Commentary

Barry Hinson: The man behind the travel

It's been a humbling journey for the former Oral Roberts and Missouri State coach

Originally Published: January 5, 2010
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- There are moments when Barry Hinson scratches his head and wonders how he got where he is. Two years ago, he was the coach at Missouri State, nine years into a career that included eight winning seasons and three NIT berths.

Now, he's dotting the i's and crossing the t's to make sure Kansas gets from Point A to Point B without a hiccup.

[+] EnlargeBarry Hinson
AP Photo/Tom GannamJust two years ago, Barry Hinson was a head coach. When he was let go, an old friend gave him a call.

He is the Jayhawks' director of external operations, in charge of the team's travel.

"This has been humbling, no doubt,'' Hinson said. "It's like going from the CEO of one company to the mailman at another. But if I'm going to be the mailman, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than with a guy I consider like a brother.''

Hinson and Kansas coach Bill Self met as undergrads at Oklahoma State. Both were working a camp for Larry Brown, and Brown asked Hinson to pick up Self, younger than Hinson by two years, and drive him to camp.

When Self got his first head-coaching gig at Oral Roberts, he immediately named Hinson to his staff. Four years later, Self moved on to Tulsa and Hinson took over at Oral Roberts. Two years later, Hinson moved on to Missouri State, where he coached from 1999 to 2008.

"When I got let go [from Missouri State], Bill called and said, 'Why don't you come work for us?'" Hinson said. "It's been a change, but there's a Martin Luther King saying: If you're going to be a street cleaner, when God looks down, make sure your street is the cleanest.''

Hinson's is downright spotless, run with a precision the military would admire.

In fact, that's where Hinson went for advice. Arguing that the academies "can feed 5,000 guys in 45 minutes and I'm only trying to take care of 13,'' Hinson made a call to the U.S. Naval Academy's football travel coordinator.

He took that coordinator's suggestions -- be as specific and meticulous as possible -- and crafted his own system.

It's quite a system. The travel packet for KU's recent trip to Temple was nine pages, with every detail spelled out:

• how to label the players' room keys (in individual envelopes with the last name and room number on the outside of the envelope)

• how to set up the meals (white tablecloths with navy blue napkins, moderate spices, well-cooked beef and eggs)

• a request for security on the players' floors from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

• the rooming list -- players generally choose their roommates for the season, although the coaching staff prefers to pair veterans with rookies when possible

• the contents for Self's in-room goody basket (four Cokes, four Diet Cokes, four bottled waters, an assortment of chips, nuts, fruit, candy and beef jerky)

• and a stern, bolded and underlined warning: "Under no circumstances is the student-athlete, student manager, student trainer or student video staff allowed to charge incidentals to their rooms. Kansas is prohibited from paying for the incidentals of students by NCAA rules."

[+] EnlargeKU all-access
David Albright/ESPN.com Hinson often gets playfully teased, but life on the road for Kansas would be a mess without him.

There's a separate seating chart for the plane (congrats to Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Jeff Withey, Cole Aldrich, Chris Piper, Thomas Robinson and Danny Manning, who score the exit rows) and a separate master list for the postgame cheesesteak order. Self ordered a cheesesteak with sweet peppers, pickles and American cheese; Aldrich went straight plain cheesesteak with American, and C.J. Henry opted for a chicken cheesesteak with provolone.

In his two seasons, Hinson -- now called "HinDawg" by the players -- not only has learned how to set up the travel plan, but also how to bargain for it. Hotels charge teams per head and add something called a plus-plus -- a 22 percent service charge plus at least 8 percent tax per person. That can ratchet the cost for an ordinary meal up to astronomical proportions.

A hotel in Los Angeles wanted to charge $48 a head for a corn dog snack. Hinson whittled it down to $26.

His frugality is cause for much good-natured ridicule from the coaches but is no doubt well appreciated. Kansas, after all, is now on the hook for $3 million to former football coach Mark Mangino.

"We treat our kids with first class, but we also remember at the end of the day, this is taxpayers' money and state money,'' Hinson said. "We don't want to waste it. Just because it says Kansas on our chests doesn't mean we have endless pockets.''

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at espnoneil@live.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

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