ST. LOUIS — During his nine seasons at Missouri State, Barry Hinson had his way with Southern Illinois.
The Bears accounted for a quarter of the Salukis’ paltry 40 conference losses during that stretch. The assistant at Kansas now looks to revive the slumping Salukis and get the better of his old school and the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Hinson was introduced Wednesday as the new men’s basketball coach at Southern Illinois, signing a five-year, nearly $1.5 million contract with a school that finished this season 8-23 — the Salukis’ third losing season in the past four.
The affable Hinson, 50, made no grand promises about any turnaround in Carbondale, saying only that fans of the Salukis — just five years removed from a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament — eventually would be satisfied.
“What we’re going to be able to accomplish is going to be spectacular,” Hinson said.
Before diving into restoring the Salukis, Hinson has some unfinished business at Kansas, where he has served the past two seasons as director of men’s basketball operations and two years before that as the Jayhawks’ chief of external relations.
Kansas plays Ohio State in a Final Four semifinal Saturday, then in the title game Monday night if the Jayhawks advance. And Hinson said he expects to be there through that run by the side of good friend Bill Self, Kansas’ coach and a fellow Oklahoma State alumnus with whom he once coached at Oral Roberts.
“I’m gonna work for the University of Kansas until Monday night at 11 o’clock, if that’s OK with you,” a smiling Hinson told a reporter.
Hinson, with a 205-140 career record, replaces Chris Lowery, who went 145-116 in eight seasons with the Salukis but was fired March 2. Lowery’s teams made three NCAA tournament appearances and enjoyed the greatest run in the school’s history in 2006-07, when the Salukis posted a school-record 29 wins and grabbed its fifth regular-season league title in six seasons. At one point, the team was No. 11 in the AP 25, the loftiest ranking in the program’s history.
That season, the Salukis also came within an eyelash of making it to its first-ever round of eight in the NCAA tournament, pushing Self’s top-seeded Kansas to the brink in the West Regional semifinal before losing 61-58.
That was the last time the Salukis made the tournament — a string of futility Hinson now is tasked to change.
Hinson was fired by the Bears in 2008 after his own failures to take that program to the NCAA tournament in nine seasons, during which time he guided Missouri State to a 169-117 mark. But his successes against the Salukis during that time didn’t go without notice Wednesday, when Southern Illinois’ athletics director, Mario Moccia, noted Missouri State’s 10 wins over the Salukis during Hinson’s time with the Bears.
At Missouri State, Hinson had consecutive 22-win seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07, but the lack of NCAA tournament invitations may have cost him his job.
“I was unable to deliver an NCAA tournament berth, and the buck stops with me,” Hinson said after his firing. “I am disappointed that we did not accomplish that most of all for the players, fans and supporters of Bears basketball.”
Before coaching Missouri State, Hinson compiled a 36-23 record as head coach of Oral Roberts, where he was an assistant coach for four seasons under Self.