Conference champions: Top Valley honors go to men’s basketball coach, player
After leading the Redbirds to a regular-season championship for the first time in nearly two decades, head men’s basketball coach Dan Muller was named the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year. Senior Paris Lee also captured top honors when named the MVC Larry Bird Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year.
Muller ’98 led the team to the first share of the MVC season title since he was a senior on the team. The 2017 championship is the sixth in program history. The Redbirds finished the regular season with a 25-5 overall record, which is the most regular-season wins in the program’s history. The team’s 17-1 league record is the most MVC wins for the men’s team.
The season was Muller’s fifth leading the team. He is the fourth coach to win the honor, with the most recent being his former head coach and mentor Kevin Stallings. Muller is also only the sixth coach of the men’s program to win 100 games or more, and the third to win 57 or more in conference play.
He has led the Redbirds to four victories over Top-25 ranked opponents, tied for the most ever by an ISU head coach. Each year Muller’s teams have finished with a better league record and higher conference finish than the previous season.
Lee anchored the Redbird defense, which was ranked No. 4 nationally in opponent field goal percentage and No. 5 nationally in scoring defense. He finished his Illinois State career as the first Redbird to earn the league’s top individual player honor in 16 seasons.
A native of Maywood who majored in recreation management, Lee is now the all-time leader in steals at ISU. He ranked during the season as the nation’s active leader with more than 240 steals. In addition to taking the top MVC honors, Lee was also named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team and the MVC All-Defensive Team.
The Redbirds competed post-season as the No. 1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament for a record 28 total victories. They fell to University of Central Florida in the second round by one point with one second remaining.