By BEN JOHNSON
Tony Duckworth, NSU’s director of athletics, stood at a glass podium and praised Jason Tinsley, who was named Northeastern State’s men’s basketball coach. Tinsley — now the ninth coach in the program’s history — was formally introduced at a press conference inside the men’s locker room at the Event Center on Friday.
“Without question, we found our guy,” Duckworth said.
But how did the coaching search lead Duckworth to Tinsley, a Division III women’s basketball coach at Louisiana College?
“It was a situation where after we had gotten through the first round of Skype interviews, we were not prepared to make an offer,” Duckworth said. “So I sat back and reflected on my 14 years in the business and reviewed the applicant pool, and there was one individual in the applicant pool that had struck me and was on the staff with Jason Tinsley at one of his previous jobs.”
Thus, a conversation with Tinsley arose.
“I reached out and had that conversation with (Tinsley) about this particular person, and it was during the course of that conversation that I asked a cold question: ‘would you ever consider coming back to the men’s side?’” Duckworth recalled. “I’ve seen it — being a former men’s basketball coach — where a coach goes from coaching men to women, and they never come back or would consider coming back. There are a variety of reasons for that.”
In the end, there were no reasons for Tinsley to not come back to the men’s side of college basketball.
But before Tinsley became Larry Gipson’s successor, there were those with NSU ties that were presented with the opportunity to coach at their alma mater. According to sources, those three were Rogers State head coach Justin Barkley, Southern Illinois assistant coach Tom Hankins and East Central University head coach Ja Havens.
“Within 24 hours of Larry’s announcement [to retire], there were in-depth conversations,” Duckworth said. “In one instance, there was an off-campus, face-to-face meeting.”
At one point, Duckworth was sure that his next men’s basketball coach was going to be one of those three.
“I probably would have bet my mortgage that one of those three guys was going to be our head coach,” Duckworth said. “And sometimes, it just doesn’t work out that way.”