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Thursday, March 03, 2005 | Men's Basketball
Chris Lowery is 2005 Rawlings MVC Coach of the Year
Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery has been named the Missouri Valley Conference's Rawlings Coach of the Year by a vote of the league’s coaches and media. Lowery, in his first year as head coach of the Salukis, becomes the second rookie to win the league’s top honor in as many years.
In his rookie head coaching season, Lowery led the Salukis to their highest-ever regular-season win total, a No. 25 national ranking, and a league regular-season title. Southern Illinois enters the State Farm MVC Tournament with a 25-6 overall record and 15-3 conference mark. The 25 victories represent the highest regular-season win total in school history.
The 15-3 Salukis won the league title by a margin of three games over second-place Wichita State (12-6). They enter the tournament with eight-straight victories (and wins in 10 of their last 11). With the conference regular-season title, the Salukis claimed their fourth-straight regular-season crown and their fourth-straight No. 1 seed in the tournament. Southern Illinois is the first Valley team to earn four-straight titles since Cincinnati won a league-record six-straight crowns from 1958-63. The Salukis are the first Valley school to earn as many as three-straight No. 1 tournament seeds.
Lowery, 32, is a 1995 Southern Illinois graduate, and is looking to become the first to represent the Missouri Valley Conference in the NCAA Tournament as a player and as a coach at the same school. Lowery played in NCAA Tournaments with the Salukis in 1993 and 1994. A native of Evansville, Ind., he’s the fifth-youngest coach in Division I, and his 25 wins are the most among any first-year coach. He had spent the previous three seasons as an assistant to Bruce Weber at both Southern Illinois and Illinois.
He becomes the second-consecutive first-year Valley coach to earn league Coach of the Year honors (Matt Painter of SIU in 2004). Before last year, though, no rookie coach had earned the honor in the Valley since Nolan Richardson took Valley Coach of the Year plaudits in 1980-81 after leading Tulsa to a 26-7 record and second-place conference finish. Lowery is only one of 17 coaches to win 20-plus games in his first Valley season, and he is just one of 18 MVC rookies to win the conference’s regular-season title in his first year.
Lowery’s 25 wins are tied for fourth-best all-time for an MVC rookie, following Bill Hodges of Indiana State (33-1 in 1978-79), Ed Jucker of Cincinnati (27-3 in 1960-61), Denny Crum of Louisville (26-5 in 1971-72), and tied with Painter (25-5 in 2003-04). In his league-record 33-win season, Hodges took the Sycamores to a national runner-up finish in 1978-79.
Lowery, coupled with Painters (2004) and Weber’s (2003) MVC Coach of the Year honors, gives the Salukis three-straight league coaching honors. Before last year, two different coaches from the same school had not won MVC Coach of the Year honors in successive seasons, let alone three in a row.
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