Basketball is basketball, regardless of who’s playing it. That’s how Jason Tinsley views it.
“Here’s the difference in the game: guys play above the rim, girls don’t. That’s it,” Tinsley said during a press conference Friday that introduced him as Northeastern State’s ninth men’s basketball coach in school history.
“Basketball is basketball.”
That’s the mindset Tinsley is bringing with him after leaving his post as the women’s coach at Louisiana College. In Pineville, La., Tinsley racked up 89 victories and three NCAA Division III tournament berths in four seasons.
All that after delivering an introductory message to his players when he arrived at the Division III school in Louisiana.
“Probably for my girls it was even tougher, because when I got the job, I walked in the room at Louisiana College — there were 11 girls in the dressing room — and I sat down and I said to them, ‘I’ve coached men 18 years. I don’t know any other way to do it. No clue,’” Tinsley said. “I said, ‘I’m going to coach you the same way I coach men. Not going to coach any different. Same drills, same expectations.’”
Now Tinsley is back in his comfort zone, replacing Larry Gipson, who retired after his 17-year reign at Northeastern State. And Tinsley knows the void he’s trying to fill from the outset.
“This is a great opportunity. The success here is unprecedented,” Tinsley said. “Coach Gipson is a legend in Oklahoma. He’s a legend in the Midwest, and I’ve known him through other people for years.
“...I know I’m replacing a guy that’s highly loved, highly respected not only in the community but in basketball circles. I mean, he’s good.”
But will Tinsley replicate Gipson in every shape, form or fashion? Absolutely not, Tinsley said.
“I’m Jason Tinsley, I’m not Larry Gipson,” Tinsley said at a podium set up in the middle of the men’s locker room at the NSU Event Center. “I’m obviously going to pick his brain and lean on him, and we’ve already talked a couple of times, and I’d be a fool not to lean on him.”
Tinsley started off his coaching career as an assistant coach at Georgia Southwestern State University, and he later logged two assistant gigs at Missouri State University-West Plains and Northwestern State (La.) — where he served on the staff headed by J.D. Barnett, who was once the head coach at the University of Tulsa.
After leaving Northwestern State in 1999, Tinsley landed his first head-coaching job at Bossier Parish Community College. That later led to him becoming the head coach at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2003.
But Tinsley fell on hard times at UNC-Pembroke, where he logged a record of 22-91 during his time from 2003 to 2008. And looking back now, Tinsley recognizes where things went awry and how to prevent those issues from resurfacing.
“[I] probably wasn’t the right guy at that time for that job where the program was,” Tinsley said. “There was a transition phase there, and I think I left the program in better shape then when I got it — that I do know. It was rock bottom, man. They had been 3-56 the two years combined prior to me getting the coaching job.”
Scholarship allotment is what Tinsley pinpointed as his greatest learning curve at UNC-Pembroke.
“I probably learned to be wiser with my money,” Tinsley said while addressing other shortcomings while with the Braves. “Evaluating the needs of the conference. I was trying to do it with more high school kids in the Peach Belt, and that’s not a league where you want to load up on high school kids, while everyone else was loading up on JUCO transfers and Division I transfers.”
What Tinsley will inherit at NSU is a roster that has eight of the 12 players on the roster who have transferred from other institutions. And Tinsley had a message for those players, most of which were attendance on Friday morning.
“We’ll find out if these guys are as tough as my girls were,” Tinsley said. “I’m not sure if we’re going to find out pretty quick here.”
As for his style of play, Tinsley all but informed his players to get ready to go all out on defense.
“I’m gonna get after ya now, and my teams most recently have been top one, two or three in the nation in steals and top one, two or three in the nation in scoring,” Tinsley said. “This will probably kill (NSU women’s coach Randy Gipson), but two years ago we shot 1,081 3s. A year ago, we shot a 1,061 3s. We let that baby fly.
“I have some old-timers come watch us play — and they’ve been very successful high school coaches in the state — and I go visit with them after the game and they say, ‘well, coach, it’s fun to watch; not sure I could do it.’”
Now it’s Tinsley’s turn to see if he can do it in Division II.