CARBONDALE — His team will, undoubtedly, be picked near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, but for first-year SIU men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson, 5:30 p.m. Friday can’t get here fast enough.
The Salukis officially open practice for the 2012-13 season Friday afternoon after one of the most tumultuous offseasons in the program’s history. Back as a head coach for the first time since 2008 at Missouri State, Hinson can finally talk about basketball.
“I got a lot of adrenaline, but I’m always that type of guy,” said Hinson, who spent the last four years at Kansas as the director of basketball operations and external relations. “I’ve always been that kind of guy at the start of the season. I’ve had several opportunities to be a head coach at other institutions, but they weren’t the right one for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was the one for me. Even after me coming here, and discussing all the things that weren’t known at the time, I’m still excited. I love our players and I just love the community.
“These are my kind of people.”
Seven months and eight days ago, former head coach Chris Lowery was fired after a record-setting 8-23 season. It marked the end of the richest contract in school history and a roller-coaster five-year run that saw SIU reach the Sweet 16 in 2007 and set the school record for losses in 2012.
Between March and October, Hinson, 52, inherited an academic mess he had to stabilize immediately and endured several off-the-court issues.
Sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels, SIU’s only returning all-conference player, considered transferring before returning to the program. The Salukis’ two incoming recruits, point guard Antonio “Bobo” Drummond and shooting guard Travis Wilkins, asked for and received releases from their national letters of intent. Junior guard/forward Desmar Jackson and junior guard Diamond Taylor were disciplined within the program after allegedly stealing bicycles on campus.
Taylor was later suspended indefinitely after getting arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Hinson said Taylor would practice with the team, but would not travel in the immediate future. Asked how long Taylor would be suspended, Hinson said “an extended period of time.”
SIU hasn’t had a winning record since 2007-08.
The Salukis return four starters, four others that contributed, including Taylor, and signed three freshmen that could play a big role. This winter will also be the Saluki premiere of Jackson, a transfer of Wyoming who averaged 14.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2010-2011.
On Twitter: @Todd_Hefferman