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May 2, 2012According to The Pantagraph, 10-year Kevin Stallings assistant Dan Muller will be interviewed tomorrow for the open head coaching position at Illinois State. ISU athletics director Gary Friedman, who is managing the search process, will conduct the interview.
The ISU job became available when Tim Jankovich -- a former Stallings assistant at Vanderbilt -- elected to accept a so-called Head Coach in Waiting position at Southern Methodist University. SMU has hired former NBA and college head coach Larry Brown as their head coach.
ISU initially offered the job to Duke assistant Chris Collins, but Collins turned the job down last weekend. Collins is the son of Doug Collins, who is the unquestioned biggest name in Redbird basketball history. The elder Collins is the current head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, and played at ISU for three years before being taken No. 1 in the 1973 draft.
It has been widely reported that the younger Collins turned down the job so as to protect the legacy of his father, in the event that he either failed as the ISU head coach or eventually left for another job.
Muller was a finalist for the head coaching jobs at Mississippi State and Samford this past spring, and has been in the mix for many other head coaching positions over the last few years. Muller also interviewed for the Dayton job last spring.
Muller's connections to ISU are many and varied.
As a student athlete, Muller was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year (1996,1997), and 1998 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Muller was also the first ISU student-athlete to receive the athlete of the year and scholar-athlete of the year awards in the same year (1997).
Muller started 128 consecutive games while playing for ISU.
During Muller's senior season, Illinois State (25-6, 16-2) swept the MVC regular season and tournament titles for the second consecutive year, and beat Tennessee 82-81 in overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento, California.
After he graduated in 1998, Muller joined now Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings' ISU coaching staff. During his six year tenure (1993-1999) Stallings' Redbirds went 123-63 and reached the NCAA Tournament and the NIT twice each. Stallings' winning percentage of .661 remains the highest ever by an Illinois State coach who coached at least five years.
This fall, Stallings will enter his 14th year at the head of the Vanderbilt program, and Muller has served under Stallings for the past decade.
Muller is also the recruiting coordinator for Vanderbilt, and is largely responsible for bringing many of the school's best players to the program -- including John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli, all who will be a part of the NBA draft this spring.
It's unclear which other coaches may interview for the ISU job, but Jankovich assistant Rob Judson is expected to get an interview, as well as Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti.
While the timing for coaching departures is never optimal, the next two months is unusually key for Vanderbilt. The Commodores lose all five of their starters (including Jenkins, who is a junior), and are expected to sign at least two players this spring. One potential signee, Wake Forest transfer Carson Desrosiers, yesterday selected Providence College as his next destination, thereby further heightening the urgency of VU and Muller's recruiting challenge.
Incidentally, Jankovich was a member of Stallings' first Vanderbilt coaching staff. Jankovich left three years later to be an assistant for Bill Self at Illinois, just weeks before the start of the 2002 season -- a move that at the time Stallings publicly criticized for its timing.
Jankovich spent just one year at Illinois before moving with Self to Kansas, and became ISU's head coach five years later.
Also of note, the coach who succeeded Stallings at ISU, Tom Richardson, is also an assistant at Vanderbilt. Richardson joined Stallings' Commodore staff the day he was let go at ISU. Richardson served as the head coach at ISU from 1999-2003.
Last spring, Vanderbilt assistant King Rice -- also a former Stallings assistant at ISU -- accepted the head coaching position at Monmouth. Earlier this spring, VU assistant David Carson was a finalist for the Eastern Illinois head coaching job.
The Redbirds are predicted to challenge for the Missouri Valley Conference title next season. In 2012, ISU finished with a 21-14 record, did not lose a player to graduation this spring, and played in the National Invitation Tournament, losing to eventual tournament champion Stanford.