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Illinois State coach Dan Muller

Illinois State (28-7) concluded its season Monday after losing to Central Florida, 63-62, in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament. The Vidette sat down with ISU coach Dan Muller Tuesday and discussed several different topics and looking ahead to the future of Redbird Hoops. 

MULLER ON LOSING TO UCF IN NIT SECOND ROUND 

DM: "It's hard to digest, it's a hard pill to swallow. How close we were and how well we played in so many areas and then to come down to the way we lost was pretty heartbreaking. But in sports and in most things in life you can't go back and change what happen but the opportunity to continue to play with this team and continue to do something special is gone. And it's a hard thing to take. (On last possession) MiKyle tried to make the best play he could and the ref made a tough call. It's a hard way to lose the game but we can't change it now."  

ON MIKYLE MCINTOSH'S FUTURE AND ROSTER RETAINMENT

DM: "End of the year meetings will probably take place next week. MiKyle will graduate this summer. In these days I never expect everybody to come back. Until we have those individual meetings to see where guy's heads are at and what they're thinking, I try not to make too many expectations. We'll meet and talk individually and he'll decide what he wants to do. Every single college basketball player in this day that graduates is going to have a discussion with their coach on what they plan on doing. Now some already know forsure what they are doing, whether that's leaving or staying, but a lot are thinking about what to do..and that's no different for MiKyle. Obviously, we really hope he's back with us next year. But he'll have an opportunity like every graduate with the rules the way they are. He clearly could have a special year next year if he's with us, and hopefully he is. I haven't talked to him about it for one second. And we'll have those individual meetings over the next week or so and kind of figure out where everyone's head is at, not only his."

ON WHERE FOCUS IS WITH RECRUITING MOVING FORWARD

DM: "We're recruiting multiple positions in case anything happens, which is what you have to do these days. But I'd say our main focus right now is a guard...some perimeter defense and some shooting."

ON NEXT YEAR'S NEWCOMERS AND RETURNERS 

DM: "We love our pieces coming back. With what we're losing, we're clearly losing production and minutes. But the bigger thing we're losing is leadership and competitiveness and toughness. And so who in that group of returners and newcomers is going to step up as leaders, lead our team with toughness, we've got a lot of candidates but it'll be interesting to see who does that. Talent wise - we've got a lot of talent coming back..we've got a lot of talent coming in. But without that leadership, toughness and competitiveness, it won't matter. I'm not saying it won't be there, but it will have to be developed and guys have to step in those roles." 

ON THE ROLE COACHING STAFF PLAYED THIS YEAR

DM: "We've got a great staff. We've got a bunch of guys who are so good with our players and I think you can see the mental maturity growth with our team this year, not only with our older guys but as guys played throughout the year you can see with Keyshawn, and David and even Phil, guys like that and that's a credit to the assistants. They're so close with our players. It's the individual skill work, it's the mental approach, it's the maturity, it's the care and pushing and the love. They're awesome. It's a long season, it's a grind for everybody including the coaches. I've got a great staff. You don't have a season like we had without a whole bunch of people doing the right things. Not only our coaching staff, but our managers and academics. We've got a great setup here."

ON IMPORTANCE OF ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH LUKE YAKLICH

DM: Luke luckily learned from a couple of great recruiters in Dana (Ford) and Torrey (Ward). Even before I promoted him, he improved exponentially. It was incredible. He's got a passion for the game and he's got a passion for developing relationships. He's a terrific recruiter and he's good on the court. He got promoted because he deserved it and earned it, not just because he's a friend. I think when you give that position, people maybe notice the work you do more. But it was going on way before he got the promotion. He has improved in really every aspect of coaching. 

JOSH TOLENTINO is a senior journalism major and Sports Editor at The Vidette. He can be reached at jtolent@ilstu.edu Follow him on Twitter @JCTSports

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