STEVENS POINT, Wis. – Minnesota’s Phill Drobnick (Duluth) and Tim Muller (Hibbing) have been selected as 2009 Coach of the Year and Developmental Coach of the Year, respectively, by USA Curling’s Coaching Committee.
Drobnick, selected earlier this year to coach the men’s 2010 Olympic curling team, is the first back-to-back recipient of the Coach of the Year award having won in 2008. Drobnick, 28, had a busy season coaching the Chris Plys junior team as well as Aileen Sormunen’s women’s team. With the Plys rink, he assisted the team in capturing the state and national title – the fourth in a row for Plys. The team would go on to win bronze at the 2009 World Junior Championships. The Plys rink, which included Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Aanders Brorson (Duluth), Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.) and Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), also qualified for the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling, making Plys the youngest skip in the field at age 21. He pulled double duty at the Olympic Trials, as Sormunen’s team also qualified. Earlier in the season he traveled with both teams on the World Curling Tour in preparation for playdowns.
“I am honored to be named coach of the year again. There are a lot of deserving coaches out there who put a lot of coaching into their teams who also deserve this award,” said Drobnick, who last year led the Plys rink to the first world junior men’s title for the U.S. since 1984.
“The award factors more into what we did last year. It was a long year and they put a lot of work into it. We played two out of every three weekends…I probably over-trained them a bit,” he said. “They played from January through the middle of March at a high level of competition, which is tough for any team to do. The way the guys handled it and the hard work they put into it was capped off with a bronze…it was quite an accomplishment for them.”
Drobnick works as a probation officer with St. Louis County in Minnesota. He’s had a busy summer working with the men’s Olympic team, which includes Plys as the alternate, at seven high performance training camps. The team is currently competing in Switzerland.
“I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season with the men’s Olympic team. They’ve been working hard all summer to prepare for Vancouver,” Drobnick said.
Muller coached the Minnesota team of Aaron Wald (Hibbing), Josh Bahr (Bemidji, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing) and John Muller (Hibbing) to a runner-up finish to the Plys rink at the 2009 U.S. Junior National Championships. This was the team’s third appearance at Junior Nationals with Muller as coach. The team has showed steady improvement in those three years improving on fifth- and sixth-place finishes with the silver this season. The team also competed in the qualifying round of the 2010 Olympic Trials but did not advance to the next round.
“First of all, they are a great bunch of kids to be around. They have worked hard. We have made some changes over the last three years, some easy and some difficult. I have received a lot of satisfaction watching them mature into the young men they are today, both on and off the ice,” Muller said. “I also could not ask for a better group of parents to have at my side. My wife, Chris, and the other parents put in a lot of work behind the scenes that help make this team successful. We have received a great deal of support from our local businesses and community, both curlers and non-curlers alike. Paul Vendetti and the Hibbing Curling Club membership have been there whenever we needed help.”
This is the first time Muller has been honored as USA Curling’s Developmental Coach of the Year. “This is certainly a great honor. Just to be included in this list along with those who have already received it, is special,” he said. “When you look at the current group of elite athletes competing today, as some of them turn their talents and experience to coaching, it will be exciting to see the names on this list in the future.”
Muller is employed with L&M Radiator, Inc., in Hibbing, Minn., as the company’s network administrator for all the plants in North America. He also is employed by Hibbing High School as the assistant coach for the boys junior varsity team. A native of Hibbing, he began curling in seventh grade.
The U.S. Curling Association is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, Nike and bitRail.