Doc Sadler deserves a significant pay raise as Southern Miss’ mens basketball coach. Heck, if the Golden Eagles keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last month, he might be worthy of a statue outside Reed Green Coliseum, too.
Remember, Sadler took over a complete dumpster fire in 2014. The previous coach, Donnie Tyndall, left the program in shambles and under fire by NCAA for academic fraud. With scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban weighing them down, the Golden Eagles averaged just seven wins a season in Sadler’s first three years on the job. In Tyndall’s final season at Southern Miss (2013-2014), the team won 29 games, but they were all later vacated due to participation of academically ineligible players. The same went for the 27 victories during the previous season—his first at USM.
So, officially, Tyndall was 0-17 at the school. But I’d imagine most of those wins and just the excitement during the Tyndall era are still fresh in the mind of Southern Miss fans. They certainly are for me. I remember Southern Miss’ NIT Quarterfinals matchup with BYU like it was yesterday. A crowd of nearly 8,000 packed into Reed Green. There was seemingly not an empty seat to be had, and the energy inside was palpable.
Flash forward six years later.
Now I’ll admit it’s been a few weeks since I’ve made it to Reed Green to cover a game. It’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of my time is spent covering high school sports. But every once in a while, I’ll see photos other people take and post while in attendance. The “crowd shot” is one you see a lot on Twitter. Most appear less than ideal with many empty seats.
Their best came two weeks ago against Louisiana Tech, and it’s no surprise why. A few days prior, Saints running back Alvin Kamara let it be known, via Twitter, that he would be in attendance. A crowd of 4,587 showed up to watch the Golden Eagles edge the Bulldogs in overtime.
So was Kamara the good luck charm USM needed? In terms of high attendance, yes. But as far as winning goes, no. The Golden Eagles won six of their previous eight games prior to Louisiana Tech. Today, they’ve won nine of eleven and stand at 17-9 overall and most importantly 9-5 in Conference USA play, which puts them in a three-way tie for second place. Keep in mind, Southern Miss was picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the conference. A year earlier, they were picked tenth. And before that, second to last.
Yes, things are finally starting to looking up for Southern Miss mens hoops. Sadler, who went from constantly criticized to frontrunner for Conference USA Coach of the Year, deserves a bulk of the credit for hanging tough and coaching the program out of the abyss. Players like Tyree Griffin, Cortez Edwards and LaDavius Draine are flat-out balling, too.
A half-empty Reed Green Coliseum does those guys an injustice. Southern Miss fans, it’s time to get out there and support your school. There’s still ample time to get in on the ground floor of something special.