2013 Season Already a Test of Character for SIU Head Coach Barry Hinson

Jason S. PariniCorrespondent IIDecember 26, 2013

Photo Courtesty of The Southern Illinoisan/Aaron Eisenhauer

Strewn amongst the mind-numbing stories about commercialism and greed, violence and petty problems remain as blatant reminders of what the holidays are truly about. Regardless of one's faith or culture, one can't help but be overcome by the tradition and chaos that occur this time of year.

Though much of the news is dominated by the drama of shopping and selfishness, there are always those stories that bring one back to reality and make us hug our loved ones just a little bit tighter at night.

Take Barry Hinson's family, for example.

Just a week ago, it seemed as if things couldn't get any worse for the second-year head coach at Southern Illinois. The Salukis were 2-8 and off to one of the worst starts in program history. The team was seen as "uncoachable" by Hinson, and apparently they were playing like a bunch of momma's boys, according to his postgame rant. In his eyes, his wife could have played better than his team.

Hinson's job even came into question by many media sources, who cited the coach's public criticism of individual players as unprofessional and uncalled for.

All of that melee was put into perspective on Christmas morning and in the worst way imaginable. Hinson's son-in-law, Niles Thomason, passed away suddenly on Wednesday on the one day of the year where family matters the most. He was only 35.

Though few details have been released about Thomason's death, the Southern Illinois athletic website offered condolences for the Hinson family.

No game can replace the hole that Hinson and family are now feeling. No words and no gifts can justify the loss, but if Hinson's postgame comments didn't give the Salukis a reason to win, they sure have one now.

Southern Illinois struggled in their first season under Hinson last year, but improvement was seen at the end of the 2012 season. After losing 11 of 12 games in a stretch between Dec. 22 and Feb. 2, the Salukis won six of their final eight regular-season games. However, that momentum didn't carry over to 2013, as the Salukis started off the year with a 2-8 record. Since Hinson's public criticism of his team, the Salukis have gone 2-0 with wins over nonconference opponents Ball State and SIU-Edwardsville.

The program is in dire need of success, but his family is in even greater need of some positive events. It can't be said enough that the hole in their family can never be filled, but a rough season will compound the problem.

Hinson is very well-respected in the Southern Illinois community. In the first game following his viral postgame conference, Hinson received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

There is no word on whether or not Hinson will miss any games for services or to be with his family. The Salukis take the court next at Miami of Ohio on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.