Let’s Speculate! Potential Illinois State head basketball coach candidates
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Illinois State, coached by Dan Muller for the last 10+ seasons (fired on February 12).
- Roger Powell, Jr. – Gonzaga assistant coach
- The Illinois-native played for the Fighting Illini from 2001-05 and has been coaching in the D-I ranks since 2011. After five seasons at Valparaiso and three as associate head coach at Vanderbilt, Powell has spent the last three seasons working under Mark Few at Gonzaga. It is only a matter of time before Powell gets a head coaching job and Illinois State seems like it would a perfect fit for both parties.
- Brandon Brantley – Purdue assistant coach
- Another assistant poised to make the jump to head coach, Brantley has been working under Matt Painter at alma mater Purdue since 2013. He’s noted for his work with the many big men that have come through the Boilermaker program, as well as his prowess in recruiting both the state of Indiana and the Chicago-area.
- Paul Lusk – Purdue assistant coach
- It seems like at least one Purdue assistant takes a head coaching job every offseason and this year if it’s not Brantley it might be Lusk (or both?). Lusk brings head coaching experience to the table, having gone 106-121 in seven seasons at Missouri State, and now has some extra experience working at Creighton and for this second-stint with Painter in West Lafayette. He’s an Illinois-native who played in the Big Ten (at Iowa) and in the Valley (at SIU) and at 50 years old he is definitely someone looking for another shot at being a head coach.
- Luke Yaklich – UIC head coach
- Might be a stretch to think Yaklich would make a UIC to ISU move right now, given his program’s pending move into the Missouri Valley and the fact that he has only just begun to show what he can do as a collegiate head coach. But Yaklich is an Illinois State alum, serving as a student manager during his undergrad years and later as an assistant under Muller. The long-time high school coach has brought a strong defensive mindset to each D-I program he has worked for and is very plugged into the Chicago recruiting scene. The only issue is the timing, which seems to make more sense for ISU than it does for Yaklich.
- Dean Oliver – Wisconsin assistant coach
- Born in Illinois and raised across the border in Iowa, Oliver is another Big Ten/Midwest guy who seems primed to become a head coach. He’s been working under Greg Gard at Wisconsin since 2017, coming to Madison after three years on Muller’s staff at ISU. A former All-Big Ten player for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Oliver has been coaching and recruiting in the region for more than a decade.
- Steve Prohm – former Iowa State, Murray State head coach
- There are several successful mid-major head coaches who were recently let go from high-major jobs that we could put on this list, but perhaps Prohm makes the most sense of that group. He was fired last year after going 2-22 at Iowa State, but did take the Cyclones to three NCAA Tournaments in the previous five seasons. Before that, he won four OVC titles in four years at Murray State and went to the postseason three times, including a CIT Championship in 2014. Prohm can coach and he can win, but Iowa State wasn’t the right fit. Maybe Illinois State provides an opportunity to return to glory?
- Dane Fife – Indiana assistant coach
- Fife just returned to alma mater Indiana last year after ten years working under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. The former IU star does have head coaching experience – leading IPFW from 2005-11 – and has been courted by a number of mid-major programs over the years without ever pulling the trigger. He may want to hang out in Bloomington for another year or two with fellow Hoosier Mike Woodson before taking a serious look at any head coaching jobs but if he’s ready now then ISU presents a solid opportunity.
- Chris Lowery – Kansas State assistant coach
- Lowery’s time as head coach at alma mater Southern Illinois ended on a sour note, going .500 or worse in four-straight years, but this is a guy that has won multiple MVC titles and took the Salukis to the Sweet 16 in 2007. He was just 31 when he was given the reins at SIU and now with another decade as a high-major assistant on the resume may be in a better position to succeed as a head coach.