There are rare cases when a season full with turmoil can transform a team into something greater than what it began as. Its early stumbles create a training ground for practice and preparation, which will lead to a well-polished cohesive unit.
For coach Barry Hinson and the Southern Illinois basketball team, it had appeared that the program was taking leaps in the right direction toward the end of the 2013 season. Before losing to Indiana State in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, the Salukis had reeled off wins in four of their last five games.
SIU is a program known for its “Floor Burn U” teams of the early 2000s. Recently, it hasn’t been a very successful program because of lack of effective recruiting, but primarily because of poor execution by former coach Chris Lowery. He led SIU to an NCAA Sweet 16, but his success would deteriorate from there. From 2007-12, Lowery oversaw a Southern squad that had its record decrease each year.
In March 2012, he was fired because of growing pressure from its fans and alumni.
Hinson inherited Lowery’s messy roster full of players who either had behavioral problems, or weren’t of the mold of the Floor Burn U players. In his first season, Hinson increased SIU’s record from 8-23 to 14-17, but the Salukis still finished last in the conference.
This season was much more successful, as Southern finished tied for fourth in the MVC and 9-9 in conference play. The team also produced two second-team All-Conference players in senior Desmar Jackson and sophomore Anthony Beane.
Things were looking well for Southern moving forward into the 2014 season and beyond.
Or were they?
Yesterday, Southern Illinois’ student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, released a story stating that two of the team’s guards, sophomore Marcus Fillyaw and junior Michael Balogun, were leaving the team. According to the article, Fillyaw said it was his decision to leave, but it was suggested by Hinson to depart.
The article also stated that an anonymous player said Hinson would rather build the skills of freshman and that players have been distancing themselves from him, including starters.
Even before the news of the departure of the two athletes, 2014 was going to be an important year for the program and Hinson’s coaching career at SIU. If Beane (the team’s best player) is one of the players upset with his coach and decides to leave, the Salukis will field an incredibly young team with question marks at nearly every position.
As a coach, Hinson has responsibilities to his players as a surrogate father, but his job is to bring the program back to prominence. The question is, where is the drawn between the two?