Barry Hinson hasn't coached a game or overseen a practice or recruited a player in four years.
But earlier this week, he scored a darn good mid-major head coaching gig.
And by early next week, his current employer could be a national champion.
Talk about a charmed life.
That seems to be the way things go for Hinson. The man from Marlow went from high school coach to college head coach in less than five years. Then after he got fired four years ago, he landed at one of college basketball's powerhouse programs, Kansas.
He has been Bill Self's right-hand man ever since.
Sure, as director of external affairs and then as director of operations, Hinson wasn't allowed under NCAA rules to coach or recruit. But if you watch the Jayhawks in the Final Four this weekend, you're sure to see Hinson on the bench. Front row. Next to the scorer's table. Always near Self.
There are definitely worse lots in life than riding shotgun with Billy the Kid.
“He rescued me when I needed to be rescued,” Hinson said Wednesday during his introduction as the new coach at Southern Illinois.
Self is no small part of Hinson's charmed life. The two met at Oklahoma State when Self was playing for the Cowboys and Hinson was a coaching hopeful. Hinson got his first job at Stillwater Junior High, then worked as an assistant at Stillwater High and Edmond Memorial, which just happens to be Self's alma mater, before becoming the head coach at Tulsa Bishop Kelley.
When Self landed the head coaching job at Oral Roberts in 1993, Hinson was one of his first hires.
Four years later, when Self moved up to be the head coach at Tulsa, Hinson replaced him as ORU's head coach.
Another opportunity at Southwest Missouri State — now known as Missouri State — followed, and for nearly a decade, Hinson had one of the best mid-major programs in the country. Eight of his nine teams had winning records. Three of them had RPIs that normally land a team a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
But none of his teams ever made the NCAA Tournament. Not as the Missouri Valley Conference champ. Not as an at-large selection.
In the spring of 2008, that cost Hinson his job.
For more than six months, he sat at home, waiting for the phone to ring and driving his wife nuts.
“When you actually take every grocery ad and put down a schedule of which grocery stores to hit on what day,” Hinson said, “that's the time when you need to get another job.”
Hinson laughs now about those days, but at the time, he was adrift.
Enter his old buddy Self.
He hired Hinson as the director of external affairs in the fall of 2008, then promoted him to director of basketball operations two years later. Even though it wasn't a coaching gig — he went from directing a program to having to ask a manager if he could have a pair of socks — it allowed Hinson to get back in the game. To go to practice. To sit behind the bench. To learn from one of the best coaches in college basketball.
“I learned a lot,” Hinson said.
But make no mistake, Bill Self isn't the only reason that Barry Hinson has been on this magic carpet ride of a career.
Much like Self, Hinson has this charisma about him. Never met a stranger. Quick with a handshake. Always got a smile or a story. You walk away from Hinson thinking you're his best friend.
It's a gift, really.
No one does it quite like Self, but Hinson has that personality that's part coach, part comedian, part evangelist.
You could see it on display Wednesday at Southern Illinois' arena. There were media. There were players. There were fans. Many had thought the program, which took a serious turn for the worse in the past few years, might be able to lure Bruce Weber to Carbondale.
The former Illinois coach said no.
“According to my multiple sources, which were my wife and my mother, I was the first choice here,” Hinson told the crowd.
His deadpan was spot on, drawing laughs and applause.
He also poked fun at himself and his days at Missouri State, which was one of Southern Illinois' conference rivals.
“I am a great part of a lot of those banners up there,” he said pointing to the league championship banners in the arena's rafters.
“I was a big part of those championships.”
When the press conference was over, you got the feeling that no one was thinking much about Weber anymore.
“Two things are certain,” local columnist Les Winkeler wrote in The Southern Illinoisan. “Hinson deserves a chance to prove himself, and the fresh start feels good.”
Hinson would concur with that.
It's another feel-good chapter in an already-charmed life.