New hoops staff members contribute to success

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Saluki men’s basketball is enjoying the second-largest improvement this season in the NCAA, already surpassing last season’s win total with more than a month left to play. Coach Barry Hinson attributes part of that success to his staff and its diverse personalities.

First-year assistant coach Brad Autry and director of basketball operations Justin Walker have helped guide the team to its 18-5 record following a 12-21 record last season.

Autry joined SIU this season after previous stops as an assistant coach at larger basketball programs such as the University of Hawaii, Marquette, Arkansas-Little Rock, Tulsa and Baylor. 


Head coach Barry Hinson, known for an intense 2013 rant at Murray State that quickly went viral, said he loves the passion Autry brings to the program.

“It has been a huge difference,” he said. “If you took the costume off of the Energizer rabbit, I swear that it would be Brad Autry coming out of that pink costume.”

Junior forward Sean O’Brien said Autry’s intensity helps take some pressure Hinson’s shoulders, letting him focus on in-game coaching.

And that energy turns into fun for the team. After every Saluki win, Autry dives onto the locker room floor as the team piles on top of him in celebration.

“It’s pretty fun, really,” junior guard Tyler Smithpeters said of the ritual. “Sometimes he comes in and does it immediately, others he’ll wait a couple minutes then jump out.”

On the other side of the emotional spectrum stands Walker, who is in his first year as director of basketball operations after serving as a graduate assistant in 2014-15.

Walker said he was responsible for NCAA compliance, travel schedules, practice schedules and academic progress.


Although his job is classified as a “non-coaching” position, Walker still has plenty of interaction with the players. He is the one of the youngest members of Hinson’s staff at 27 years old, which makes him just a few years older than some of the players.

“I’m able to relate to them, so I can help them out with any questions they have, whether it’s on-court stuff or off-court stuff,” he said.

O’Brien said the wide variety of coaching styles is a plus.

“Autry has been a huge help, [Terrance] McGee is always helping out with skills, [Anthony] Beane [Sr.] is a little more calm, Walker is a little more laid back … Overall, there’s just a great dynamic,” the Mundelein native said. 

Hinson said he has been elated with his coaches this year, as the team is 7-3 in MVC play and 8-1 on the road.

“I am really proud of my staff,” he said. “They have done a good job and they have had a big difference in the change of this program right now.” 

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3304.