LAS CRUCES — There has been a groundswell of local support behind current New Mexico State associate head coach Paul Weir to replace Marvin Menzies as the head men’s basketball coach.
You can now add a Hall of Fame coach to that list.
While NMSU athletics director Mario Moccia conducts interviews over the next two days, the 84-year old Henson believes his alma mater should give Weir his first Division I head coaching job.
“It is common practice for an athletic director to interview people,” Henson said. “There is nothing wrong with that. He knows Paul and I know Paul very well. For the past eight years, I have been around Paul a lot and I think he’s outstanding.”
The finalist pool is believed to include Weir, Arizona assistant Joe Pasternak, Baylor assistant Jerome Tang and Oklahoma assistant Chris Crutchfield, who was on Henson’s staff in 2001-05.
Henson’s support for Weir stems from a proven track record of recruiting talented Canadian players to Las Cruces, site unseen in many cases.
“This is a hard place to recruit to,” said Henson, the all-time winningest coach at both NMSU and Illinois. “Paul has a background in recruiting. Where the other guys are coming from, they could not recruit here.”
Many critics of a Weir hire on Twitter, Facebook and fan sites have expressed concern regarding style of play. Weir has coached the Aggies’ defense while Menzies and Keith Brown coached the offense in recent seasons.
NMSU was in the Top 10 in scoring defense last season and 215th in scoring offense, as the Aggies’ offense has been stagnant in recent years despite the presence of NBA prospect Pascal Siakam. Henson believes that Weir brings his own philosophies to the table.
“I talk basketball with him (Weir) a lot and he is very knowledgeable about the game of basketball,” Henson said. “The head coach dictates everything. Here is what I think you will see in Paul. First of all, he is a tremendous defensive coach and defensive rebounding coach. You have to have those ingredients to be very good. I think you will see a full offense. You would see a fast-breaking team and a team running a good offensive pattern.”
Henson and his wife, Mary, are leaving Las Cruces on Tuesday to return to Champaign, Ill., where Henson will resume treatment for a bone marrow disorder. When he returns to Las Cruces in the fall, the Aggies will have a new basketball coach. Henson wanted to make his choice known before leaving.
“Mario is going to try to find the right candidate and I don’t know if he will pick Paul,” Henson said. “I really don’t know, but I would think that he would.”