Travis Mays opened a new chapter in his basketball life Thursday, becoming the head coach of the women’s team at SMU.
Mays, 47, is one of the top players in the history of men’s basketball at the University of Texas. He spent three years in the NBA, played for four teams overseas and was an assistant women’s coach at LSU and Texas.
While many remember Mays for a prolific college career — his 2,279 points from 1986-90 rank second in UT men’s history behind Terrence Rencher (2,306) — he also was partly responsible for the resurgence of the Texas women’s team these past four seasons as an assistant to head coach Karen Aston.
At SMU, Mays will take over for longtime coach Rhonda Rompola, who retired after the past season. Rompola, who has a career mark of 439-317, coached at SMU for 35 years, the past 25 as the head women’s coach.
Aston said there were “lots of tears shed” when she informed the team of the impending departure of Mays, whose hiring was announced by SMU on Thursday afternoon.
“When you have a close-knit group like we have, it’s always sad to see someone leave,” Aston said. “In the same breath, they knew Travis was deserving of this opportunity.”
Aston said she hopes to name Mays’ replacement in the next couple of weeks and has a few candidates in mind, although she declined to name anyone.
“Travis has a lot of strengths as a coach,” Aston said. “First, he’s tremendous with people, with building relationships with players and recruits. And he has a presence on the court. It’s obvious he’s ready to move to the next phase of his life. If I had to pick one positive attribute, it would be how trustworthy he is.”
A 2002 inductee into the Men’s Hall of Honor at UT, Mays was the first Texas player to earn back-to-back Southwest Conference Player of the Year honors (1989-90).
Mays was drafted by Sacramento with the 14th pick of the 1990 NBA draft, and he was a second-team all-rookie selection after averaging 14.3 points per game.
Mays then played for the Atlanta Hawks for two seasons, during which he ruptured two tendons in his right foot. He recovered and enjoyed a successful eight-season career overseas in Greece, Israel, Turkey and Italy.
A native of Ocala, Fla., he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas in 1990. Mays and his wife, Mirella, have two children: a daughter, Cherrell, and a son, Trevor.