NPR from Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

ISU's Dan Muller steps down after initially planning to finish the season following his firing

Dan Muller sidelines
Carleigh Gray
/
WGLT
Dan Muller was fired Sunday after a 10-year run as ISU men's basketball coach.
Updated: February 14, 2022 at 6:43 PM CST
After initially opting to finish out the season, Coach Dan Muller announced Monday he would be stepping down, effective immediately.

ISU Associate Head Coach Brian Jones will serve as the program’s interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Updated: February 14, 2022 at 6:42 PM CST

Illinois State men’s basketball coach Dan Muller has announced he will step down immediately as coach, hours after he said he had planned to finish the season at his players' request.

ISU Athletics director Kyle Brennan announced Sunday Muller would not return after the season.

Muller said he was concerned his presence with the team would be a distraction for the team as he exits.

“After an emotional day yesterday, and more time to talk to my players about this difficult situation, I have decided to step away and not coach this team the rest of the season,” Muller said in a news release. “I completely understand that playing for a coach that has been fired could be very difficult, and I do not want to be a distraction to my players."

ISU has named associate head coach Brian Jones the interim head coach for the rest of the season. The Redbirds have five games remaining on their schedule, followed by the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Jones is in his third year with the ISU basketball program, after serving 13 seasons as head coach at North Dakota.

'Surprised'


Muller said earlier Monday he was surprised by the timing of his firing, but was “not completely shocked” the university wanted to make a change.

“There’s no one more disappointed in our lack of success than I am. Period,” Muller told reporters during a Monday morning Missouri Valley Conference video conference call. “I’m sorry that I was not able to deliver multiple (Missouri Valley Conference) championships, NCAA berths and things that I think this program deserves.”

The Redbirds have an 11-15 record and are likely headed to finish with a third consecutive losing season for the first time since 1950.

Muller coached ISU to a regular-season MVC title in 2017. Soon after, ISU signed him to a five-year contract extension through 2024.

Muller will receive a $1 million buyout to cover the final two years of his deal.

Muller said ISU Athletics Director Kyle Brennan gave him the choice to finish the season, or leave immediately.

Dan Muller speaking via Zoom
Zoom
/
Illinois State men's basketball coach Dan Muller spoke with reporters Monday via Zoom during the MVC weekly coaches call.

Muller said he takes responsibility for the team’s struggles.

“As I told the players and the staff last night, it’s on me. It’s not on them. At all,” but he also referenced a series of “bad breaks.”

“Injuries and opt-outs and COVID have really negatively impacted our program the last two years,” Muller said. “When you don’t have the success that you feel you should or could (have), it’s never one thing. It’s little decisions here and there. It’s little failures by me here and there and they add up.”

Muller is an ISU alum who played on the last Redbird team to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 1998.

The Redbirds’ next game is Tuesday night at home against Northern Iowa.

UNI coach Ben Jacobsen said he doesn’t ever recall a coach finishing a season for a school after being fired.

“The timing seems strange to me,” Jacobsen said.

Muller’s contract required a 30-day notice before he could be dismissed.

In announcing Muller’s firing, ISU AD Kyle Brennan Muller said it was “imperative” to start the search process quickly to find the best candidate and give the person chosen to recruit ahead of the April signing period.

Brennan added the men’s basketball program “(had) not been performing at a consistent level and we have not seen the continued growth needed to get back into contention in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Brennan said he would have no additional comment until a new coach is hired.

Brennan is looking to fill two head coaching positions after Leah Johnson announced last week she is leaving ISU to take over the women’s volleyball program at Michigan State University.

Community support is the greatest funding source for WGLT. Donations from listeners and readers means local news is available to everyone as a public service. Join the village that powers public media with your contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Related Content