SIU's Lowery gets vote of confidence

Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery received a vote of confidence from athletic director Mario Moccia at a joint press conference on Thursday despite pressure from fans and alumni to fire him.

Moccia and Lowery acknowledged the program needed to be better, especially in retention of players, and there would be changes made, including ones to Lowery's staff. The staff changes were not disclosed.

"Our program is not where it needs to be at this point and time," Moccia said.

Southern Illinois is coming off a season where it was 13-19 overall and 5-13 in the Missouri Valley. It was the Salukis' third consecutive losing season under Lowery.

Lowery was among the hottest coaches in the country from 2004-2007 after compiling a 78-26 record and reaching three NCAA tournaments, which included a Sweet 16 run. He was given a seven-year extension in 2007 at $750,000 per season. He also brought in a top-30 nationally ranked recruiting class in 2008, which included Illinois Mr. Basketball Kevin Dillard.

But the Salukis haven't reached the NCAA tournament since 2007, and everyone in that touted 2008 recruiting class has left the program.

"I haven't at any point of my life lost," Lowery said. "Where the program is now, I apologize to our students, fans and alumni. We shouldn't be at this point."

Lowery said among the keys to returning Southern Illinois to the top of the Missouri Valley was recruiting players who fit his program better.

Moccia would not say whether next season would be a make-or-break one for Lowery.