By Paul Schmidt
It should be one of the nation’s top jobs, but since RayMeyer has left the Blue Demons, DePaul has withered away to nearly nothing.
And lest you doubt that definition, the Blue Demons just lost their 23rd Big East game in a row.
The time for a debate about DePaul’s place in the Big East is coming to a head, but that is a discussion for another day.
Over the last couple of days there has been much speculation about who the top candidate for the job is, or should be, and the name that continually comes up is Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery.
The Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh wrote about the idea, and Jeff Goodman, a blogger at Foxsports.com, also supported the idea and reported sources told him that Lowery would be open to the move to DePaul.
While Lowery is surely a fine coach, his connections to the Chicago area are tenuous at best. One of his associate coaches’ father runs the Mac Irvine Fire, one of the state’s top summer teams, and the father of Bryan Mullins (one of Lowery’s players whom he coached for four years at SIU) runs the Illinois Wolves program, another top team.
This might give Lowery some connections, but this hasn’t aided his recruiting at Southern Illinois, as very few, if any, of these players even considered SIU.
One might not think that that would make a difference, but in this case it really is important. While DePaul does have the pedigree of the Big East, and to some extent the great location in the city of Chicago (it is only to some extent, however, because while the DePaul campus is located right in the city, the Blue Demons play at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, a hike for any college student and, let’s face it, a TOTAL dump), it is currently an inferior program to it’s neighbor to the south. In fact, it’s a far inferior program.
Lowery has led the Salukis to the NCAA Tournament in his first three seasons as head coach, and the teams’ profile is as high as it was when Matt Painter was coaching there.
Yet, Lowery still hasn’t managed to bring in much of the state’s top talent.
An even bigger problem will be that of money. Though Jean Lenti Ponsetto has repeatedly said that money won’t be an obstacle or an object in the hiring of the next Blue Demon coach, Lowery currently makes more than Jerry Wainwright did, almost 150,000 dollars per year more.
Surely, to switch jobs, Lowery would receive a pay raise due to performance and not to mention because of the higher cost of living in Chicago versus Carbondale (never underestimate that part of the argument — Chicago is an expensive city to live in), and suddenly you may have a head coach who has priced himself out of the budget before negotiations have even started.
There are tons of qualified assistant coaching candidates for the DePaul job, and these names may make more sense. Chris Collins is certainly ready to be a head coach. The Chicago-native and son of NBA great and former Bulls’ coach Doug Collins has been waiting for an opportunity to land that first job, and the DePaul job would be a perfect first fit given his deep Chicago ties.
Illinois assistant head coach Jerrance Howard would be another great selection, if not a bit riskier. Howard was a reserve at Illinois, and very much a student of the game, but how much he knows about X’s and O’s could be left for debate. His recruiting mettle, can’t be questioned, however, as Howard is the reason why the Illini got back into the living rooms of Chicago recruits: He simply beat peoples’ doors down until they would speak to him. Those efforts that were largely responsible for landing both Crandall Head and Jereme Richmond, two of the highest profile Illini recruits of the Bruce Weber era.
While Lowery may have the knowledge of the game, what isn’t clear is just how well he can recruit. And considering DePaul’s history with X-and-O guys — Jerry Wainwright is one of the most knowledgeable coaches in the game, but couldn’t recruit his way out of a paper bag.
What DePaul needs is someone to come in and convince the local talent to stay home and start something special. There are no signs that Lowery is that man.Follow paulmbanks