Southern Illinois has fired head basketball coach Chris Lowery, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Lowery was one of the hottest young coaches in college basketball after he led Southern Illinois to three straight seasons of 20 wins or more to begin his career. The Salukis advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2007, and afterward Lowery turned down a handful of higher-profile jobs to stay in Carbondale. That was the last time SIU would make the NCAA Tournament under Lowery, however. Over the next five seasons, the Salukis finished with a record above .500 only once.
Southern Illinois' loss to Indiana State in the first round of the Missouri Valley Tournament on Thursday left them with a final record of 8-23 for the 2011-12 season. The 23 losses are the most in program history.
Before the Lowery news had even become official, talk had begun to swirl that Bruce Weber could potentially return to Southern Illinois for a second run. Weber, who is widely believed to be on his way out at Illinois, was the head coach at SIU from 1998-2003.
The issue for Southern Illinois now becomes whether or not they have the funds to afford a high-profile coach. Lowery had two years remaining on a five year contract worth more than $5 million, and had a buyout clause worth approximately $1.5 million.