Muller, Illinois State regain footing in MVC
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
In 1998, things were much different.
Gas was cheaper. The Internet had barely taken over people’s way of life. Michael Jordan was fresh off his last championship tour. The Spice Girls were No.1 on the music charts.
Dan Muller remembers that year for different reasons, though.
In 1998, Muller was a hero in Normal, Ill. He scored the game-winning basket in Illinois State’s 82-81 overtime victory over Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That shot was the culmination of a college hoops career that included a school-record 128 straight starts and two Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Fast forward to 2013, and people from that same community can be heard calling for his job. Muller is no longer the hero he once was as a player at Illinois State. Now he just looks like a rookie coach in a top-10 conference dominated by experienced coaches.
Muller, who coached under Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt for 12 years, became head coach of his alma mater in May, replacing five-year coach Tim Jankovich, who left for SMU to be Larry Brown’s coach-in-waiting. He without a doubt inherited Jankovich’s most talented team. The Redbirds returned four starters from a team that went toe-to-toe with a Doug McDermott-led Creighton team in the Missouri Valley Tournament championship last year, giving Muller all the ingredients to help Illinois State do something the school has avoided since he left: Go dancing.
Of the 10 schools in the MVC, Illinois State has the longest drought without a trip to the NCAA tournament. And after a stunningly dreadful 0-6 start in conference action, that drought seems destined to continue unless the Redbirds win the MVC Tournament. That means ISU will have to go through No. 14 Wichita State and No. 17 Creighton because its slow league start completely erased a non-conference resume worthy of an at-large bid.
Muller knows Illinois State’s current 3-6 league stance won’t win over any fans, even though three consecutive wins speaks to the resiliency of the team.
“We went through some adversity, some off-the-court distractions here and there with … [For more on Mid-Major Coach Diary: Muller, Illinois State regain footing in MVC, click here.]