ACCOMPLISHED COACH RETURNING TO FREEMAN
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
A member of the 1975 Freeman High School boys basketball state championship team and a highly successful coach from West Central will be on the sidelines once again, this time as the assistant girls basketball coach with the Freeman Flyers.
Kent Mueller has been hired by the district to work alongside second-year head coach Jenny Peters starting with the 2022-23 basketball season; his contract was to be formally approved by the Freeman School Board at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday night, Aug. 10.
“I am all in on this,” said Mueller, whose late father, Bruce, was a standout athlete and coach at Freeman Junior College and Academy (1966-1973) and whose son, Josh, scored 2,563 points with West Central (Class of 2001) and became the second-leading scorer in the history of the University of South Dakota with 1,991 points. “I hope what I have to share will be beneficial, and I believe it will be.
“I’m so excited.”
Mueller got a look at the team this past summer through Tri-State Ambush Basketball, a youth summer program run by his son, Josh, and Garrett Callahan — something he has helped with since leaving West Central in 2019. “Working with the girls this summer, there was something that intrigued me,” he said. “There was something there that grabbed me a little bit, and once it got a hold of me, and when I had the opportunity (to be the assistant), I realized this was maybe meant to be.
“It’s not like I haven’t had other opportunities, but I felt the call,” said Mueller, who replaces Chris Maske, who stepped down this summer as the team’s assistant. “I can’t tell you why; this just felt right.”
Mueller attended Freeman Academy until his junior year, when he transferred to play football with Yankton before enrolling at Freeman Public the second semester of the 1974-75 term — the year the Flyers won their only basketball title in school history.
“I was the original open enrollment baby,” he said.
Mueller remained at Freeman Public his senior year and then enrolled at Dakota Wesleyan, where he played three seasons on the gridiron, and then played his fourth year of collegiate football at USD, from where he graduated in 1984.
Mueller went on to coach at Edgemont and then O’Gorman before in 1990 starting a nearly three-decade career at West Central, where he won 12 state football championships — including six in a row — and was also the head coach on the Trojans’ state boys basketball championship teams of 2000 and 2001.
He is believed to be the only coach in South Dakota history to win back-to-back state championships in two sports, and also the only person to have both played on and coached an undefeated boys basketball team — the Flyers of 1974-75 (27-0) and the Trojans of 2000 (25-0).
But in 40 years of coaching, while Mueller has worked with girls through Ambush during the offseason, he has never officially been on staff with a girls program — until now.
“That’s what’s really interesting about this,” he said, noting that his dad, Bruce, pitched in to help out with the girls basketball program at Freeman Public after leaving Freeman Junior College and Academy in the late 1970s.
“How ironic. And here I am.”
And Mueller said he’s looking forward to plugging into a program that looks to be strong.
“I look at myself as a facilitator; coach Peters has done a remarkable job based on what I’ve seen this summer,” he said. “What I bring is 40 years of experience as coach and the time I spent as a player.
“I see myself as someone who has had some experiences that maybe not everybody has had, and now I have the opportunity to share some of those experiences with others.”
The fact that he gets to do it at his alma mater makes it that much sweeter.
“You can’t take Freeman out of you — and least I can’t,” said Mueller. “Why would you?”
As for Peters, she couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m really excited to have him joining our team,” she said. “It’s going to be a great year; he and I have big goals for the girls.”