After being fired once the 2011- 12 season ended, former SIU men’s basketball coach Chris Lowery seeks millions from the university, citing breach of contract and defamation.
Lowery, the Associate Head Coach at Kansas State, served as the Salukis’ head coach from 2004 to 2012 and compiled a 145-116 record in eight seasons.
Lowery, who was also a former Saluki basketball player in the early ’90s, led the Salukis to the NCAA Tournament in his first three seasons.
However, his record wasn’t as impressive following his third coaching season as the Salukis compiled a 67-90 record and failed to make the NCAA Tournament in his last five seasons.
The former head coach signed a seven-year $5.25 million contract extension following the 2006-07 season at SIU, the richest contract in school history. The contract included a base salary of $750,000 per year, plus annual university or cost of living increases.
Despite signing the lucrative contract, Lowery was let go after the 2011-12 season with two years left on his deal after the Salukis finished 8-23, a school record for season losses.
It was SIU’s fourth-straight losing season.
In a transcript retained from Saluki Athletics, Athletic Director Mario Moccia said despite Lowery’s firing that Lowery would always be a Saluki.
“I want to personally thank Chris for his service to our University as a player and coach for 14 years,” Moccia said. “He is a Saluki to his core.”
Lowery echoed the same comments in a March 18 article by the Evansville Courier and Press.
“SIU is my alma mater,” Lowery said. “There is never going to be any bad blood. They gave me the opportunity to be a player and a coach.”
Nevertheless, the two-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year has filed a lawsuit against SIU, seeking between $1.5 and $5 million and argues breach of contract. He seeks attorney fees, arbitration and punitive damage.
Lowery is owed more than $1.5 million for the final two years of his contract.
“I’ll let the higher-ups handle it,” Lowery said in an interview with the Evansville Courier and Press. “I have never publicly commented about what happened at SIU, and I’m not going to do it at this time.”
Upon Lowery’s firing, Moccia said Lowery was fired “with cause,” and negotiation from both parties would take place soon.
Deborah Nelson, SIU’s Associate General Counsel, did not return messages seeking comment.
Lowery’s attorney, Daniel Bell of Jackson Lewis LLP in Cleveland also did not return any messages.
Moccia said one factor that led to the firing of Lowery was player retention.
“Player retention has been a problem for us and clearly contributed to the decline in our on-court performance,” Moccia said. “We reached a point where I felt it was in everyone’s best interest to make a change.”
More than a dozen players transferred from SIU between 2007- 2012 and left Kendal Brown-Surles as the only fourth-year senior on the court this season.
Two players were academically ineligible during Lowery’s last season as coach, and the men’s basketball team held a 908 Academic Progress Rate score in 2010-2011, which is eight points from citing NCAA disciplinary action.