Belleville West celebrates first state title win
After 15 years, back-to-back Class 4A state championships the past two seasons, Belleville West basketball coach Joe Muniz has announced his resignation.
Muniz, 44, a Collinsville native who took over the Maroons program from Bill Schmidt prior to the 2004-05 season, is leaving the bench to be the new assistant athletic director at Belleville West.
“There was just no way that I could do both jobs, do them well and also be a good husband and father. With my health — I’ve been a diabetic for over 20 years — I just felt the time was right,’’ Muniz said. “This job has opened up twice before during my tenure here at West, but I didn’t apply for it because I knew I wasn’t done coaching.
“This time I applied still not knowing if I was through coaching. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that this was the right time for everyone involved. Plus, I will have the opportunity to be in that (athletic director) office and work. That is something I really wanted to do.’’
Muniz, who led Belleville West to an 18-9 record in his first season, ends his basketball coaching career with the Maroons with a record of 244-177. Under Muniz, West finished .500 or better 11 times.
“My wife Natalie has always been there and always been so supportive. There were a lot of talks, tough talks. I did tell the kids though that if this job hadn’t opened up, I would still be the coach,’’ Muniz said. “My girls Addyson and Ava are disappointed because this team was like having 12-15 big brothers. But on the other side, they’ll be excited because I’ll be around a little bit more and have the chance to watch and coach them on their teams..
“My parents, Paul and Mary Lee Muniz, and my in-laws, Fred and Linda Kaspar, never missed a game. I have been so fortunate to have so much support.’
A 1993 graduate of Collinsville High School, Muniz was a member of several strong Kahoks teams under coach Bob Bone. Then, after graduating from the University of Iowa, Muniz served as an assistant under Bone for five years. He moved onto Belleville West where he was an assistant for Bill Schmidt.
“Those were two contrasting style coaches. Both were tremendous mentors for me and taught me a lot about coaching. I have had many mentors,’’ Muniz said. “People and coaches like Jesse (Swift) and Roger Mueller. Having Roger on the bench for the past 15 years has been a tremendous. help. The man is a legend.”
But Muniz goes out on top with 20-win seasons each of the last three years. Led by high school All-American EJ Liddell, the Maroons have been one of the elite high school basketball programs in the nation, appearing often on the MaxPreps/USA Today Top 10.
After finishing 20-9 during the 2016-17 season, the Maroons made history a year ago when they won the first state championship in school history in completing a 34-4 record. Taking on perennial state power Chicago Whitney Young in the title game, the Maroons prevailed 60-56 in overtime, icing the win with a steal and basket by Lawrence Brazil III in the closing seconds.
West got inspired play from their seniors, including Liddell, Brazil, Jaylin Mosby, Keith Randolph Jr. and Will Shumpert as they knocked off Chicago Curie in the state semifinals, then rallied to beat Evanston 71-59 in the state title game at the Peoria Civic Center.
“These last two years and this group of kids have been very special. But every year has been special. The group of kids we had my first year was special. Those kids worked their tails off too,’’ Muniz said. “Every year though it was about the kids. Every year it was like I had 12-15 new sons. They were and are family to us.’’
Belleville West athletic director Lee Meyer said Thursday that he hopes to have a new coach named later this month.