Boys Basketball

Muniz brothers to meet for first time as head coaches

Belleville West head basketball coach Brian Muniz will go head-to-head with his brother Brian, when the Maroons take on the O’Fallon Panthers Tuesday. They are believed to be the first brothers to lead teams against each other in Southwestern Conference play.
Belleville West head basketball coach Brian Muniz will go head-to-head with his brother Brian, when the Maroons take on the O’Fallon Panthers Tuesday. They are believed to be the first brothers to lead teams against each other in Southwestern Conference play. Zia Nizami

Joe and Brian Muniz anticipate Tuesday being like any other Southwestern Conference boys basketball game.

However, that might prove not to be the case when the brothers match strategy for the first time as head coaches, Joe at Belleville West and Brian at O’Fallon. It is believed to be the first time brothers have opposed one another in an SWC game.

Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. in O’Fallon.

Lee and Layne Bennett coached against one another on Feb. 9, 2008, when Lee’s Centralia Orphans defeated Layne’s Alton Redbirds 48-39 at Alton High. That, however, was a nonconference game. Centralia is in the South Seven Conference, Alton in the SWC.

“I know it’s going to be Belleville West vs. O’Fallon,” said Joe Muniz, in his 13th season guiding the Maroons. “I normally don’t pay attention to the other coach. You’re enthralled in the game, and to be perfectly honest, you’re focused on your team and the court and everything that’s (happening) on the court. Really, nothing else.

“But I do have a really good relationship with the other coach. You know how hard he’s worked at it and you want to see him be successful. At the same time, you want your team to be successful. It will be probably mixed emotions. The bottom line is you hope both teams compete well, and whatever happens, happens.”

Joe and Brian both graduated from Collinsville High, Joe in 1993 and Brian in 1995. Joe, 41, has opposed Brian, 39, for the last 11 years when Brian was an assistant at O’Fallon.

The two previously coached against one another at the freshman level in baseball, Joe at Collinsville and Brian at Oakville, Mo. But a freshman baseball game on a cold, cloudy day in March or April might attract 30 fans, most of them related to the players. The lights are brighter and the interest level is higher for varsity basketball.

Still, Brian Muniz said, coaching is coaching.

“For me, it won’t be much different because I’ve been doing this for 11 years, watching (Joe) on the other sideline,” said Brian, who also has coached golf. “It’s not much different than what’s been happening the last 24 or 25 times in that span. It’s us trying to beat West.

“It does (feel different) a little bit, but you’re still trying to get your team to win. The losses don’t feel that much different now that I’m a head coach. The only difference is you feel a little more responsible because you’re making the final decisions. ... I don’t think I’ll be nervous. I want our guys to be able to get out there and compete and have a chance to win.”

Joe said O’Fallon, which is 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the SWC, is a microcosm of Brian.

“Brian is a fighter,” said Joe, whose team is 4-3 and 2-2. “We have different personalities, but I look at his team and he’s got his whole team buying in. They’re playing their tails off for him. Those kids are really sacrificing themselves for the team and playing hard. That’s why they’ve been successful.”

SWC Commissioner Bill Schmidt, the former coach at West, is looking forward to the game.

“It’s a unique thing,” he said. “It’s special for the Muniz family. It’s one of those sports oddities that occurs every once in a while. It adds a piece of intrigue and a little bit of spice to what’s going to be a good basketball game. I wouldn’t want to be Joe or Brian.”

Or their parents. Paul and Mary Lee Muniz might be the most subdued viewers at the game.

Both Paul and Mary Lee were able to celebrate Dec. 3 in the first “SWC at The E,” a four-game extravaganza involving all eight SWC teams at Vadalabene Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. That day, the parents were beaming as O’Fallon defeated Collinsville 61-51 and Belleville West upset Edwardsville 59-53.

“I don’t know how they’re going to handle it,” Joe said. “I’m sure there will be mixed emotions. I think they just want to see a good game. They’re very supportive parents and have always been there. We haven’t really talked about this a whole lot.

“I’m sure my mom is pretty nervous. I know Brian’s kids (one son, one daughter) and my kids (two daughters) are more excited about the pizza party we’re having after the game at Brian’s house.”

Paul and Mary Lee Muniz also have another son, Jeff, 37, who lives in Morton.

Brian Muniz said his parents have been questioned about how they will balance their allegiances between O’Fallon and West.

“I think they want both teams to play well and whoever comes out on top, comes out on top,” Brian said. “It’s a no-win, no-lose situation for them. I think they want a good game. The may be clapping and applauding, but they’ll be doing it for both teams.”

Overtime pays

The Triad Knights are on the way to their first winning season since 2011-12, but things haven’t come easily of late.

The Knights, under first-year coach Josh Hunt, improved to 6-2 with overtime victories at home over Waterloo on Dec. 9 (61-56) and Carlyle on Dec. 13 (53-49).

Triad, which plays host to Wesclin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, is led by 5-10 senior Noah Moss and 6-2 junior Beau Barbour. Moss averages 16.5 points and 2.8 assists, while Barbour averages 9.6 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds.

Moss scored a game-high 24 points in the victory over Waterloo. In the win over Carlyle, Barbour grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

Moss has 1,433 career points to rank third on Triad’s all-time list.

Rescheduled

Most games were postponed Friday and Saturday by the wintry weather conditions. Rescheduled dates have begun to trickle in.

They include: Edwardsville at Granite City, 7:30 p.m. Thursday; Quincy Notre Dame at Mater Dei, 7 p.m. Thursday; Columbia at Freeburg, 7:30 p.m. Friday; Alton at Collinsville, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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