NORMAL — The search to find Illinois State’s next men’s head basketball coach seems to be in fast-break mode.
The Pantagraph has learned Vanderbilt assistant coach and ex-ISU standout player Dan Muller will interview today with ISU athletic director Gary Friedman at an undisclosed location. CBSSports.com also reported Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti, a former Redbird assistant, will interview today as well.
Meanwhile, Friedman is expected to interview ISU assistant coach Rob Judson later this week. Judson confirmed last week he was offered a position on the next coaching staff by ISU officials, but said he would assess the situation if he wasn’t named the head coach before deciding whether to stay.
Earlier this week, Duke associate coach Chris Collins issued a statement saying he had spoken to Friedman but would not be a candidate. Friedman also reportedly has spoken to Michigan State assistant coach Dwayne Stephens.
Muller was instrumental in ISU winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles in 1997 and 1998. His late basket helped ISU beat Tennessee in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tourney. That was ISU’s last trip to the Big Dance.
The 36-year-old Muller has spent the last 12 years on the Vanderbilt staff of his former ISU coach, Kevin Stallings. Ironically, Muller was promoted from administrative assistant to assistant coach when Jankovich left Vandy in 2002 to go to Illinois.
Jankovich resigned as ISU’s coach last week to accept a position as associate coach/coach-in-waiting under Larry Brown at Southern Methodist.
One of Muller’s former ISU teammates, Rob Gibbons, believes the Redbirds need to look no further for their next coach.
“He’s the embodiment of what you’re looking for in a program from an athletic and student background,” said Gibbons, who owns The Paramount Leadership group which helps and advises high-growth sales companies. “It’s hard to figure which outshined the other.”
Muller ranks No. 10 in career scoring at ISU with 1,445 points. He helped the Redbirds to a 91-36 record during his career while twice being named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Muller was named most outstanding player of the MVC Tournament as a senior and was an all-league second-team selection that season.
Muller also was a two-time second-team Academic All-America, a three-time member of the All-MVC Scholar-Athlete Team and was named a Bone Scholar, the highest academic honor at ISU. He also was a winner of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and earned his master’s degree in business administration from Florida in 2003.
Since 2006, Muller also has served as Vanderbilt’s recruiting coordinator and oversaw the highest rated recruiting classes in the Commodores’ history. Three players from this past season’s Vandy squad — center Festus Ezeli, forward Jeffery Taylor and guard John Jenkins — are potential first-round picks in June’s NBA draft.
“He’s a bright guy. I know how he would treat the kids,” said Gibbons. “He has one of the best basketball minds around. The stars are aligned (for him to become ISU’s coach).”
Giacoletti, 50, served on Bob Bender’s staff at ISU from 1990-93. After moving to Washington with Bender, Giacoletti was later head coach at North Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Utah.
The East Peoria native led Eastern Washington and Utah to the NCAA tourney, with the Utes advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2005 before being fired two years later.
For the last five years, Giacoletti has been an assistant coach at Gonzaga under Mark Few.
Giacoletti compiled a 171-123 record as a head coach. Utah went 29-6 in the 2004-05 season led by Andrew Bogut, who was the National Player of the Year.
If Friedman wants the players to know and meet the new head coach before they leave campus, the search could be over by early next week. Final examinations at ISU end May 10 and a Board of Trustees meeting will be held the following day, when a contract for a new coach could be discussed and approved.