Although waiting for a new coach to be hired was a challenge, freshman forward Treg Setty said he pulled together with his teammates and got through all of the speculation and questions about their own futures as Salukis.
“I’ve played basketball my whole life. I’ve never not had a coach,” Setty said. “This was the first time I just didn’t have anyone to answer to.”
The players were informed Barry Hinson would be the new Saluki men’s basketball coach in a meeting Wednesday shortly before the 3:30 p.m. press conference, and their reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“Coming from what we had to (Hinson), it’s something new and everybody likes it,” said freshman forward Dantiel Daniels. “I’m excited about it, and I hope everyone else is, too.”
Daniels said there were immediate differences between Hinson and former coach Chris Lowery, who was fired March 2.
“(Hinson is) a great communicator, and I think coach Lowery, he lacked some areas in that,” Daniels said. “You can read (Hinson) just how he is. If he’s angry, you’re going to know he’s angry … Sometimes with coach Lowery, you didn’t know if he was happy, sad or anything.”
Athletic Director Mario Moccia said Hinson’s strength in communication was one of the top reasons why the athletic department hired him, along with his ability to connect with the community, his track record of winning on the court and his focus on academics.
Hinson said he even reached out to former players Mamadou Seck and Justin Bocot to make sure they were still focused on leaving SIU with a degree. Seck said he liked Hinson, who has a strong background in the Missouri Valley Conference after coaching at Missouri State from 1999 to 2008.
Freshman forward Harry Whitt said Hinson plans to push them in the weight room as well as the classroom.
“He said he wanted us to be so sore that we can’t lift our hand to shake somebody’s hand,” Whitt said. “I think he’s exactly what we need.”
Hinson said he plans to run the same kind of offensive sets that Kansas runs, which Whitt said might take a little while to get used to.
“We’ll have plenty of time to adjust to him, and not too many kids have been in (Lowery’s) system for too long,” Whitt said. “I think it’s going to be hard for the first month, but we’ll see. I think he’ll get us straight, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to be running a lot.”
After Lowery was let go March 2, several players said they wanted to wait and see who the new coach was before they made a decision about staying with the program.
“There may be a few people (who) leave, but that’s just what happens,” Setty said. “I promise that the corps, and the freshman, we’ll be here. We came here for a reason, and we’re not going to leave for something small.”
Setty said he had to sit down with his family before deciding on his future, but he’ll definitely be back with the Salukis next season. The only player who said anything to the contrary was Daniels, but he said his comeback was probable.
Another Saluki who might return is Tony Young, former Saluki guard and current director of basketball operation at Saint Louis. Hinson said he hasn’t put any thought into how his coaching staff will look, but he said Young contacted him Tuesday through email.
“(Young) said ‘I don’t know if you remember me,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, you were a pain in my butt,” Hinson said.
Young played against Hinson’s Missouri State teams with SIU from 2003 to 2007.
“Everytime we played Missouri State, I knew it was going to be a battle. Bottom line, it was going to be a fight,” Young said. “Matter of fact, there were a couple fights that I can remember. But coach Hinson’s an amazing coach.”
Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus said during an appearance on a St. Louis radio show that Young would make a great coach at SIU, but Young said it was just jokes and speculation between him and Majerus.
“I’m at Saint Louis right now, but everybody knows how I feel about (SIU),” Young said. “If I did have an opportunity (to be an assistant for Hinson), it’d be great. I’d love it … I would love to be here.”