Daily Egyptian

Former Salukis coach against SIU

By Sean Phee, @SeanPheeDE

Some former Saluki men’s basketball players find themselves coaching against their old team.

Previous SIU players Paul Lusk and Bryan Mullins have coaching jobs in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Lusk is head coach of Missouri State and Mullins is the director of basketball operations at Loyola.

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The Salukis defeated Mullins’ Ramblers on Jan. 18, but lost to Lusk’s Bears on Dec. 31.

Lusk played for coach Rich Herrin and was key in the Salukis’ three consecutive conference titles and NCAA appearances from 1993 to 1995. Lusk was named to the All-MVC tournament team in 1995.

After a professional playing career in Argentina that ended in 1999, Lusk became a coach. He was an assistant for many teams, including SIU for one season before earning his current position.

Mullins said he loves SIU, however his main focus is to help another team win the conference title.

“SIU will always be a special place to me,” he said. “For now, I am just worried about trying to beat them when they come to Chicago in February.”

Mullins was a decorated player at SIU, having appeared in three straight NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2007.

He was a two-time MVC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honoree with a 4.0 grade point average.

Mullins said he hopes his on- and off-court knowledge helps him lead Loyola basketball in a winning direction.

He played professionally in France before retiring in 2013. Loyola hired him that same year.

Mullins said he would not be where he is today if he had not been a Saluki.

“I am very grateful to my coaches and all the people at SIU who helped me become a better person in my four years there,” he said.

Mullins praised his former coach Chris Lowery, who also played at SIU from 1990 to 1994, for helping him become the best player he could be.

“Coach Lowery taught me and all my teammates… about mental toughness and how you can accomplish more than you ever thought you could,” he said.

Former Saluki Stetson Hairston does not coach in the Valley, but he does still face his former team as an assistant at Southeast Missouri State, which defeated SIU Dec. 10 in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

“It’s bittersweet” he said. “I’ll always be a Saluki, but at the same time I’m a competitor and I want to win every game.”

Hairston was a former McDonald’s All-American nominee and a four-year starter with the Salukis from 2001 to 2005. He made four straight NCAA tournament appearances after winning four straight conference titles.

He was on the Saluki team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2002. He was a part of the 2003 team featured on MTV’s True Life episode “I’m a College Baller.” Hairston finished his career with more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

Hairston helped three different junior colleges to regional championships as an assistant coach.

He also helped coach the University of Montevallo to the Division II championship game.

Hairston said he learned many lessons at SIU.

“I learned how to be a man,” he said. “We had a special group of guys when I played.”

Despite being dedicated to SEMO basketball, Hairston said he would be honored to have the opportunity to coach at SIU someday.

“I love that school,” he said. “I had a lot of great memories there.”

The Salukis do not face Hairston again this season, but they play Lusk again Saturday and Mullins again Feb. 11.

Sean Phee can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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