Every year in every team sport, we take the time to find out who the Coach of the Year is — but rarely does anyone figure out who is worthy of the title Worst Coach of The Year.
This season, one of the leading candidates for that ignominious title which I just made up has to be Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery.
You remember the Salukis, right? Nice program. They’re no Northern Iowa, but for a long time they were one of the most consistent programs in the Midwest, with coaches Bruce Weber and Matt Painter parlaying their success into head coaching gigs in the Big Ten.
The success continued under Lowery, who became one of the hottest coaching prospects in the country in his first three seasons, all of which resulted in SIU reaching the NCAA Tournament. None was better than the ’06-07 season, when the Salukis earned a No. 4 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 seed Kansas 61-58.
Instead of leaving for a more plum gig, Lowery displayed the unheard-of coaching trait known as loyalty, signing a seven-year extension to stay in Carbondale.
Unfortunately karma appears not to have paid off in this case, as pretty much everything that has happened since has been a disaster. The Salukis are in the midst of their third losing season in the five since that Sweet 16 appearance, and this year the losses have been historically awful.
On Jan. 21, SIU suffered the most lopsided loss in program history, an 85-42 pounding at Wichita State. Yet that may not even be the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Salukis this year — you’d have to look at their last two games for that distinction.
SIU’s last two opponents, Indiana State and Creighton, have gone a combined 24-for-26 from behind the 3-point line in back-to-back games. Yes, you read that correctly.
The Sycamores set a NCAA record by hitting all 12 of their 3’s on Saturday, a seemingly impossible feat in itself. But Creighton nearly replicated in Tuesday night, going 12 of 14 from beyond the arc. A program once built completely on defense has instead become a historical disgrace at it. And that is how you earn consideration as the Worst Coach of The Year.