Former NBA head coach Eric Musselman impressed with visit to Western Illinois
Courtesy: Brock Wissmiller  
Release: Tuesday 01/11/2008
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Eric Musselman talks with Michael Jones during halftime of Western's...

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MACOMB, Ill. - Former Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings head coach Eric Musselman visited Macomb to critique the Western Illinois men’s basketball program, and found a hard-working, enthusiastic team.

Musselman sat in on practice, shoot-around, and Western’s game against South Dakota State University. During that time he had the chance to evaluate the team as a whole and give his input to the coaching staff on how the team was doing.

“I think this team plays really hard,” said Musselman. “A lot of the goals that were set forth by the coaching staff in the pre-game, were met by the players. I was really impressed by the enthusiasm that the team had on the bench during the game.”

“Derek wanted another set of eyes to watch the team and talk to the staff about different things I might see,” Musselman continued. “The NBA game is obviously different from the college game. There’s more time to prepare at the college level because you have more off time in between games. Derek’s doing a great job here with that because he’s a great practice coach.”

Part of Musselman’s trip was to get more of a feel himself for the college game. After two head coaching stints in the NBA, he is looking to make the transition to the collegiate level.

“The NBA game is obviously different from the college game,” added Musselman. “There’s more time to prepare at the college level because you have more off time in between games.”

“Going from NBA to college is a bigger change because the NBA is such a players league,” Western Illinois head coach Derek Thomas stated. “In college you have so many other hats that you have to put on as a coach, where as in the NBA, you have playbooks that are five inches thick so that you can change things everyday. The college game makes you learn to adjust because you don’t have the man power. I wanted Eric to see that part of this level if he decides that he wants to come to the college game.”

Coach Thomas and Musselman spent time working together in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks. Thomas served as a player personnel scout while Musselman held an assistant coach position under Lon Kruger. In 2002, Musselman was named head coach of the Golden State Warriors. During his first season, he was runner-up to Greg Popovich for the NBA Coach of the Year award. Last year he was the head coach for the Sacramento Kings.

“Eric is a guy that I’ve worked with and I feel that he is one of the best detail guys in the game of basketball,” added Thomas. “Anything that I feel can give us an extra edge, I want to do.”

That edge appears to have paid off as the Leathernecks defeated South Dakota State 75-52 Thursday, January 10. The win marked the largest margin of victory in conference for Western since February 9, 2002. Coach Thomas did give some credit to Coach Musselman for his help with the program.

“It would be nice to keep him around a little longer, but I know he has his family to get back to,” added Thomas with a laugh. “But he did say that our guys played harder in shoot-around and practice than any of the other schools that he’s been to. That was something that was very nice for me to hear because I know that he’s not going to lie to me. For him to tell me how impressed he was with the team really meant a lot to me.”
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