Southern Illinois is the most attractive job in the state of Illinois outside of DePaul, Illinois and Northwestern.
It’s a program which has had success for much of the past 20 years. The Salukis have been to the NCAA tournament nine times since 1993 under four different coaches.
The success began with Rich Herrin, who went to the NCAA tournament from 1993-1995. Bruce Weber followed Herrin with two tournament appearances in five years at Southern Illinois. Matt Painter reached the tournament in his one year there. Finally, Chris Lowery went to three NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet 16 run in 2007, before the program took a dive as of late.
Because Southern Illinois still owes Lowery $750,000 for the next two years, the Salukis may not be throwing as large of a figure at their next coach, but there should still be plenty of interest in the position.
Here’s a look at potential candidates in alphabetical order:
Marquette assistant coach Tony Benford: He has paid his dues and is known to be a top-notch recruiter. He’s been at Marquette for the last four seasons and previously was at Nebraska, Arizona State and New Mexico going back to 1993.
Indiana assistant coach Tim Buckley: This could be the type of job that interests Buckley. He was the head coach at Ball State from 2000-2006 and has been assistant at Marquette and Indiana under Tom Crean since then.
Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard: His name has been tossed around for positions before. He’s been at Wisconsin for 11 seasons.
Butler assistant coach Matthew Graves: There’s an assumption someone will eventually pluck Graves from Butler. He’s been an assistant there for nine seasons.
Ohio head coach John Groce: If Southern Illinois wanted to get someone from the MAC like Bradley did with Geno Ford, Groce would definitely be an option. He led Ohio to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2010.
Northwestern assistant coach Tavaras Hardy: He will get a shot at a head job sooner than later. The 32-year-old Hardy has been at Northwestern for six years and has proven himself as a basketball mind and recruiter.
Miami Ohio assistant coach Todd Lickliter: Another coach who may be looking to get back into head coaching. He was previously the head coach at Butler and Iowa.
Purdue assistant coach Jack Owens: He will likely be a candidate for a few jobs. A graduate of Eastern Illinois, he could be a possible replacement there. He’s been at Purdue for four years and was previously an assistant at Southern Illinois for five seasons.
Illinois assistant coaches Jerrance Howard and Jay Price: Their names will come up for this and both have head coaching aspirations, but they’re probably not the right fit for Southern Illinois at this time. Price could be in the mix for the Eastern Illinois job, too.
Murray State head coach Steve Prohm: He will be a hot name after the season Murray State has had. He’s only been the head coach at Murray State for a year, but he’s bound to get a couple phone calls.
Michigan State assistant Dwayne Stevens: He is another long-time Big Ten assistant who will likely be a head coach.
Southern Indiana coach Rodney Watson: He is the fan favorite for the position. He spent 21 years at Southern Illinois as an assistant to Herrin, Weber, Painter and Lowery before taking over at Southern Indiana in 2009. He’s compiled a 68-15 record in three seasons at Southern Indiana.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber: If Weber is fired at Illinois, people will undoubtedly talk about him returning to Southern Illinois. It’s probably not realistic, but it won’t stop people from discussing it.
Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon: He took over a struggling Buffalo program as an interim coach in 1999 and has made it one of the MAC’s top programs. He’s has a reputation of a good coach and recruiter.