LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State will hire Sam Houston’s Jason Hooten as its next men’s basketball head coach, multiple sources confirmed to KTSM on Friday.

Hooten will be officially introduced in a press conference in Las Cruces at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at the Pan American Center. The press conference is open to the public.

The process of getting Hooten took time. NMSU officials traveled to Huntsville last week to meet with Hooten, then he and members of his family travelled to Las Cruces this week to take a look.

“I believe Coach Hooten is a tremendous fit for New Mexico State,” Moccia said. “Throughout his coaching career, he has demonstrated an ability to build hard-nosed, defensive-minded teams. Importantly, his programs are always modeled on character and integrity.”

NMSU will look to pay Hooten over $400,000 per season for five seasons, sources told KTSM. Sam Houston reportedly gave him a counter-offer, but it is unclear what was in that counter-offer. In the end, what the Aggies offered won out. Sources told KTSM that the salary Hooten will receive from NMSU will be around double the 232,000 he was making at Sam Houston.

Hooten has been at Sam Houston since 2004 and has been the head coach since 2010. He has a record of 261-169 in 13 seasons with the Bearkats. He has never held another head coaching job, but consistently has had Sam Houston in the top four of the conference standings.

“Having competed against this storied program in the past, this is an exciting day for me and my family,” Hooten said. “I appreciate this opportunity to restore New Mexico State University’s basketball program to a position as one of the top mid-major programs in the country as we enter into Conference USA. I’m grateful to Mario Moccia and Chancellor Dan Arvizu for their support. I’m excited to meet Aggie Nation, including our outstanding student body which provides such a wonderful atmosphere in the Pan American Center. My family and I are eager to become part of the Las Cruces community.”

In 2022-23, Hooten led the Bearkats to a 26-8 record and were the top seed in the WAC Tournament, before bowing out in the conference tournament semifinals. Hooten’s squad then won a game in the NIT, before losing to North Texas in the second round of the tournament. The 26 wins was tied for the most the Bearkats have had under Hooten.

In his nearly-20 years at Sam Houston, Hooten has seemingly run a clean program, something that was important to NMSU in its coaching search.

Hooten will take over on the heels of one of the most tumultuous seasons in college basketball history. New Mexico State’s season was cancelled with six games remaining and head coach Greg Heiar was fired following two big scandals.

The first was a deadly shooting in Albuquerque on Nov. 19, 2022, involving NMSU basketball player Mike Peake and four UNM students. Peake was assaulted on UNM’s campus the night before the Battle of I-25 basketball game, then he and 19-year-old Brandon Travis were involved in a gunfight, with Peake firing back in self defense and killing Travis, according to police.

Peake was shot in the leg during the altercation, which was allegedly a revenge plot for a fight involving Peake and the UNM students at the Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces. The three other UNM students have all been charged with crimes in relation to the shooting; no one involved with NMSU have been charged.

The second scandal eventually forced Heiar’s termination on Feb. 14, as an NMSU player went to campus police alleging that three of his teammates had been hazing him since last summer. Heiar was fired, the season was cancelled and all of his assistants were placed on paid administrative leave.

That’s the situation Hooten will be stepping into, but the university has confidence that he will be able to lead them through the scandals currently looming over the program. Hooten has recruited and won at Sam Houston in both the WAC and the Southland Conference.

Traditionally a very difficult place to win, Sam Houston has just three trips to the Division I NCAA Tournament in program history, in 2003 and 2010 (when Hooten was an assistant coach).

Hooten has won over 60% of his games at SHSU, but has never made the NCAA Tournament, which is the main knock against him. However, the idea is that he’ll come into NMSU, clean up the program and get the Aggies back on track towards success.

Including trips to the NIT and CIT, Hooten’s teams are 5-7 all-time in postseason appearances. The Bearkats won the Southland Conference regular season title in 2018-19.

A graduate of Tarleton State, the Killeen, Texas, native played for the Texans from 1989-1991 after a stint at McClennan Community College.