Reggie Theus is a 6-foot-7 former NBA all-star.
But at Bethune-Cookman University he’ll have big shoes to fill. Four of them.
Coach Theus, 63, not only replaces longtime athletics director Lynn Thompson, but he’ll also coach B-CU’s basketball team, replacing Ryan Ridder, who resigned March 30 to become head coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Mr. Ridder coached the Wildcats for three seasons, compiling a 48-45 record and leading the team to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship in 2018. The last B-CU coach to leave the program with a winning record after two or more seasons was Raymond Thornton who went 43-34 in four seasons in 1956-57 and 1958-61.
Mr. Thompson was B-CU’s longest tenured athletics director at 30 years. He took over for the retiring Tank Johnson in 1991. Mr. Thompson’s contract expired at the end of June.
Mr. Theus has head coaching experience at New Mexico State, Cal State Northridge and the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, but this will be his first experience as an athletic administrator. He will oversee B-CU’s seven men’s sports and eight women’s sports.
“The Wildcats could not be any more excited about Reggie Theus taking the lead,” said Hiram Powell, B-CU’s interim president. “We have a respected and beloved athletic program with a remarkable legacy. … Having Reggie launch our new season and directing the future of our athletes will take us to the next level.”
B-CU canceled all sports during the 2020-21 school year because of the pandemic. When sports return in the fall, the Wildcats will be in a new conference, joining the Southwestern Athletic Conference after four decades in the MEAC.
The school announced Coach Theus will officially begin his job this month.
“The opportunity to continue to coach and reinvent myself as AD, how can you pass that up?” Coach Theus told ESPN’s “The Undefeated” website. “Is it going to be hard? Yeah. Will I run into some snags? Of course. Is that part of the game? Absolutely.”
Reportedly fundraising will be a key part of Coach Theus’ job at B-CU, which is typical among high-profile hires.
Serving dual roles as a coach and director of athletics in college has become more and more rare. Ryan Ridder’s father, Steve Ridder, was the head basketball coach and AD at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University until December 2013 when he stepped down as AD as the Eagles were transitioning from the NAIA level to NCAA Division II. B-CU is an NCAA Division I athletic program.
Coach Theus had been out of coaching for three years. He was fired in 2018 after five seasons at Cal State Northridge where he compiled a 53-105 record. He went 41-23 in two seasons at New Mexico State from 2005 to ’07. He coached the Sacramento Kings in 2007-08 and part of 2008-09.
As a player, he was an original member of the Orlando Magic, the team’s second pick in the 1989 expansion draft. Coach Theus played in the NBA for 13 seasons, averaging 18.5 points per game.
Before the pros, he was a basketball star at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, helping the Runnin’ Rebels reach the Final Four during his sophomore season in 1976-77.
“I've had the great fortune of working in both professional and college sports most of my career, and being presented the opportunity to lead B-CU's athletic department is another dream being fulfilled,” Coach Theus said. "Becoming part of the family and culture of such a respected HBCU (historically black college or university) is the chance of a lifetime. I am eager to share my professional sports experiences to take the Wildcats even further. I look forward to every moment of this new role.”