When the college basketball season ends, it's just the start of another season. Coaches are fired, then hired elsewhere. It began Friday, when Southern Illinois fired Chris Lowery, the former Illinois assistant who took the Salukis to three NCAA tournaments and a berth in the Sweet 16 in 2007.
CHAMPAIGN -- When the college basketball season ends, it's just the start of another season.
Coaches are fired, then hired elsewhere. It began Friday, when Southern Illinois fired Chris Lowery, the former Illinois assistant who took the Salukis to three NCAA tournaments and a berth in the Sweet 16 in 2007.
"I talked to Chris a lot,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said Friday. "The last couple years, they've struggled. He had an unbelievable run. At the mid-major level, they better appreciate it because it's hard to maintain.''
Weber can also be found on the hot seat, and his days appear numbered as Illini coach. Illinois (17-13 overall, 6-11 in the Big Ten) plays at No. 14 Wisconsin (22-8, 11-6) on Sunday (noon BTN) in the final Big Ten regular-season game for both teams.
CBS sports reported SIU would target Weber if Illinois makes a move, as expected.
Meanwhile, the Illini likely need a big run in the Big Ten Tournament to steal an NCAA berth, but the Illini might be running on empty after the 72-61 home loss to No. 13 Michigan on Thursday.
"At the beginning, we didn't have the emotion,'' Weber said. "Was it the stress of the situation? I know the kids care. When your spirit has been shaken, maybe it's taken a toll.''
One guy who couldn't get it in gear was freshman guard Myke Henry, Weber said. Henry didn't play against Michigan, even though Weber used some of his bench in the closing seconds.
"He told me the whole thing has taken a toll on him,'' Weber said. "He's not practiced well. He didn't have great energy. We talked last night. He's fine. He's a great kid. I think he has a great future ahead of him. Myke Henry is a special kid.''
It was senior nigh for the Illini against Michigan but a homecoming for Meyers Leonard and his brother Bailey, who completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines. After a 14-hour drive from Camp Lejune, N.C., to Robinson, Bailey surprised his brother by a visit during the Thursday afternoon shootaround kept secret by the basketball staff.
Bailey returned from his second deployment overseas to shock Meyers during the afternoon workout. He wore his dress blues.
"He's a very important person in my life,'' Meyers said. "He put his life on the line every single day for the second time for nine straight months. I couldn't be more proud to call him my brother. I had no clue he was coming. It brought tears to my eyes.''
Weber knew about the reunion for a month, and "everybody did a good job that was involved,'' he said.
Said Bailey: "It was like a dream, to be honest.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.