Barry Hinson reminded reporters who cover the Missouri Valley Conference what they've been missing the past four years.
Hinson was one of the league's most vocal advocates during his nine seasons as Missouri State's coach. Fired after the 2007-08 season, Hinson spent the past four seasons as Kansas' director of basketball operations.
He's back in the Valley as Southern Illinois' new coach. Hinson, known for being a bit cornpone at times, participated in Monday's coaches conference call that the league used to replace its annual basketball media day.
“I hope we can make this more impersonal next year and maybe just tweet it, that way you guys don't have to even call us,” Hinson said after joining the call. “I'm not really happy having our media day by telephone.
“We have Creighton which is ranked in the top 20. We have one of the best players in (Doug) McDermott. He has a chance to be (national) player of the year, and no one is going to know about it other than the local institutions because we're too lazy to come to St. Louis. Plus, no one gets to see all my E-Trade facial expressions.”
Hinson spent the remainder of the call updating reporters on the progress the Salukis have made since he took over last spring. Several of his players have been battling injuries, leaving Hinson thinking that he would have only seven healthy players for last Saturday's exhibition game.
“We played against St. Valley Nursing Home and we got a victory, which we were exceptionally happy about,” Hinson said. “Other than a guy that was 94 years old that took us left on the baseline a couple of times, I thought our guys were pretty good.
“We thought we were only going to have seven players but miraculously, we were healed at the last second and had nine players to participate. If we can ever get healthy, I think we can actually play guys without having oxygen tanks behind our bench.”
Shockers reload with new faces
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall is revamping a roster that lost four starters and a top reserve from a team that won the regular-season title last year and played in the NCAA tournament.
He brought in what he called his best recruiting class since coming to Wichita State six seasons ago. The new faces, coupled with a rash of injuries, have made for a challenging preseason for the Shockers.
“The biggest challenge might be getting them to understand how hard you have to play and the physical toughness required to play basketball at this level,” Marshall said. “There is a lot of teaching for the new guys.
“It's very, very challenging but it's also rewarding when you walk out of practice and think, 'So and so really got it today. He showed glimpses of learning what we're trying to get him to do.' Some days you walk out wondering if we're ever going to win a game. It's fun and it's one of the cooler things about being a coach.”
New Redbirds coach getting used to team
Dan Muller inherited a veteran team when he returned to Illinois State, his alma mater, to replace Tim Jankovich. Taking over a team that returns four starters and most of its key reserves, Muller said, beats the alternative.
“With the exception of Nic Moore, we don't have any personnel issues,” said Muller, referring to the starting point guard who transferred to Southern Methodist. “The challenge I face is trying to establish my culture and my expectations on this group.
“When you do have an experienced group, you have to change some habits. They might not be bad habits, but just different habits. That takes a little bit of time but I'd rather come into a situation like this than a rebuilding one. This is an ideal situation for me.”
Drake's Phelps blends old with new
One of the more interesting experiments is taking place at Drake. The Bulldogs ended last season figuring to return one of the league's more experienced rosters with five starters back, along with center Seth VanDeest. A starter his first two seasons, VanDeest missed last season with a shoulder injury.
Things started to change when star guard Rayvonte Rice decided to transfer. Three other players did, too, though a couple left at the urging of the staff. Two players decided to give up basketball.
Drake coach Mark Phelps brought in eight new players and is now trying to blend their talents with his five holdovers — VanDeest, Jordan Clarke, Ben Simons, Karl Madison and Jeremy Jeffers.
So far, Phelps likes what he's seen from his club.
“I think we're going to be a better team on the offensive end because we have more guys that can shoot, dribble and pass,” Phelps said. “I like the mindset of our players. We move the ball and we play well with each other.
“We're going to be a more skilled team.”
Coach was surprised Bradley picked ninth
Bradley coach Geno Ford's first season in Peoria produced seven wins and a last-place finish in the league. Ford lost one starter, and he's pleased with the progress his returning players have made during the offseason.
Still, Ford expressed surprise when told his team had been picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll.
“Out of curiosity, who was picked 10th?” he asked moderator Mike Kern. When told it was Hinson's Southern Illinois team, Ford replied, “That will be a war when those two get together.”
— Steven Pivovar