WCIA — Mike LaTulip is making coaching look pretty easy.
The former Illini walk-on won his debut on the sidelines Saturday night, with his House of ‘Paign team taking down War Tampa 76-53 in the first round of The Basketball Tournament. LaTulip is the general manager and head coach of the team featuring five Illinois alumni players. He handpicked the team that includes Mike Daum, the NCAA’s seventh all-time leading scorer, who played at South Dakota State.
“Obviously when we put together the team we had a template and a criteria in place, and we thought if we did that we’d have guys that like being around each other,” LaTulip said. “Guys that when they took the court, they would have fun playing basketball, and think when you have fun playing basketball this can be the result.”
That camaraderie was easy to see on the nationally televised opener on ESPN. The players are buying into LaTulip’s approach to the winner take all, $1 million tournament played in Columbus, OH.
“I think Mike’s done a great job putting this all together,” House of ‘Paign forward Michael Finke said. “We really got the right pieces that we needed for this team, every different position from the guys that are Illinois alumni and the guys that went to other schools but really fit the pieces well. That’s what you want in any coach, and Mike has a bright future in that if he wants to do it down the road.”
LaTulip’s next opponent will certainly test his coaching ability. House of ‘Paign plays Carmen’s Crew on Wednesday at 3 p.m. on ESPN in the Round of 16. The Ohio State alumni team won the tournament last year and features former Illini Demetri McCamey.