help the Matadors build a national profile. It’s also Martin’s first big hire since he officially began as AD on Monday.
Theus signed a multiyear contract that takes effect April 15. He has been coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA’s D-League since October 2011.
"I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to get back into college basketball," Theus said in a statement. "This is what I really want to do. To have an opportunity to coach in my hometown area is really a dream for me. This is what I really wanted."
He will be introduced on April 12.
The Matadors were 14-17 this season, when they won their first seven games and then lost six of their final seven. They finished ninth among 10 teams in the Big West with a 5-13 record, and failed to make the conference tournament.
"This is a program that everybody in the near future is going to be proud of," Theus said. "If the team is willing to work, it’s going to happen."
Theus coached at New Mexico State from 2005-07, compiling a 41-23 record with one NCAA tourney berth. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2003-05. In Theus’ second season there, the Cardinals reached the Final Four.
He also had coaching stints in the NBA, running the Sacramento Kings from 2007-09 and serving as an assistant at Minnesota from 2009-11.
He played 13 years in the NBA after a college career at UNLV, where he helped the Rebels reach the 1977 Final Four.
He interviewed two years ago for the Rebels vacancy after Lon Kruger left for Oklahoma and had the support of a number of fans, many of whom took to message boards during struggles under Rice the past two years proclaiming Theus should have been the Rebels’ coach.
Theus becomes the fifth men’s basketball coach in the program’s 55-year history.
He is the third coach hired at a Division I school in Los Angeles in recent days after UCLA hired Steve Alford and Southern California hired Andy Enfield.