STARKVILLE, Miss. — It was a 1-2 punch of despair to close the weekend for the New Mexico State men’s basketball program.
Hours after the Aggies were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament’s second round, they lost their head coach to a Power Five school.
Mississippi State named Chris Jans its new coach Sunday, ending a five-year run in Las Cruces that began after then-head coach Paul Weir was hired away by rival New Mexico.
“It’s no secret that Chris Jans’ name has been in the mix for a number of other jobs, especially after what he has done for our program over the last five seasons,” said NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia. “This is an opportunity for Chris that is long overdue. What he accomplished in Las Cruces will be remembered forever, and we wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his head coaching career.”
Mississippi State announced the hire on its athletic department’s website but did not provide details about what kind of contract Jans was receiving.
Jans went 122-32 the past five seasons with the Aggies, helping them land the No. 12 seed in the West Region of this year’s Big Dance. They scored one of the bigger upsets of the tournament, beating No. 5 UConn 70-63 in the opening round before dropping a 53-48 decision to Arkansas on Saturday night in Buffalo., NY
The win over UConn was NMSU’s first in the NCAA Tournament since 1993.
Jans is 143-44 as a Division I head coach, including going 21-15 at Bowling Green during the 2014-15 season. Jans’ .765 winning percentage is fourth nationally among active head coaches behind Gonzaga’s Mark Few (.837), Kansas’ Bill Self (.768) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (.766), who will retire after this season.
Jans also served two stints on Wichita State’s staff, helping guide the Shockers to seven consecutive NCAA Tournament berths during his first stay. His background also includes several stops on the junior college level.
His tenure at Bowling Green ended in 2015 when, after just one season, he was fired for what the school determined was inappropriate behavior exhibited shortly after the season ended.
An eyewitness posted a short video of Jans at the bar, which showed the coach inappropriately touching an unidentified woman.
He resurrected his career at NMSU, leading the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament appearances and four Western Athletic Conference regular season titles. He was also 5-3 against UNM, winning the first four contests after he replaced Weir in 2017-18.
His most successful season was 2018-19 when the Aggies finished 30-5 overall and went 15-1 in the WAC. The Aggies rolled to the conference tournament title before losing by one point to Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
He leaves an NMSU program that has become one of the most successful mid-major programs in the country. The Aggies have won at least 20 games in each of the last 10 full seasons, the coronavirus-shortened 2020-21 season not included. They’ve averaged 26 wins a season in those 10 years.
The Aggies played all 20 games outside the state in 2020-21, setting up their base of operations in Arizona and playing all home games in the Phoenix area after COVID-19 health restrictions prohibited sports from taking place inside New Mexico. Jans himself battled through a bout of the coronavirus, leading NMSU to a 12-8 record that included a 7-6 mark in the WAC.
That year excluded, he went 56-7 in WAC games.
Moccia said a national search for Jans’ replacement will begin immediately. There is no timetable for finding a new coach.
Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen said Jans was considered one of college basketball’s top coaches and that his overall resume “speaks for itself.”
Cohen added: “What stood out about Coach Jans was his culture of accountability, hard-working mentality, emphasis on player development and vision for the future. … Coach Jans is a proven leader and winner.”
Jans replaces Ben Howland, who left Wednesday after seven seasons with the Bulldogs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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