Northern Illinois Men’s Basketball Staff Update

Northern Illinois University men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno has finalized his first staff as Steve Christiansen, Drew Gladstone and Branden McDonald will serve as assistant coaches and Matt Fleming will work as NIU’s Director of Basketball Operations. In addition, Devyn Baranauskas has joined the program as a graduate manager. 

“I believe we have put together a very effective staff to have success here at NIU,” said Burno. “We have guys that know what success looks like and can show our student athletes what it takes on a daily basis to be successful.”

Gladstone spent the last four seasons with the Indiana men’s basketball program, the last two as a Team and Recruitment Analyst. In that role, Gladstone assisted with the organization of recruiting, opponent scouting and other day-to-day operations of the Hoosier program, helping IU to a 20-win season in 2019-20. 

“I am extremely excited to join Coach Burno’s staff and become a part of the NIU Community,” said Gladstone. “Coach Burno is at the top of my list of people who I respect in this business, and I truly believe in his vision and plan for this program.”

Prior to his time at Indiana, Gladstone spent three seasons (2014-17) as head coach at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Conn., leading his team to a 64-12 overall record along with two Fairchester League Championships, two New England Championships and he was twice named New England Class C Coach of the Year. 

“Drew brings great experience from multiple levels of basketball,” said Burno. “We will benefit greatly from his background in player development and as a prep school head coach. His knowledge and passion for the game are unmatched and he will be an integral part of all facets of the program.”

A 2009 graduate of DePaul, where he played for Jerry Wainwright, Gladstone was a special assistant at Manhattan College in 2011-12, helping the program reach the postseason for the first time in six years. 

Christiansen returns to NIU after spending 17 seasons as the head coach at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., where he amassed over 400 victories. During his time at Triton, Christiansen guided the Trojans to 10 N4C Conference Championships and six Region IV crowns as well as the 2018 NJCAA Division II National Championship. 

“We are really excited to have Steve as a part of the program,” said Burno. “His 17 years of experience as a national championship winning head coach and knowledge of the area will greatly help the program as a whole.”

After winning the national title in 2018, Christiansen was named to the NJCAA Division II National Championship Coach of the Tournament, NABC Junior College Coach of the Year and Spalding NJCAA Coach of the Year. In addition, Christiansen is a five-time District Three Coach of the Year, Region IV Coach of the Year and IBCA Junior College Coach of the Year, earning each of those honors in 2006, ’11, ’16, ’18 and ’19. 

“It is fantastic to return to a place that I have known well my entire life,” said Christiansen. “Northern is where I first witnessed a college basketball game and many years later began my collegiate coaching career. I am so thankful for the opportunity Coach Burno presented me and am equally as motivated to help him and the rest of this staff in taking the Huskies to the top of the MAC and beyond.”

A native of Hinckley, Ill., Christiansen returns to NIU after working as the Huskies Director of Basketball Operations for three seasons (2001-04) prior to taking over at Triton. 

McDonald comes to NIU following four seasons at Towson, where he helped the Tigers to an 18-win season in 2017-18 and a 19-win campaign in 2019-20. During the 2019-20 season, McDonald helped mentor five Tigers that were named to the All-CAA Team, the most of any school in the conference, as Towson finished third in the conference. 

“Branden is a huge addition to our program,” said Burno. “His understanding of the game and passion for helping student athletes is as good as I’ve seen. With his connections to top AAU programs in the country, he will broaden our recruiting landscape to a national level and help us get NIU Basketball to the next level.”

In his first season in 2017-18, McDonald helped the Tigers to a 10-1 start, the best during its Division I history, as they received votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the second time in program history and climbed as high as fourth in the Mid-Major Top 25. 

“”I am extremely excited to get to work with everyone at NIU,” said McDonald. “I believe this is a great opportunity to build a top tier program. Coach Burno has everything in place to turn this into something special.”

Prior to his time at Towson, McDonald spent two seasons at Manhattan working under Steve Masiello. McDonald began his collegiate coaching tenure as a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh after coaching at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md. and with the Team Takeover AAU program. McDonald played collegiately at Virginia Union University. 

Fleming joins the Huskies after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the men’s basketball staff at DePaul. Having joined the Blue Demons prior to the 2011-12 season as video coordinator, Fleming moved into the special assistant to the head coach position before the 2016-17 campaign.

“Matt will be a huge part of our success here at NIU,” said Burno. “He has great experience throughout his career and knows how a college basketball program should operate successfully.”

Prior to his time at DePaul, Fleming spent two years at VCU, beginning in 2009-10 as an assistant video coordinator. The following season, Fleming was promoted to video coordinator and helped the Rams reach the 2011 Final Four. VCU posted wins over USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas before falling to Butler in the national semifinals. 

“I’m very excited to be in the beginning stages of building something great at NIU,” said Fleming. “I know Coach Burno will take this program to new heights and I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of it.”

Fleming attended North Carolina, where he was a manager for the women’s basketball program from 2005-07 before becoming the video coordinator for the Tar Heels in 2007. 

Baranauskas has experience working two different stints in the Chinese Basketball Association, in addition to time as Director of Player Development at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Callif.

“Devyn is a young man with a great passion for the game of basketball,” said Burno. “His experience overseas and commitment to grow in the game of basketball is very attractive in a graduate assistant. He will have a great career and we are lucky to have him.”

As a player, Baranauskas began his collegiate career at Lyndon State for two seasons before finishing his career at Warner University in Lake Wales, Fla.

“I’m thankful and excited for the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree and to join Coach Burno and his staff,” said Baranauskas. “I’m looking forward to embracing the challenge of changing the culture and program at NIU.”

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