Dan Muller

Former Bulls guard joins Illinois State coaching staff

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AP

Former Bulls guard joins Illinois State coaching staff

A former Bulls point guard will soon be back on a basketball court near Chicago.

Illinois State head coach Dan Muller announced the hiring of Chris Duhon earlier today. Duhon has been added to the coaching staff for the 2018-19 season.

Duhon, a former McDonald’s All-American, NCAA national champion and a nine-year NBA veteran, comes back into the coaching role after three years as an assistant coach at Marshall University. The Thundering Herd made a NCAA tournament appearance in March for the first time in 33 years.

"Chris brings a high level of on-the-court experience and success to our program," Muller said in a press release. "His playing career speaks for itself. He is a leader, a teammate, a worker, and a winner. As a coach, Chris helped a tremendous amount with the turnaround at Marshall under Coach D'Antoni, and is eager to continue to grow here with us."

Duhon was drafted in the second round in the NBA draft by the Bulls in 2004. Duhon averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 assists before leaving the Bulls in free agency, joining the New York Knicks on a two-year $12 million dollar contract.

He also played for the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before entering Duke University, Duhon was named Mr. Basketball of Louisiana. And the year to follow, Duhon was no stranger to success at Duke.

Duhon finished as Duke's all-time leader in steals (300), minutes (4,813), and second in assists (819). Duhon was the only player in ACC history to record 1,200 points, 800 assists, 475 rebounds, 300 steals, and 125 3-point field goals.

He was also part of the 2001 National Championship team his sophomore season.

"I'm very thankful to Coach Dan Muller and the University for giving me the opportunity to be an assistant basketball coach," Duhon said. "I'm excited to be working for a University as prestigious as Illinois State, and I'm looking forward to coaching and working with a great group of student-athletes."

Duhon joins an Illinois State team that is returning multiple top scoring threats, and 88 percent of the team’s scoring from a year ago.

Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

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USA TODAY

Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

Dan Muller didn't even have to say anything.

The Illinois State men's basketball coach certainly didn't want his team to lose focus, not with what the game against Bradley meant for the Redbirds' NCAA tournament chances. 

But as Bradley mounted a comeback in the second half of what initially appeared to be a blowout, senior point guard Paris Lee stepped up and delivered all that needed to be said.

"Paris led us like he always does," senior forward Deontae Hawkins said. "The defense was slacking later in the game and Paris called us out and told us, 'We're too old to keep following our old habits.'"

[RELATED —​ MVC tripleheader on CSN Wednesday night, including ISU-Missouri State at 8 p.m.]

The Redbirds wound up cruising to a 64-50 win over Bradley to improve their record in the Missouri Valley Conference to 13-1 (21-5 overall) and Lee took home MVC player of the week honors for his effort.

It was all the more important given the audience at Redbird Arena Saturday night.

At halftime, Illinois State honored the 1998 team, the last Redbirds squad to make it to the NCAA Tournament back when Muller was filling an important role as a player instead of a coach.

Now in his fifth year at the helm of ISU, Muller has improved the Redbirds' record in the MVC in each season. With four conference games left — including Wednesday night's tilt against Missouri State on CSN — Muller has already set a new high mark with 13 conference wins.

And he's been leaning heavily on Lee to do so.

Muller said Lee's impassioned mid-game speech to his teammates has become a common sight this year as Lee — a native of Maywood, Ill. just outside Chicago — has grown more comfortable in a leadership role.

"Paris is pretty locked in," Muller said. "He's been a coach on that floor all year; he has been since he's been here [at ISU]. That's one of the areas he's probably improved the most over the last four — his leadership, his competitive spirit, his comfort level and taking control of the team."

Lee admitted his transformation into a leader was not always a natural fit.

"I feel like I had no other choice but to start maturing because we had a lot of new guys on the team and a lot of younger guys looking up to me," he said. "So I had to. I was kinda forced to grow up. 

"In previous years, I've always had teammates that were able to take the load from me, talk, do everything I should do. But this year, I had no choice but to [step up as a leader]."

Lee is all in — down to his red-tipped dreadlocks that he joked gives him more swag and a pair of sick red Jordans — on getting the Redbirds back to the NCAA Tournament in his final season. He's already set a new career high in assists, thriving as a playmaker/facilitator.

"I'm very hungry, man," Lee said. "I'm gonna continue to play the right way, not try to do too much. Just try to do the right thing to help my team win."