Second-year Southern Miss Head Basketball Coach Donnie Tyndall knows his team will need to continue building on what it started in 2012-13. The Golden Eagles finished 27-10 and made their ninth appearance in the NIT last season, their first since 2001. Winning is contagious, and because of last season’s success, the fans are returning in good numbers to Reed Green Coliseum.
“The fans are coming back,” said Tyndall. “There were pockets of success with Coach James Green, who’s an outstanding coach. Pockets of success with Coach (Larry) Eustachy, who’s an outstanding coach.”
But more is needed.
Quite frankly, no city in the country takes more pride in winning than Hattiesburg, Miss., a small, proud college town. But while winning is the catalyst to drawing support, it takes more than just winning to sustain that support. It looks as though Tyndall and team have found the formula.
“I think what we did last year in regard to getting involved in the community, really rallying support and kind of getting our fans back involved, particularly the students, more so than people tell me in the last 20-25 years, our attendance grew,” said Tyndall. “It was the highest since 1991 and the community feels a part of it which is the same thing I did when I was the head coach at Morehead State.”
According to Tyndall, the same recipe worked at Morehead State and seems to be working well at Southern Miss.
“I really think it’s obviously very important to get your community behind your program and to Hattiesburg’s credit, and our campus community’s credit, they rallied behind our team and helped us win a bunch of games,” said Tyndall.
Winning in a newly-realigned conference
The Golden Eagles are picked to finish within the top four according to Tyndall. The newly realigned Conference USA added Old Dominion, Charlotte, Middle Tennessee, UTSA, Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, and Florida International.
The existing schools, at least for 2013, are Rice, Marshall, East Carolina, Tulane, USM, Tulsa, UTEP, and UAB. There are eight new conference members and four more than the original C-USA. Having talent and abundant depth will be key to winning in an expanded conference.
“It starts with our backcourt, (5-foot-11 senior point guard) Neil Watsonand (6-foot senior guard) Jerrold Brooksare arguably one of the better backcourts in our league,” said Tyndall. Watson averaged 9.8 points per game while Brooks added 10.9.
Tyndall also relies on his front court to take care of the boards. “Daveon Boardingham, although his overall season numbers aren’t great, about 8.5 points per game and four boards, he’s a guy who (during) the second half of the season really improved and came along,” said Tyndall. “So, he’ll arguably be one of the top five or six big men in our league.”
However, just like all other programs in the country, those existing players will need the infusion of new and talented players.
“A lot is hinging on our newcomers – two transfers that sat out last year, a transfer from Minnesota, (6-foot-3 guard) Chip Armelin, and a transfer from Temple, (6-foot-5 forward) Aaron Brown, and then we had a couple of junior college guys we signed that really need to step up for our team to meet our expectations with where we’re being picked,” said Tyndall. “I feel good these returning guys will do their part. But these newcomers need to step up and be good early especially with the non-conference schedule that we have.”
Non-conference opponents include DePaul, Jackson State, Houston Baptist, Louisville, and Rhode Island.
The teams Tyndall expects to have a leg up in C-USA are Louisiana Tech, UTEP, and UAB. However, he does not concede and holds firm to the Golden Eagles’ team goal.
“I’m a guy who sets high goals,” says Tyndall. “Our goal is to win the league.”