LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – Over a month after New Mexico State terminated the contract of men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar and placed his assistants on paid administrative leave, NMSU is narrowing its search for a new head coach.
Partnering with the search firm College Sports Solutions, NMSU has cast a wide net for a new coach. Athletic director Mario Moccia told KTSM that the school would like to hire a current Division I head coach, or someone with previous Division I head coaching experience.
Sources told KTSM that NMSU has targeted multiple coaches that fit that description and have already interviewed a few candidates. However, many of the coaches the Aggies are showing interest in are still coaching, either in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, or another postseason tournament. Therefore, they haven’t been able to speak with all of them in full just yet.
If possible, NMSU would like to have a new hire in place at some point next week, but if the seasons continue for potential candidates that are still in-season, the search could drag on.
The list of candidates that KTSM has compiled from sources around college basketball is expansive and representative of the large candidate pool NMSU sought out along with the search firm. Below, in no particular order, is a list of candidates KTSM has learned are in the mix for the New Mexico State opening.
Austin Claunch, Nicholls State – The 33-year-old Houston native has been the head coach at Nicholls State for five seasons and has a 90-60 record. Sources told KTSM that Claunch interviewed for the New Mexico State job in-person in the Borderland earlier this week. He has also been in the mix for a few different openings this cycle, including Bowling Green and Idaho.
Bob Richey, Furman – There is some apparent interest here, but after Furman upset Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, NMSU may have to get in line behind better programs for Richey’s services. He’s 139-54 since 2017 at Furman, but hasn’t left the state of South Carolina his entire coaching career. Richey may be a long shot for NMSU now, but they’ll reach out once Furman’s season is over.
Jason Hooten, Sam Houston – A plane licensed to New Mexico State was in Huntsville, Texas, on Thursday. Sam Houston is located in Huntsville; it could mean something, or nothing at all. However, if NMSU was there to speak with Jason Hooten, it would mean they’re serious if they’re flying to see him while he’s still coaching, as the Bearkats play North Texas in the NIT on Sunday. Hooten has coached at Sam Houston since 2004 and took over as the head coach in 2010. He’s been successful, winning over 260 games with the Bearkats. He just won his first NIT game at Sam Houston earlier this week, but has never taken the Bearkats to the NCAA Tournament. With Sam Houston set to join NMSU in Conference USA next season, it could make a move to NMSU awkward for Hooten, but the Aggies will take their shot.
Dedrique Taylor, CSU-Fullerton – Taylor has been at Fullerton since 2013 and compiled a record of 141-161. He’s been to the postseason four times, with two trips to the NCAA Tournament, including in 2021-22. Taylor has also already interviewed for the NMSU opening, sources told KTSM.
Josh Pastner, prev. Georgia Tech – Recently let go by Georgia Tech in favor of Damon Stoudamire, Pastner has been a Division I head coach since 2009 with the Yellow Jackets and at Memphis. Pastner has been to the NCAA Tournament five times as a head coach, winning two games. He played college ball at Arizona, so he knows the southwest region, too. It’s unclear how feasible Pastner is as a candidate, but there is interest.
Danny Sprinkle, Montana State – Sprinkle led his alma mater to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row in 2022-23 and the 14-seed Bobcats will play 3-seed Kansas State on Friday night. Sprinkle is one of the coaches NMSU hasn’t been able to fully vet because they are still in-season. Sprinkle is 81-42 since 2019 at Montana State and while NMSU could pay him more money, he may be holding out for a better gig in the Mountain West or the Pac-12, particularly if the Bobcats pull off an upset.
Kermit Davis, prev. Ole Miss – Like Pastner, Davis was just let go by Ole Miss as the Rebels hired Chris Beard. He spent 16 seasons at Middle Tennessee before moving to Oxford, so he knows Conference USA well. At 63 years old, Davis is well-traveled in college basketball. NMSU will take a look at him.
Preston Spradlin, Morehead State – Twice the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Spradlin and Morehead State are still currently playing in the NIT. He took them to the 2021 NCAA Tournament and has been in charge since 2016 after serving as an assistant coach at Kentucky and Morehead State previously. He fits the candidate profile NMSU wants this time around and when his season is over, the search firm will take a longer look.
Greg Lansing, prev. Indiana State – Lansing’s name has been in the mix all week for NMSU. He was at Indiana State from 2010-2021, going to the postseason four times, with one NCAA Tournament appearance. Lansing is 181-164 as a head coach and is currently a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. Mario Moccia knows him from his days as the athletic director at Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Dave Rice, prev. UNLV – Rice was UNLV from 2011-2016 as the head coach and was more successful than people remember. Rice went to a pair of NCAA Tournaments and went 98-54 as a head coach. Rice has been out of coaching since 2021, but has said he’s ready to jump back in. NMSU has identified him as a possibility.