One might think five transfers in the last 23 days would represent the darkest hours for Saluki basketball under Barry Hinson.
To the contrary, Monday’s announcements of the transfers of freshmen Jordan Caroline and Deion Lavender — and the press conference that followed — did the opposite.
Instead of a dark cloud, Monday provided light exposing real, tangible problems for Southern Illinois’ men’s basketball program.
Hinson can talk about a society that wants instant gratification. He can complain about not being immune to the transfer epidemic that has featured 1,200 such occurrences over the last two years.
In fact, he did just that, taking it upon himself to call a press conference, neglecting the wishes of higher-ups in the department who suggested he didn’t. Consider it the latest move that left SIU administrators upset with Hinson, according to a source.
You can read the entire transcript here.
SIU is in murky waters as it attempts to convince players to stay on a sinking ship, while also luring recruits with the promise that better days are ahead.
That is a tough sell considering Hinson has lost a total of 7 of the 19 players he has recruited to Carbondale. And we can’t forget about players who he inherited that left such as Treg Setty, Dantiel Daniels and Harry Whitt.
And we really can’t forget about Bobo Drummond, who Hinson had lined up to be his point guard from Day 1.
Drummond was a virtual lock to be in the fold. The signing was supposed to be the first step in repairing the school’s relationship with the Illinois Wolves AAU squad, led by Mike Mullins, the father of former SIU star PG Bryan Mullins. Hinson has never seen eye-to-eye with Mullins, but keeping Drummond was supposed to be an olive branch of good faith. So much so, Hinson referenced him in his opening press conference, only to not follow up with Drummond in the recruiting process. The lack of communication led to Drummond’s de-commitment.
Hinson also botched the recruitment of Gallatin County’s Andrew Drone, a large 6-10 regional kid who ended up at Rice. Needless to say, Hinson got off on the wrong foot early in his tenure and has had a few missteps along the way.
Barry Hinson wants you to know that you’re stuck with him, whether you like it or not.
“[T]hey are going to have to put up with me for at least three more years because I have a contract,” Hinson said in a press conference Monday afternoon, when asked about calls for his job.
Hinson signed a five-year deal to replace Chris Lowery in 2012 But after flirting with Texas Tech in 2013 and Tulsa in 2014, SIU AD Mario Moccia added a sixth year to his contract with an undisclosed raise believed to be in the $400,000 range to keep Hinson in Carbondale.
A Southern Illinoisan report references a $100,000 buyout that was tied to his original five-year deal. However, when asked about the nature of the buyout, three different sources couldn’t come to an agreement on whether or not the buyout was strictly if Hinson was to initiate termination of the contract or if the university was to do so.
But that’s just the beginning. A source Monday said Hinson’s contract has more terminology that is deemed more friendly for SIU in the event it wasn’t happy with how things went with their new coach.
That would line up with this 2012 report by Joe Ragusa from the Daily Egyptian. The following graph stands out:
[Associate AD Mark] Scally said Hinson’s contract has more specific language in it for academics and player retention, which were problems during Lowery’s tenure. Player recruiting and retention is specifically described as a responsibility for Hinson, while only recruiting is listed in Lowery’s.
(Aside: Bold portion per editor.)
A source suggested SIU administrators could see five transfers in 23 days as grounds for firing Hinson with cause, citing the portion of the agreement that discusses player retention. However, it is unknown as of this time whether or not that specific language was changed when Hinson was given his extension.
In any case, SIU does not have an athletic director with the power to make a move like that at this time. And that’s unfortunate. SIU hopes to have a new AD in place in May.
There are several strong candidates who have applied for the position, though the best candidate might be on Southern’s own search committee.
Track and field head coach Connie Price-Smith is the most resourceful coach on campus and was one of the smartest people I covered while writing about Saluki athletics. Despite a tight budget and a notably tough schedule, Price-Smith’s teams are nationally competitive and always ahead of the curve on and off the track. It’s that type of balance and knowledge that SIU needs in its AD chair. Unfortunately, that’s just a pipe dream. It’s a shame, too, considering how highly she is thought of in the community.
As for SIU’s former AD, he accepted the same position at his alma mater (New Mexico State) this past fall. Luckily for him, he doesn’t find himself fielding questions about the department’s shortcoming, Hinson’s future and his own future. And maybe he should, any way, considering how things have continued to go south even after Lowery’s dismissal.
It is no secret that Hinson wasn’t SIU’s first choice to replace Lowery. But after Bruce Weber turned down Southern’s offer, the finalist list included Dan Muller (currently at Illinois State), Ray Giacoletti (Drake) and Greg Gard (currently an assistant at Wisconsin).
Hinson was a long shot when the process began. He had Missouri Valley Conference ties, but had not coached after being fired at Missouri State in 2009. Hinson did well with recruits left behind by Bill Self at Oral Roberts and Steve Alford at Missouri State, but never made a NCAA Tournament. In the end, Hinson laid down just enough charm to essentially sweet talk his way into back into the head coaching ranks.
Hinson was a beloved personality in Springfield, Mo., though, that hasn’t necessarily been the case in Carbondale. Attendance and interest dropped this season, as did the team’s record. Last year’s rant at Murray State was polarizing, as it was seen as energizing to some and off-putting to others.
While making interview rounds after The Rant, Hinson said parents had contacted him with support, saying they would want their kids to play for Hinson. If he is as wise as he is made out to be, he would be on the line with those parents right now asking about their child’s eligibility.
Drama with the basketball team has put the football team’s issues into a different perspective.
Even though the Salukis haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, they have been in contention enough to keep head coach Dale Lennon off the hot seat.
The state of SIU football reminds me of an old Mayor Richard J. Daley quote: “Don’t make no waves, don’t back no losers.” It’s a political ideology and formula Daley followed to success. And Lennon is doing the same in Carbondale.
Unlike his basketball counterpart, Lennon keeps a low profile, as have his student athletes. Lennon’s teams do not have a lengthy history of bad behavior or mass transfers. It’s a low bar, but Lennon has given the Salukis a puncher’s chance. And while that isn’t good enough for a team that made the playoffs seven straight years, things could be a lot worse.
We would be remiss if we didn’t note the spiral began with the last three years of Chris Lowery’s reign in Carbondale, which was littered with off-the-court issues, mass transfers and JUCO busts.
With the benefit of hindsight, I would venture to say it’s a shame Lowery didn’t get started on a full-scale rebuild until it was too little, too late. The recruitment and development of Setty, Daniels and Drummond could’ve been decent building blocks with Desmar Jackson transferring in from Wyoming to provide additional scoring punch.
Truth be told, after the mass exodus that saw Kevin Dillard and Anthony Booker leave town, someone should’ve sat Lowery down and given him a pep talk. Something along the lines of: “We need a fresh start. We need to get back to our identity and what made us successful. We need to recruit high school seniors and build them up. No relying on junior college transfers. It’s going to take some time, but you have our support in this full-scale rebuild.”
Lowery could’ve easily pointed to players like Jamaal Tatum, Tony Young and Randal Falker as players who benefited from redshirting and hard work to become stars in Carbondale.
To be honest, that is the kind of talk SIU needs to have with Hinson right now. But we might be too far down past that road to do so.
While it took a certain amount of gumption to face the press after announcing two of your players with the highest upside were departing, it does not take away from the fact that Coach Hinson has a self-made mess on his hands and is a long way from cleaning it up.