Nov. 7, 2013
Head coach Donnie Tyndall has effectively transformed Southern Miss's men's basketball program into a contender in just one year.
The second-year coach returns to Southern Miss after setting 44 school records, seven Conference USA records and eight Reed Green Coliseum records in his inaugural season.
"Last season, obviously, we exceeded everyone's expectations," Tyndall said in a recent interview. "We were the least experienced team in all of college basketball and yet, we ended up having a school-record 27 wins."
Tyndall continued, "but at the end of the day our goal was to get to the NCAA tournament, and that's our goal again this year."
Tyndall trusts that his entire program is on the same page in terms of their end goal.
"Obviously we have a driven group of young men and our goal as a staff is to get to the NCAA tournament," said Tyndall. "There's pressure being a head coach, there's pressure being a Division-1 basketball player, but if you're scared of that pressure or you don't embrace it, then this probably isn't the business you need to be in."
To achieve this lofty goal, Tyndall will look to his experienced backcourt to lead the team this season. He remains concerned, however, with the uncertainty on the frontline.
"I think the question mark will be our front line with the loss of Jonathan Mills, who was our toughest, most physical player. Both returning guys and a couple newcomers are going to be depended on to replace Mills' toughness and fill that void," said Tyndall.
Despite a new recruiting class coming in this season, Tyndall plans to stick with the same philosophies as last season.
"Everything we do is predicated on getting the ball to the paint, both from post feeds and driving the ball to draw fouls or draw help and kick it out for open threes," said Tyndall. "Not much is going to change in regards to philosophy."
This philosophy is dependent upon solid team chemistry and Tyndall is excited for the group of "team-first" players he has this year.
"If you aren't a team guy or you aren't an unselfish guy, you probably aren't going to play on this team or this program. That's just how we do things," said Tyndall.
While the Golden Eagles are still a relatively young team, coach Tyndall has turned to senior Daveon Boardingham to lead the unit.
"Daveon is a guy who never misses a class. He does exactly what he's supposed to away from the floor," said Tyndall. "He brings a great energy level to the practice floor everyday and our young guys look up to him."
Coach Tyndall's influence on his players extends beyond the basketball court, however. Tyndall maintains a keen focus on making sure each of his players graduate with a degree.
"Nothing is more important to me than each and every one of my players graduating. These guys are held to the highest standards in regards to meeting their academic obligations," said Tyndall. "All five of our seniors are on track to graduate this May."
Tyndall continued, "the only promise I tell them and their families in the recruiting process, is that I'll do everything in my power to make sure they graduate and leave Southern Miss with a degree in hand."
The Eagles' success last season also helped significantly increase attendance at games. This sense of community around the basketball program has led to a serious home court advantage for Southern Miss.
"It gives us a huge advantage. We don't win some of the games that we had on our home floor last year if it wasn't for the fans," explained Tyndall. "I think the city of Hattiesburg, our campus community, and certainly our students did an unbelievable job of rallying behind this team and making this their team."
Tyndall continued expressing his excitement about the growing fan support. He looks forward to having a packed `Green House' from day one this season.
"The Green House was electric [last year]. I hope it will be the same way starting from day one this year," said Tyndall. "We built it kind of game-to-game as we went along last season, but I hope it will be packed and electric from day one this season."