Greg Heiar [pronounced “higher”] became the 27th NMSU men’s basketball head coach after former coach Chris Jans left for Mississippi State this past March.
Heiar was previously Northwest Florida State College’s head coach in Niceville, Florida, where he led the Raiders to the NJCAA Division I national title in early March. He also served as an
assistant coach at Louisiana State, East Tennessee State and Wichita State, among other universities and colleges.
A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Heiar says he’s won about 91% and 70% of his games, respectively, as a head coach and assistant coach.
Heiar also played a season for Coach Jans at Kirkwood Community College. Three years later, he worked for him as an assistant coach at Chipola College. Heiar would eventually take over as head coach at Chipola, where he led his team to five straight conference championships and four National Junior College Tournament appearances.
Heiar and Jans also worked together at Wichita State University, where Heiar helped the Shockers reach the Final Four in 2013 along with five conference championships and 179 total wins in six seasons.
Heiar took the time to speak with Kokopelli earlier this month. Here is the transcript of that interview.
Kokopelli: What brought you here to be the NMSU men’s basketball head coach?
Greg Heiar: Obviously, my relationship with the athletic director Mario Moccia was really important. I’ve known him for the last five years and stayed in touch with him. And then obviously, my relationship with coach Jans as well. We constantly had communication the last five years, and he was just always talking about what a wonderful community and what a wonderful university New Mexico State University was, and what a great community Las Cruces had to offer as well. So, it was a win-win for sure.
Kokopelli: This is your first Division I head coaching job. How do you feel about it?
Greg Heiar: It’s an opportunity, and I want to make the most of my opportunity. We’re going to enjoy every day. We’re going to take it one day at a time. We’re going to work extremely hard, and we’re going to be good to people. We’re going to have great customer service as coaches with our players, the university and community. I’m just really excited, blessed and honored. And like I said, I’m going to work hard and be great to people.
Kokopelli: We know the success that Jans had with the team. Do you expect to continue that same success or [have even more success]? If so, how do you plan to do it?
Greg Heiar: I plan on having continued success and to build on his success. We’re going to recruit quality student athletes that can really play basketball and are really good students. They represent themselves in a first-class manner every single day on campus and in our community. They’re going to work extremely hard every day. They’re going to play as a team. We’re going to be a team. It’s pretty simple. We’re going to compete hard, compete smart and compete together and have a lot of fun doing that. But it all starts with hard work. I’m just excited for the success that he has had, and I’m excited to continue to build on that success and take the program to even another level.
Kokopelli: What are your strengths as a coach?
Greg Heiar: I think one of my biggest strengths is my ability to interact with people, read people, have a feel for people, understand people, build confidence in the people, and just have a trust and a belief in people and help them become the best versions of themselves. I think that’s probably my biggest strength and a big reason why I’ve had the success that I’ve had everywhere I’ve gone, because it’s really about the people. Just helping people in any way possible is something that I take a lot of pride in, and I must say it’s my biggest strength.
Kokopelli: How will your team members play after you have been coaching them?
Greg Heiar: We’re going to be really competitive. We’re going to play really intense and play to win. We’re going to play the right way. We’re going to play an up-tempo style, where we want to get the game going up and down the floor. We’ll press on some dead balls and some made baskets situations, but we’ll be scouting based on the defensive end. But our style on the court is definitely a pro style of play. We want to get good ball movement. We want to be happy for our teammates when they create a good shot for me or happy for my teammate when he passes me the ball, and I make the shot. Just everything is about team and togetherness. That’s what wins championships.
Kokopelli: Many current players are deciding to leave NMSU, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. What would you tell them, or what would you do to persuade them to stay or return?
Greg Heiar: I just support them in whatever decision that they want to make. I want what’s best for them. If [they’re] going to be here, I want them to do the right things on a day-to-day basis. If there’s maybe a coach out there that is better for them, then I advise them to take that route. But we’re going to continue to recruit quality student athletes that want to represent this university in a first-class manner. I treat this like I’m the head coach of the Phoenix Suns or like I’m at Kentucky. It’s totally an honor. It’s a beautiful place with great people, and I want those that want to be a part of it. It’s a traditional program that’s been built of winning championships. So, we’re going to continue to do that. But the players know it’s really important if they look somewhere else, we support them and do whatever we can to help them moving forward.