October 31, 2013
By Mark Janssen
Kevin Muff chuckles a bit, but also has a tone of seriousness when he says, "We are playing two Big 12 Conference championship teams in a four-day span. What a great opportunity."
Muff is the head basketball coach of the Pittsburg State University team that will help Kansas State open its 2013-14 basketball year Friday in an 8 p.m., exhibition game in Bramlage Coliseum. Earlier this week the Gorillas played at the University of Kansas in a 97-57 Jayhawk victory.
Yup, it's quite a challenging week for Muff's Division II team from the MIAA Conference, but as he said going into the week, "We hope to be competitive which will allow them (Jayhawks and Wildcats) to get as much out of it as we do. It's our chance to go against the best in the country - co-Big 12 Champions last year - and play in two great atmospheres.
"Coach (Bruce) Weber is providing us a great opportunity, first to play his quality team, but also help our school's budget," said Muff. "Both Coach (Bill) Self and Coach Weber have extended us a great opportunity. Now it's our responsibility to give them a game that will make them a better team."
Muff's coaching travels in the Sunflower State have taken him to K-State as a student assistant for Lon Kruger in 1986-87, Atwood and Wamego High Schools, Pitt State as an assistant and for 12 years as head coach at Cloud County Community College where he averaged 21 wins prior to being named the Gorillas' head coach.
Now in his fourth season at Pitt State, Muff's record is 48-37, with last year's 18-10 mark his best season.
Of his days as a Wildcat, the 49-year-old Muff said, "It was a no-brainer to come to Kansas State. I grew up as a K-State fan, so when the opportunity came it was easy to jump."
He added, "My fondest memories were playing for Coach (Jack) Hartman and being a part of that tradition. Like Coach (Bill) Snyder has done now with football, we had that great fan base and such tremendous support. There's nothing like the Wildcat Nation of fans. They're not arrogant like you see at some places, but the fans are so prideful."
In all honesty, Muff was at K-State in some trying years.
As a junior in 1984-85, Hartman suffered an illness that sidelined him for the final half of the year. As a senior, it was known early in the year that it would be Hartman's last season.
"Those were tough times," said Muff, who had career averages of 1.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 41 games. "The heart attack happened so sudden and we had to adjust to not having him around. He was our legend.
"What I remember about his last year was the respect that was demonstrated in every Big 8 arena that we played in," said Muff. "The one I remember most was Missouri, but at every stop the schools and fans were so respectful for what he had done at Kansas State."
As for what Muff uses today that he learned from Hartman 20-plus years ago, he said, "While the X's and O's have changed dramatically, what I carried over was that toughness factor. Coach wasn't a yeller or screamer, but when he spoke you listened to every word. With coach, we knew we had a chance to win, and teams knew that we would be prepared."
Reflecting on his playing days, Muff said his most favorite place to go play was Missouri.
"The 'Antlers' (MU's student fan base) were ruthless, but also motivational for an opposing team. Playing at Kansas was special, and so was the Big 8 Tournament."
And the most amazing player he ever faced?
"That's easy... Wayman Tisdale," said Muff in reference to the Oklahoma All-American. "He was so big, yet so skilled. I thought I was pretty physical, but he was something special. He would pound you inside, but could step outside and kill you with that left-hand jumper."
While almost every Division II coach has dreams of reaching a league like the Big 12 Conference, Muff says, "If this is my final coaching stop, I'll be just fine with that. We have such a great administration with President (Steve) Scott and Jim Johnson as our athletics director. Their vision is just tremendous as is shown with around $60 million in new construction going on, which also speaks of our tremendous fan support."
Muff, and his wife Kim, had three daughters in Alex, Skyler and Taylor.
Alex was a four-year letterwinner for the K-State volleyball team from 2008 through 2011, and is now finishing her athletic career playing basketball for Pittsburg State University.
"She absolutely loved her years at K-State, but it sure has been neat having her around here and seeing her adjust back to that physical nature of a basketball mode," said Muff.