The long-awaited split between Missouri State and Barry Hinson finally came. The inevitable finally became reality on March 9.
And on March 26, the Cuonzo Martin era began.
The 36-year-old has never been a head coach, but he's not short on experience. He played at Purdue from 1991-95 and was on the Purdue bench since 2000 as an Assistant and Associate Coach.
Martin, chosen from 46 applicants, will receive a contract expected to be in line with that of Hinson-$300,000 total compensation with a base salary of $140,000.
Hinson's dismissal came two days after Missouri State lost to Illinois State in the Missouri Valley tournament, but rumors of his departure had swirled for weeks and the specter of his job status has hung over the program for several years.
Frustration from the fan base and donors led to Hinson's demise, despite just one losing season in nine years at the Bears' helm. Missouri State averaged 18.8 wins per season under Hinson. The Bears had four postseason appearances under Hinson.
But all were NIT bids. Missouri State had NCAA Tournament near-misses in 2000, ‘06 and ‘07-the 2006 team had the best Ratings Percentage Index (21) of any team left out of the NCAA field. All that did was tease Missouri State's fan base-the Hinson detractors felt he didn't have what it took to get Missouri State over the top.
The 2008 season was defined by injuries to three contributors-Drew Richards, Shane Laurie, Spencer Laurie-and missed opportunities. A spruced up schedule didn't help-Missouri State lost at Arkansas and Utah and lost on a neutral floor to Purdue (two points) and Alabama. The Bears didn't get the hang of the road in the MVC either, winning just one game.
Hinson, a favorite of MVC officials and the media for his accessibility and homespun witticisms, receives $150,000 in severance as he had a year left on his contract.
Now, with the switching of eras, let's look at this past year in review.
What Went Right: Missouri State guard Dale Lamberth (14.5 points) developed into the Bears' most consistent scorer and their most prolific MVC scoring threat.
Missouri State swingman Deven Mitchell capped his Bears career as one of the most versatile players in the MVC. He was edged by Lamberth for the team scoring crown (14.3), but was feared as a ballhandler and rebounder.
Missouri State guard Justin Fuehrmeyer developed into a go-to scoring threat in the last half of the season.
What Went Wrong: Missouri State lost center Drew Richards, forward Kyle Weems, guards Shane and Spencer Laurie to injury for various stretches of the season. The Bears lost freshman David Cline due to an early season arrest. Guard Lamont Austin was also suspended from the team for the same incident.
Missouri State lost five games by five points or less.
The last third of the season was dominated by discussion of Barry Hinson's future, which provided a constant distraction.
The Good News: Guard Justin Fuehrmeyer improved his scoring as the season progressed with nine of his 12 double-figure scoring efforts coming in the second half of the season. Fuehrmeyer is a good start for the new coach to build upon.
As is the athletic Chris Cooks, who often played by necessity thanks to the Bears' injuries; he also saved his best for last. He exceeded his rebounding average in his final games and his scoring average in three of four.
The best news for Missouri State is its new building, The JQH Arena, which will be a sharp contrast to the cozy, but limited, Hammons Student Center.
One of the most highly touted recruits is point guard Ken Holdman, Jr., from Tulsa, Okla.
The Bad News: Aside from guards Justin Fuehrmeyer and Chris Cooks, Missouri State loses every other key cog from its 2008 team ... and that's assuming all of the returnees come back in the wake of Hinson's firing.
New coach Cuonzo Martin is going to need to shore up Missouri State's frontcourt, as Wade Knapp is the only returning player with experience. Two Missouri State recruits, Damen Bell-Holter and Isaiah Rhine, are centers.
As with any coaching change, the new coach will have to convince the returning players to buy into his system.
Guard Justin Fuehrmeyer-7.2 points and 4.1 assists. Guard Chris Cooks averages 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. Guard Shane Laurie averages 6.6 and 2.8 rebounds. Those are the only regulars back as Missouri State loses Dale Lamberth, Deven Mitchell, Drew Richards and Dex Manswell.
Center Wade Knapp, forward Ryan Jehle and guard Tomas Brock also return.
• Guard Deven Mitchell led the MVC in free-throw percentage at 89.3 percent.
• Guard Dale Lamberth was second in conference only games in scoring at 16.7.
In my opinion and most others, this was an up-and-down season for our beloved Bears. We had some good moments (winning 4 straight twice), some bad (the firing of Hinson and a barely 500 season), but moments like today when we are introduced to the new era of Missouri State Basketball. Martin is coming to MSU after an amazing season in Purdue where he was Associate Coach. The Boilermakers are coming of a 25-9 (15-3) season that includes the NCAA Tournament where they got a 6 seed in the West Region.
Sounds good to me!
- Jay (KevinLoveFan)