Bears vs. Wichita State Postgame Press Conference - Coach Lusk
The future of Missouri State basketball continues to look bright as Paul Lusk enters his second year as Bears' head coach.
During his Missouri State debut season in 2011-12, he guided MSU to a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference, tied a school record for most road wins and finished 16-16 overall with arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the program's history.
His first priorities when he was announced as Missouri State's 17th men's basketball head coach on April 1, 2011 were to reaffirm commitments from the four players already signed to attend Missouri State and begin finalizing the roster for his debut season. He was successful in both ventures. The three incoming freshmen -- Christian Kirk, Drew Wilson and Dorrian Williams -- all honored their National Letters of Intent, along with juco transfer Jarmar Gulley. He then filled the remaining scholarships with juco standout Anthony Downing, who went on to earn a spot on the 2012 MVC All-Newcomer Team, Michael Bizoukas, a one-year senior transfer from DePaul who led The Valley in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, and juco big man Corbin Thomas.
Likewise, Lusk helped maximize the performance of the team's six returning lettermen. Kyle Weems closed out his career with All-MVC first team honors and was a finalist for the Lou Henson Mid-Major National Player of the Year Award. Fellow senior Caleb Patterson was honored with MVC Most-Improved Team honors, and the team placed two veteran players -- Isaiah Rhine and Nathan Scheer -- on the MVC Scholar-Athlete second team. Keith Pickens established himself as one of the MVC's top defensive players in his return to the MSU rotation and finished fourth on the team in rebounding. Between, Downing, Gulley and Bizoukas, the Bears claimed MVC Newcomer of the Week honors eight times, the second-highest total by one school in league history.
Close calls and tight finishes became the team's calling card in 2011-12 with five overtime games and 17 games decided by single digits. MSU's 12 single-digit losses were the most in the MVC and program's most since 2002.
Lusk's inaugural campaign was also highlighted by a 4-0 start that included one-sided road wins at Nevada and Arkansas State. The Bears began league play with a 12-point win at No. 19 Creighton, the team's first Top 25 win since 2008 and first-ever road win over a ranked opponent. The Bears came within an eyelash of beating Big East power West Virginia in the Las Vegas Classic and also had No. 18 Creighton on the ropes in the final seconds of a home game at JQH Arena on Jan. 18 in two potential season-changing decisions.
The 40-year-old coach came to Missouri State after seven seasons as an assistant coach at Purdue. When Cuonzo Martin accepted the MSU job in 2008, Lusk was promoted to Boilermakers' associate head coach under Matt Painter, a position he held until coming to MSU.
He was named by FoxSports.com as one of the nation's top 25 high-major assistant coaches in the summer of 2010. In April 2011, Lusk was inducted into the Illinois Basketall Hall of Fame, and after his first year at MSU, CollegeSportsMadness.com named Lusk its 2012 MVC coach of the year after taking the Bears from a predicted sixth-place finish to tie for third.
During his tenure on the Purdue coaching staff, Lusk helped guide the Boilermakers to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with a collective 129-45 ledger during that span. He first came to West Lafayette in 2004-05 as an assistant under then-coach Gene Keady and stayed on board at Purdue when Painter took the coaching reigns in 2005-06.
Before moving to Purdue, he spent one season on Painter's staff at Southern Illinois in 2003-04, a campaign that also culminated in an NCAA Tournament berth, a No. 15 national ranking and a 25-5 overall record.
Prior to that, he spent one season as head coach at (Division III) University of Dubuque in Iowa. His head coaching debut came on the heels of three seasons at Division II Missouri Southern State in Joplin where he was an assistant under coach Robert Corn. The Lions were 71-21 in that span (1999-2002) with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1999-2000. His coaching career started with a one-year stint as an assistant at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville where coach Jay Harrington's Blue Storm finished 19-12.
The native of New Baden, Ill., began his playing career at Iowa in 1990 where he spent two years before he found a home at SIU under coach Rich Herrin. He helped guide the Salukis to three straight NCAA Tournament trips (1993-95), earning All-MVC second-team honors in 1994 with a 15.2 scoring average as a junior. As a senior, he earned a spot on the Valley Scholar-Athlete and All-Tournament teams and finished his career with 1,666 points.
He went on to play professionally both in the United States and Argentina and earned two different invitations to the Phoenix Suns' training camp.
A 1995 graduate of SIU-Carbondale, Lusk and his wife Melanie have a daughter, Maddie, and a son, Jack. The couple both earned their Masters of Science in Education from Missouri State in December 2000.