Men’s basketball completes coaching staff

By Gus Bode

The last time Paul Lusk left the court as a member of the SIU men’s basketball team in 1995, the Salukis were finishing a string of three straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Now the former Saluki star returns to Carbondale to once again try and help SIU reach three straight Big Dances, but this time he will do it as an assistant coach.

Lusk, a former head coach at the University of Dubuque in Iowa, and former Eastern Illinois assistant coach Jack Owens were recently named assistant coaches by new SIU head man Matt Painter.

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Painter said both Lusk and Owens remind him of himself when he first came to SIU in 1998 as a member of current Illinois head coach Bruce Weber’s staff.

The similarities include their amount of experience and being young, energetic guys.

This is a big step for them, and I wanted guys that wanted to be here,” Painter said. “I didn’t want this to be a stepping stone to something else, even though if that does happen, that is good. I wanted them to really want to be here.”

Painter compared Lusk to his former teammate Chris Lowery, who served as an assistant coach at SIU the past two seasons before leaving to join Weber in Champaign. Painter said with both being former players at SIU, they have that much more motivation to see the program succeed.

Lusk, who keeps in touch with Lowery and admired the job he was doing at SIU from afar, agreed with Painter’s assessment.

“I think anytime you invest in something, it’s important to you and I invested a lot down here when I played,” Lusk said. “It’s a place that I care about and it’s a place that’s been special to me, and when your alma mater wants you to come home, it’s hard to turn that down.”

During his playing days from 1992 to 1995, Lusk made an impression on SIU basketball. The former All-Missouri Valley Conference second-teamer ranks 31st on the all-time scoring chart, 15th in steals and is in the top 10 in three-pointers made, three-pointers attempted and three-point percentage.

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From 1997 to 1999, Lusk played professionally in Argentina before deciding to go into coaching. His first coaching job came at Missouri Southern where Lusk was an assistant coach from 1999 to 2002 before leaving to become the head coach at Dubuque last season.

Like Lusk, Owens was also a solid Division I player at Eastern where he was recruited by Painter, then an assistant with the Panthers.

During his two-year stint at Charleston, Owens was in the top two in assists in the Ohio Valley Conference and was named a team co-captain, most valuable player and was on the OVC honorable mention team.

Owens’ coaching career began at Howard (Texas) Community College, where he played prior to Eastern, and was even the interim head coach for a brief period. He then served as an assistant coach for two seasons at Barton Community College in Kansas. His last stop before joining Painter’s staff was at his alma mater last season as an assistant.

Owens said because he and Lusk were both former players, that should give them credibility when dealing with the team.

“That usually helps,” Owens said with a smirk. “That would help us with the kids that they think we know what we’re talking about.”

The duo rounds out Painter’s initial coaching staff, which also includes 15-year Saluki assistant Rodney Watson and graduate assistant Shane Hawkins.

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]

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