John Klein: Barry Hinson back where he belongs as a college basketball head coach
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
4/04/12 at 4:31 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Hinson is back where he belongs as a head coach
Barry Hinson loved his job with Kansas basketball.
"Every morning when I came to work I walked past a picture of the guy that invented the sport I coach," said Hinson. "I worked for a head coach that is not only a good friend, but I believe the best coach in the sport. And, I was a part of the best college basketball program in the country.
"Am I a lucky guy or what?"
Hinson, former coach at Bishop Kelley High School and Oral Roberts, is getting another chance as a head coach. He was recently named coach at Southern Illinois, a high-level program with expectations to match.
"I am now 50 years old and I didn't know if I would ever get the chance to be a head coach again," said Hinson. "I had opportunities, but Coach (Eddie) Sutton once told me you want to be at a school where you are consistently in the top half of the league and with a good chance to win the league. That's Southern Illinois.
"I didn't know if it was possible for me to get the job. But the folks there believed in me and now I'll do everything I can to repay them for that belief."
Hinson, after four years with his old buddy Bill Self at Kansas, was already working to get his staff and recruits finalized on Tuesday morning, just hours after Kansas lost to Kentucky in the national championship game.
Anyone who knows Hinson knows there is no limit to his energy and enthusiasm.
He'll bring an infectious personality that has won him endless friends throughout college basketball.
He may be one of the few head coaches in college basketball who is nearly as popular among rivals in his league as he is at the school he is coaching.
How else do you explain Hinson being fired at Missouri State four years ago and now landing a job at a better program with more tradition within the same conference?
"Hey, I know I'm lucky. I say that all of the time," said Hinson. "I can't tell you how excited I am to get this opportunity.
"It is not my right to get a second chance to be a head coach. It is a privilege. And, you know me, no one is going to work harder to make the folks at Southern Illinois happy that they took a chance with me."
Hinson is one of those guys who has worked his way up the coaching ladder. No silver spoon for Hinson.
This is a guy who started his coaching career at Stillwater Junior High.
He turned Bishop Kelley into a state tournament program before getting his shot at college coaching.
Self, keeping a promise to Hinson to hire him if he ever got a head coaching job, hired Hinson as the top assistant at ORU.
When Self moved across town to Tulsa, Hinson was elevated to head coach at ORU. After two good seasons, including two ties for the Mid-Continent Conference title, Missouri State hired Hinson.
Hinson was successful at Missouri State but lost his job because the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee passed over the Bears three times when they deserved to be in the tournament. The 2006 Bears were left out despite an RPI of 21. Missouri State went to the NIT four times.
"I'm sure that will be an interesting trip when I return to Springfield next year with our team," said Hinson.
Hinson is back in the Missouri Valley Conference, a league he has often said he loves. The Valley is a basketball league. Pure and simple. A handful of teams in that league routinely play before sellouts.
The Valley postseason tournament is perhaps the most successful in college basketball.
Hinson was a favorite among all of the schools in the league.
"I have said many times how much I love the Missouri Valley Conference because it is all about basketball," said Hinson. "People in that league absolutely love college basketball. They live and die with their basketball teams. There is an incredible passion for the sport in that league.
"The Valley is the best mid-major league in the country and I think one of the best in all of college basketball. People really care about the sport in that league. I am thrilled to be back in that league at a great basketball school."
Most believe Hinson will be a home run hire for Southern Illinois.
However, the Salukis do have high expectations. They won six straight Missouri Valley titles from 2002-2007.
Hinson beat Southern Illinois 10 times during his nine seasons at Missouri State.
"Everybody knows everybody in the Missouri Valley Conference," said Hinson. "It is one of those leagues where after the game you may go out to eat with the opposing coach. You talk with fans from the other schools.
"You always want to be around people that really care about basketball. Well, the folks in the Missouri Valley Conference really care about my sport."
So, Hinson woke up on Tuesday morning, just hours after the Jayhawks played for the national title, and started making a list for his day.
"I've got a long day ahead," said Hinson. "Is that great or what? I can't wait."