Marvin Menzies enters his sixth season at New Mexico State.
Menzies is 102-68 overall in five seasons (60 percent win percentage) with two NCAA Tournament appearances in the past three years. NMSU has been even better in the WAC under Menzies, going 51-27 (65 percent). There are many factors to determine what a good college coach means. I will say this for Menzies. For the most part, his teams have improved throughout the course of the season. Nevada had the most talented team in the WAC last year, but they peaked early and never improved, getting an early exit from the WAC Tournament.
The success through the first five years led to a potential upgrade when Colorado State showed interest in hiring him. CSU went a different direction and Menzies was given a three year extension (I'm told the details in the contract are still being worked out).
Following is an interview with Menzies as he talks about growing as a coach, last year's team and the upcoming season.
Practice starts October 12.
JG: Talk about the offseason.
Menzies: I was really happy with the new rule being able to interact with the student athletes in the summer. Being able to get on the floor and work the guys out and stay in touch with them. We could give them a specific training that you want for them rather than them going off on their own that might contradict how it fits into the system. I really leaned on the assistant coaches during the summer to follow up on the program we implemented. I think that was good for the assistant coaches as well to have that opportunity to lead the guys in the summer. ... We had everyone qualified after the first summer session. We weren't waiting around late to get the word if anyone was going to have any struggles going into the season academically. Guys have bought into the academic piece.
JG: What are the differences in the program from your first year to this your sixth year?
Menzies: There is a lot of growth in me as a head coach going from an assistant. There is always a transition period. I think running a program, you learn something every year and you try to improve consistently in your profession. I feel like I have matured. I'm more comfortable now with my previous experiences. When new things arise, you kind of have a template now from what you did in the past.
JG: You can probably replace Wendell McKines' numbers, but how do you replace the other things he brought to your team?
Menzies: Wendell had a very strong personality. It was something that will be missed. His passion and toughness, those are intangibles that you have to look to see who is the next guy who is going to help to bring some of those components to the program. I'm not really sure who that individual is yet or if it's going to happen collectively. You also lost a great deal in Hernst (Laroche) and Hamidu (Rahman). Wendell was the one that was the most talked about but you lost three major pieces to the puzzle when you lose the No. 8, No. 15 and 21 all-time scorers at the university on the same team and you lost them all in the same year, that's a huge blow. I have my thoughts on who is going to step up but until we lace them up against other teams you just don't know.
JG: Outside of Tyrone Watson, there is not a lot of known commodity on this team.
Menzies: As far as a consistent effort and knowledge of what he brings to the table, there is no question. I think Daniel (Mullings) is another piece that I'm pretty sure of what we are going to be able to get out of him. Maybe not numbers wise but in terms of effort and things that he is going to bring to the table, I think that will be consistent as well. We have other guys in the program who are talented and capable of bringing a lot of positives but who that guy is going to be or the collection of guys, I'm not really sure.
JG: What should be the expectations be for Daniel Mullings this season?
Menzies: Obviously he has some talent and is already a good player but has a chance to be a special player. A lot of that lands on his plate. Will he do what is necessary to receive coaching, have the right disposition on the court, the jury is still out. He is one of the most exciting and potential big time players on the team.
JG: Would you like to get back to the tempo you showed early last season with the renewed depth you have?
Menzies: At this level, you have to take players based on their ability to help you win at a high level. That might not be your ideal system of playing. For example, Sim (Bhullar) at 7-foot-4 is not going to be your prototype run and gun. But I think with time and conditioning he can do some very good things in terms of creating distractions for other teams defensively, as well as scoring around the block. He's a special talent. Usually your five man is at the back of your pressure anyway so as long as he can get in good enough shape to get up and down the floor and let us set up our front wall and second wall, it shouldn't affect our ability to pressure.
JG: Talk about Sim's fitness
Menzies: We have a target weight we are shooting for and he's made consistent progress since he returned from Canada. He's lost a good amount of weight and he's heading in the right direction.
JG: Is the frontcourt your strength?
Menzies: On paper maybe. You can look and say we have some experience at the five (Junior Chili Nephawe) and you've got some very good potential in support. The four, you have Tyrone and Bandja (Sy), who has the ability to play that position and maybe Renaldo (Dixon) as well. ... You look at the guards and you can almost make the same argument when you look at Daniel and Terrel (de Rouen) and K.C. (Ross-Miller) as well. You have some guys there in the mix at the wings and the guard where one of those guys can rise to the top and that's the depth factor. You look at each person on the team and say this guy has a chance to play. Anytime you can say that, you have provided yourself with the opportunity to have some choices. I've always said that you have to have guys who can play more than one position and for the most part outside of the five guys can slide over and play a different position. That gives me an advantage. ... It's kind of getting back to the 2010 team. We were hard to guard because guys like Gib, you don't know if he would be bringing the ball up or out running the lane. Hernst was the only one steady at the one. There was a lot of interchanging going on.
JG: Talk about the point guard position. Replacing Laroche has to be difficult.
Menzies: We have multiple guys we can look at for that position. Right now I would have to say KC and Terrel are battling for that spot. But I feel comfortable putting the ball in Daniel's hands or Tyrone as well.
JG: Is the WAC schedule going to be more of a grind this year with 18 games?
Menzies: Anytime you are playing that many conference games, the emotion of each game is a little higher because each game means that much more. You have to be able to weather the storm. There is going to be some travel that is new to us. There are going to be new arenas and faces we haven't seen. There will be a learning curve, but that's where if you have a real program, which I feel that we have, you have an advantage because you have guys who have been in your system, who have gone on the road and played in tough environments and experienced success against high major teams, you can rely on guys like Chili and Bandja and Tyrone and Daniel as well now too. Those are the guys who have to carry you through a long conference season.