Bulletin photo by Christophe Chino
New Mexico State University Athletics Director Mario Moccia speaks to the media Monday, April 18 about the start of a coaching search to replace men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies, who left NMSU to take the head job with UNLV.
Beat the Lobos.
That’s the message New Mexico State University Athletics Director Mario Moccia said the person who takes over for departed men’s basketball coach Marvin Menzies must internalize.
In-state rival the University of New Mexico must go down.
“We have to do better competitively against UNM,” he said. “That is a very big deal to me.”
Moccia spoke at a news conference Monday, April 18 about the already begun search for the Aggies’ next bench minder.
With victories in just four of the last 16 games against the Lobos, Moccia said it is crucial for the next head coach to have a game plan to change the tide.
“I want somebody that’s going to bring a plan to say, ‘Here’s how we are going to be much more competitive with those guys,’” Moccia said.
NMSU’s AD also said he wanted to stress the importance of academics to any potential candidates.
“The vast majority of our student athletes won’t go on to play professionally, so we need to make sure they are getting their degrees,” Moccia said.
Along with his attention towards the Aggies’ rivals to the north, Moccia also said that he is looking for a coach who can increase the competivenes in non-conference games, while continuing to be a dominant factor in its conference.
Moccia also clarified that head coaching experience is “a great bench mark, but certainly not a make-or-break.”
There is one candidate with no head coaching experience who is already a shoo-in for a spot on the short list of finalists: current Aggies associate head coach, Paul Weir.
Moccia said once he learned of Menzies’ departure, he told Weir that as long as he was interested in the position, “he would automatically be in our finalist group.”
Moccia will be creating a “small committee” to help guide him in the search for the new coach, a tactic he said he has used in past coaching searches, but stated that ultimately the decision will be made by him.
Menzies, meanwhile, will take over a UNLV program that recently lost Chris Beard, who left for a job at Texas Tech just three weeks after taking the UNLV position. Menzies had earlier interviewed for the UNLV job before Beard was hired.
Menzies coached the Aggies for nine years, with 20 or more wins in seven of those seasons. He was named the 2015 WAC Coach of the Year and took NMSU to the NCAA Tournament in five of the past six seasons.
“Marvin is an experienced head coach with UNLV and West Coast roots who knows what it takes to build and maintain a winning college basketball program,” UNLV president Len Jessup said in a statement. “He is a dynamic recruiter and proven leader who understands the proud tradition of UNLV basketball, and we look forward to welcoming him back to campus.”
Menzies spent the 2004-05 season as an assistant with the Rebels under Lon Kruger before leaving to serve as an assistant under Rick Pitino in Louisville. After two years with Pitino, Menzies took over at New Mexico State.
“Certainly we want to wish Marvin well,” Moccia said. “He has done some tremendous things here in the past nine years.”
– Christophe Chino