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Fit and relationships made difference in hiring new ISU basketball coach

It's been 24 years since the Illinois State University men's basketball team went to the NCAA tournament back in 1998. Athletic Director Kyle Brennan said Monday during a news conference introducing Ohio State Assistant Coach Ryan Pedon as the new Redbird coach, that he thinks he has found the person to bring the program back to prominence.

Brennan said ISU started with a list of more than 100 people who they thought might be interested in replacing fired coach Dan Muller and narrowed it to 60 serious contenders. Brennan said at first Pedon was taken off that list.

"We had seen that he had been so coveted by some other schools he had some other opportunities he had turned down and there were articles that he would be very selective in his next choice. I was thinking this guy has aspirations to be a Power Five coach and maybe we just wouldn't hit his radar. So we asked the search firm if they would just check and see if Ryan is interested. Thank God he was," said Brennan.

Pedon said ISU checks all his boxes for a good fit: strong fan base, community support, a rich tradition, a committed university, access to talent. But with dozens of coaching jobs open around the country, Pedon still chose ISU.

"I think timing and opportunity factors into it as well. This job was available and open before any in the country. And when it came open, I knew this was a place that was going to pique my interest," said Pedon.

Pedon said he's "a relationship guy" and he felt a good connection with Brennan. He also scouted around and got affirmations from other Missouri Valley coaches that his impressions about ISU were correct. Then he talked with Paris Parham, whom he had worked with at the University of Illinois. Parham had been an assistant coach at ISU under then- coach Tim Jankovich.

"The way he spoke about this place and this community resonated with me. He said looking back on my whole career there is not a place I have lived that we loved more than Bloomington-Normal," said Pedon.

Pedon said even though easier transfer rules make the task tougher, he wants to build a program that attracts players who will stay three years or longer.

"I want guys to be here so we can have what I call regenerative leadership within the program. As freshmen become sophomores, they're learning from the juniors and seniors. And by the time they become juniors and seniors they can teach that younger generation. It's very undervalued," said Pedon.

Pedon said he's not sure how much new rules allowing student-athletes to earn money from marketing themselves will affect the longevity of students at a given institution, but he'll make the case that staying with a program is good for both the program and the player.

"I can provide stats and data to prove the grass is not always greener for guys who want to transfer up. And quite frankly it might not be best long term for their career," said Pedon.

Pedon said he will recruit heavily in Illinois and the Midwest. He said the fact ISU is close to several major cities with a deep talent pool was one of the factors that made ISU attractive to him.

Pedon said he already has begun recruiting for ISU, though he won't be able to give it his full attention until after his current job at Ohio State ends when the season is over.

Pedon will make $550,000 a year at ISU. He has a five-year contract. There are performance-based bonuses possible of up to $250,000 depending on seasonal benchmarks. He'll get a courtesy car or vehicle stipend from ISU and a complimentary membership to Bloomington Country Club. Most coaches also derive revenue from other activities such as broadcast contracts for coaches shows.

As a comparison, the following numbers were reported by the Missouri newspaper, the Springfield News Leader in June 2021. Private institutions do not have to report coaches' salaries, but figures from 2018 were available using IRS 990 tax forms for Loyola, Bradley, Valparaiso, Drake, and Evansville.

  • Porter Moser, Loyola $1,096,244
  • Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa $900,000
  • Brian Wardle, Bradley $708,920
  • Dan Muller, Illinois State $564,000
  • Bryan Mullins, Southern Illinois $475,000
  • Dana Ford, Missouri State $438,368
  • Matt Lottich, Valparaiso $346,334
  • Darian DeVries, Drake $334,706
  • Josh Schertz, Indiana State $300,000
  • Walter McCarty, Evansville $225,619 (partial year pay since McCarty was fired in January of 2020)
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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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