Brian Muniz has always been at home on the basketball court and in the classroom.
“I love sports and I love teaching,” he said
Named head basketball coach in September at O’Fallon Township High School, Muniz had served as an assistant coach for 11 seasons, including the last three as the junior varsity coach.
He worked with head coach Rick Gibson, whom he knew from his prep days. In 11 years, Gibson compiled a 209-121 record.
Muniz, 39, couldn’t be happier to take over a traditionally strong Panthers program, and he’s grateful for the opportunities at O’Fallon.
“This really is a special place — the culture of the community and the school is so good,” he said.
Muniz also coached baseball and was an assistant golf coach until working exclusively in basketball.
High school hoops are something he has been passionate about since he played for coach Bob Bone in the storied program at Collinsville High School, one of the winningest teams in America. He graduated in 1995.
“Basketball is king in Collinsville. It was a good experience,” he said.
Muniz also lettered in baseball and golf as a Kahok. He then played baseball for another legendary coach, Neil Fiala, at Belleville Area College (now Southwestern Illinois College).
He continued playing at Armstrong Atlanta State University in Savannah, Ga., where he graduated.
Why does he love basketball so much?
“Basketball is a game of action. You have to make split-second decisions, and there is strategy involved. It is definitely not a boring game,” he said.
With his many years’ experience, he was able to assume the top spot easily, but there was an adjustment.
“You’re the decision maker. Before, as an assistant, you have input, and everybody works great together, but you are now in charge — that’s the big difference. I’m enjoying it,” he said.
Two former OTHS standouts, Brad Copelin and Cameron Meyer, are assistant coaches. They played on the 2006 team that reached the Class AA state championship game, losing to Chicago Simeon for the title.
“It’s pretty neat. They came back because they enjoyed their time here. The coaching staff works so well together,” Muniz said. “O’Fallon really is a great place to play. We want to make sure we do what’s best to get the kids to play their best.”
He is excited about this year’s young and scrappy varsity team.
“Last year, we had players move in from different areas, and we were learning about each other. We definitely have made progress,” Muniz said. “Now we’ve spent a whole season and a summer together. We have six seniors and a lot of juniors. It’s a good mix.”
This year, a familiar face will be on the opposite sidelines — his brother Joe, who has been the varsity coach at Belleville West High School for 13 years. They will compete in the Southwestern Conference.
The brothers are very close. Their younger brother, Jeff, lives in Peoria, Ill., and works for Caterpillar.
Sports has always been a major part of his life. His dad was a baseball coach, and his older brother got involved in sports first.
“We were competitive, but we all didn’t fight too much. We were always sport-oriented,” he said.
The brothers enjoy playing golf when they can and family get-togethers are special.
“We play in a few tournaments together, and it’s always a fun time. We all really enjoy being together with the family, all the kids. When we get together, we come early and stay late,” he said.
Both his parents were teachers, now retired, and set an example. His father Paul was a driver’s education and health teacher at Oakville High School and his mother Mary Lee taught Latin at Collinsville High.
“It was their dedication for what they did, never complained about going to school -— they enjoyed it. My mom would be grading vocabulary quizzes at night, and I saw how much they enjoyed what they did,” he said. “They set a good example on how to teach.”
Brian’s wife Julie is a teacher, too — an assistant professor in mathematics at SWIC. They have two children, Mia, 8, and Mason, 3, and live in a part of Caseyville that’s in O’Fallon District 203.
When the children attend games, they are big supporters. When Mia was younger, she would wear a cheerleader’s outfit. Nathan plans to be decked out in coach’s attire.
“He loves to wear a shirt and tie. He has a special tie he wears to church, so he’s going to have a special tie he wears to the games, so he can coach,” Brian said.
Time with his family is important. “We just like being at home. We play around the house. At the stage my son is at, he likes doing anything with a ball,” he said.
In 2001, Muniz began teaching mathematics at Oakville High School, and was there for five years before being hired by O’Fallon. He is now in his 12th year at OTHS.
“I love teaching math. The kids are all different. It’s a special thing when they are not getting something, but then you help them, and they get it. It makes you want to come back every day,” he said.
For this week of Thanksgiving, the holiday break means not only family, but basketball — the Battling Bulldogs Tournament in Highland.
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “My parents.”
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: “Brad Stevens.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell.”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “Golfing and hanging out with my family.”
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: “Semi-messy while I’m teaching and clean before I go home.”
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: “I wanted to be a baseball player, then possibly an accountant. I compromised and became a math teacher who coaches.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “I think I am pretty trustworthy.”
Q: What irritates you most?
A: “People who go through life with a lack of pride and effort.”
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “Christian, country and top 40.”
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: “There is nothing like seeing a student grow from an immature young lost soul into a confident enthusiastic learner.”
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: “Still teaching and coaching.”
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: “Steve Carrell.”
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: “Sweet tea and some type of ball.”
At a glance
- First Southwestern Conference Game: Dec. 3 vs. Collinsville
- First Home Game: Dec 6 vs. Alton
- Centralia Holiday Tournament: Dec. 28, 29, 30
- Kirkwood Tournament: Jan. 10 - 13, 2017
- O’Fallon Shootout: Feb. 4
- Walk of Fame Contest: Feb. 10 vs. Belleville East