NORMAL — Brendan Mullins has kept a close eye on Missouri Valley Conference basketball for a while. His younger brother, Bryan, was a standout player for Southern Illinois and now serves as an assistant coach at Loyola.
Make room for another Mullins in the league.
Illinois State coach Dan Muller announced Friday that Brendan Mullins has been hired as the Redbirds' newest assistant coach. Mullins, 32, has served as an assistant at Illinois-Chicago for the last two years.
“Outside of the Horizon League, the Missouri Valley is the league I've watched the most,” said Mullins, who was on Wright State's staff for five seasons before joining UIC. “Over the last 10 years, outside of Wichita State, no team has been better than Illinois State (in the MVC). Coach Muller is a big reason I took the job. He's a rising star in this profession. I've gotten to know him over the years recruiting and think he has a bright future.”
Muller moved swiftly to replace associate coach Luke Yaklich and assistant coach DeAndre Haynes, who were officially hired last week as assistants at Michigan.
Earlier this week, Muller named Brian “Penny” Collins from East Tennessee State as an assistant. Mullins and Collins will join Brian Reese, who came to ISU last year, on Muller's staff.
“I have gotten to know Brendan while on the road recruiting over the past few years, and I’ve always thought highly of him,” said Muller. “He has done a terrific job at his two previous stops as a Division I assistant coach and is well respected in the business. I really look forward to working with Brendan.”
Mullins was Wright State's director of operations for two years before becoming a Raiders' assistant coach for three years. Prior to his time at Wright State, Mullins spent one season as director of operations at Green Bay, another Horizon League school.
Because of his brother's MVC ties, Mullins said he is “very familiar” with all of the league's teams.
“I know a good amount of the staffs and am very comfortable scouting and what it takes to recruit Missouri Valley championship-caliber teams,” he said.
It is easy to see where Mullins got the itch to get into coaching. His father, Mike, is the founder and director of the highly successful Illinois Wolves AAU program.
“My dad is the best. I never make a decision without seeking his advice,” said Mullins. “He's my biggest critic and fan. I'm very proud and lucky to have him as my dad. He quickly turned us into a basketball family at a young age. From going to the Final Four when I was 10-years old to I don't know how many games he still goes to of my brother's and mine and still continues to do so.”
Mullins was a prep standout at Downers Grove South High School, leading the Mustangs to the Class AA Elite Eight as a senior. He then played at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, becoming one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in school history.
ISU will have several newcomers on the roster after going 28-7 last season, setting a program record for wins, and sharing the MVC title for the first time since 1998 with a 17-1 mark. Mullins said he has met all the Redbird players the past couple days.
According to Mullins, Muller told him he would be working with the wing players.
“It seems to be a great group,” said Mullins of the Redbirds. “It's very similar to last year's team at UIC to me. There's a lot of really talented young guys. We have to figure out how to make them successful and put them in successful situations and how to win games.”