NORMAL — Dan Muller has had plenty of opportunities to hire assistant coaches during his seven-year tenure as Illinois State's head basketball coach.
When another opening arose a couple weeks ago, Muller decided to take a different avenue.
Muller turned to a fellow school in the Missouri Valley Conference and came away with Indiana State's associate head coach, Marcus Belcher. ISU named Belcher, a former Southern Illinois player who spent the last eight years on Greg Lansing's staff at Indiana State, as an assistant coach Monday.
“I've known Marcus for a while being in the league and I thought he had done a great job. More importantly, Greg Lansing has always talked about how good he is,” said Muller, who has hired at least one assistant every year since 2012 when he took over. “Greg is a good friend. The most important thing is what the guy you work for/with says about you.
“I thought about reaching out to him a couple times the last couple years I've hired guys. I always try to avoid hiring within the league … but you have to do what's best for your program. Greg was awesome and as professional as could be when I called to ask. I appreciated that.”
Muller said Belcher is replacing Chris Duhon, the former Duke All-American and 10-year NBA veteran who spent one season on the Redbirds' staff. According to Muller, Duhon wants to pursue possible opportunities in the NBA.
Belcher is the second new ISU coaching staff member in the last two weeks.
Muller named North Dakota head coach Brian Jones as the Redbirds' associate head coach earlier this month. Jones replaced Brendan Mullins, who left after two years as a Redbird assistant for a similar post at Southern Illinois after his brother, Bryan, was named the Salukis' head coach.
For the last two years, Belcher has served as Indiana State's associate head coach. He was an assistant coach the previous six years.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Dan and the job he has done at Illinois State,” said Belcher. “He does things the right way and has established himself as one of the best coaches in the country.”
Belcher, a native of Mexico, Mo., has a long history in the MVC. He was the starting point guard for Bruce Weber on SIU's 2002 Sweet Sixteen squad that went 28-8 and shared the Valley's regular-season title.
His coaching career began at SIU Edwardsville under Marty Simmons where he helped the Cougars to a pair of NCAA Division II Tournament berths, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2006. He then spent a season at Eastern Illinois before rejoining Simmons for a year at Evansville.
Belcher went back to his alma mater to be an assistant coach for two years before going to Indiana State in 2011. He will be joined in Bloomington-Normal by his wife, Vanessa, and son, Sebastian.
“There are good teams out there, and good programs, and top to bottom Illinois State is one of the best programs in the country,” said Belcher. “Their commitment to athletics and their commitment to winning championships — how they treat their staff and student-athletes — is second to none.”
Muller said ISU's trip to Italy in August, which will give the Redbirds 10 full practices, will not only help the players but the new staff as well.
“Any time you go (on a foreign trip) you feel like it's a great time to go, but I couldn't think of a better offseason for us to have this opportunity to go over there,” said Muller.
ISU still has four scholarships available this spring and could be getting a couple commitments soon. Because of recruiting, Muller said the new staff hasn't sat down together yet and decided who will handle what responsibilities on the court and in practice.
“But I know he (Belcher) can be really good with guards and wings, whoever we feel like he's best with,” said Muller.
Redbirds to meet Cincinnati: ISU will play Cincinnati in a Paradise Jam first-round game at 4:45 pm (CST) on Nov. 22, it was announced by tournament organizers Monday.
The Bearcats went 28-7 last season and won the American Athletic Conference Tournament title before losing to Iowa in an NCAA Tournament first-round game.
The Redbirds will meet either Bowling Green or Western Kentucky on Nov. 24 at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, before closing the tourney on Nov. 25. The other side of the bracket includes Nevada, Fordham, Grand Canyon and MVC rival Valparaiso.