Homecoming: Mullins shares vision as Southern’s newest head basketball coach

By Brian Munoz, Editor in Chief

Hundreds of Saluki fans filed into SIU Arena Thursday as former SIU standout Bryan Mullins was introduced as Southern’s fourteenth head men’s basketball coach.

Mullins was picked to lead the Salukis after a national search conducted by Jerry Kill, SIU Director of Athletics.

“We had to get the right fit… that’s what we looked for and Bryan is the right fit,” Kill said.

Kill commended Mullins for his relationship with Loyola’s players, his intelligence and his toughness.

“He’s off the charts,” Kill said. “I had no idea on the intellect of basketball he had.”

Many took to social media in expressing their excitement as Mullins takes the helm of Saluki Basketball, returning to his alma mater a decade from his departure.

Mullins was a standout guard in Saluki basketball, playing at the university from 2006 to 2009. In his time at Southern, he led the Salukis to a 29-7 record and a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2007.

During his career at Southern Illinois, Mullins helped the Salukis rack up a 82-51 record and appear in two NCAA Tournaments, one NIT playoff and two Missouri Valley Conference championships.

While at Loyola, the Downers Grove native helped the Ramblers to three postseason appearances, the program’s first back-to-back regular-season conference championships ever, a trip to the NCAA Final Four, a College Basketball Invitational crown and the program’s first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) since 1980.

Mullins said he chose to move forward with the position at Southern based on the tradition of excellence at the university, the people and the potential future of the program.

“There isn’t another team in the Valley that has SIU basketball’s history and tradition,” Mullins said. “To be able to play at this university and wear the Saluki jersey… it’s truly special to me.”

As for timing, Mullins said this is the perfect time to step into the role.

“I think the future of SIU basketball – I think this is the best time to be here. There is not a better time this school, walking around the facilities, seeing the turnout, seeing the reaction and passion in the fanbase – it’s amazing,” Mullins said.

Looking ahead, Mullins said the team has work to do in the spring and plans on continuing to look at recruiting top talent to the university.

“I think we have some work to do this spring – I’m excited about it,” Mullins said. “I can’t wait to get out recruiting, to wear the SIU logo and talk to kids and get into family’s houses and explain my vision for the program and what type of kids I believe are successful.”

Diversity in recruiting – including junior colleges and freshman – are all options as Mullins builds his team.

“In the Valley – mid major basketball – I think you have to build your team in all different ways,” Mullins said. “You have to get the right type of kids – whether that’s a graduate senior, a junior college transfer or a high school freshman – they have to fit what you’re looking for.”

Mullins said he believes he has an advantage in playing against the team in the Missouri Valley Conference and it will help him build a team moving forward.

“I know this league, I know the teams’ rosters, I know what we need to make us successful,” Mullins said.

As for strategy, Mullins said he believes in pacing, spacing and movement.

“I believe in playing with pace and having good spacing and having good ball movement and player movement,” Mullins said. “I believe the ball should move, it should be .5 seconds – pass, shoot or dribble.”

Mullins said developing a selfless team and looking at playing strong defense in the Missouri Valley, will set a team apart from the rest.

“I want a selfless team – I want guys to make the extra pass,” Mullins said. “If you look at it, the last 10 years, the top 3 teams in the league are the top 3 defensive teams. I believe in five guys playing as one in defense.”

Mullins credits Porter Moser, Loyola Ramblers’ head coach, for the opportunity to start in the coaching profession and creating a special culture for the team.

“We wanted to create this culture where we didn’t talk about the results – winning the MVC Championship or going to a Final Four,” Mullins said. “If you can build the culture, you build the locker room and you do it with the right administration and coaching staff then the results – the championships and the NCAA tournaments – will take care of themselves.”

Mullins said he is working on building a permanent coaching staff but did not indicate if he would be keeping any of the current assistant coaches.

“I’m definitely looking at it and going through it,” Mullins said. “As a head coach, you’re only as good as your staff and it’s a huge decision for me and I’m sorting that out now but one thing I know is that I’m going to have people on my staff that care about the guys, care about SIU and represent themselves and the university [in] the right way.”

Mullins said he believes southern Illinois is a special place and looks forward to his career at the university.

“I’ve prepared for this since the day I started coaching and especially at Southern Illinois too – a school where I played at and where I know you can be successful,” Mullins said.

Editor in Chief Brian Munoz can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz.

To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois University and sports news,  follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.