EIU’s new head coach Jay Spoonhour has a small problem.
Just months after Spoonhour took over a struggling Eastern Illinois program, one of the teams former standouts, James Hollowell, says he fell out of favor with the new coaching staff, and isn’t returning because “they didn’t want me back,” according the Journal Gazette and Times Courier.
So what’s the problem?
It appears coach Spoonhour originally told the JG-TC that Hollowell wasn’t returning because of a back injury.
Hollowell went on to say that the problem seemed to start instantaneously.
“The main issue why they tried to blame me was the first week we worked out I couldn’t get through the workout,” Hollowell said. “Me and the athletic trainer Brett Penning decided I would rehab and not work out. I was in rehab. It wasn’t hard or extensive. Once (Spoonhour) got in, he wanted to work out. Maybe Brett didn’t tell him that I hadn’t been working out.”
Hollowell played three years at EIU, after redshirting his freshman year, a point Spoonhour made in his seemingly revised version of why Hollowell is no longer with the program.
“Eastern Illinois’ responsibility to James was to ensure that he had every opportunity to earn his degree,” Spoonhour said. “Eastern Illinois did that, and James did that. My responsibility is to the program as a whole and to make sure that we have the best opportunity to win this year and in future years, and I have made decisions based upon that.”
Look, Spoonhour is the coach, and he has the right to “clean house” if that’s what he wants to do. It a sad fact of college athletics. But why not just say this off the top? Why go the “injury” route?
Would it be unpopular? Likely. But we would have probably all but forgotten in a week or two.
Instead, it’s getting drudged back up again.
And according to Hollowell, it’s only gotten worse since then.
“At first, they offered me a grad assistant’s job. A week ago, they told me they weren’t going to do that. They had someone else. They pulled my scholarship, and they pulled my grad assistant job. I was set up. I had everything set up to go to grad school. Dr. (Brent) Walker (a graduate school coordinator) had everything set up. I just found out a week ago that I couldn’t do it. I was accepted into grad school, I was enrolled in grad school.”
There is, of course, the possibility that Hollowell is simply lashing out at a program that cut him. There’s no real way to know for sure.
But what I can say for sure is that Spoonhour isn’t winning a lot of hearts in Charleston, Illinois right now.
Not like this.
As for the on court implications, this team will hardly resemble last year’s, for better or worse. Alfonzo McKinnie and Joey Miller transfered, Jeremy Granger graduated, and now Hollowell is gone.
Just a few months in, it’s already without question Spoonhour’s team.
Now we just have to wait and see what he can do with it.