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So. Illinois coach Lowery agrees to 7-year deal

Chris Lowery will stay put at alma mater Southern Illinois
University, agreeing to a seven-year contract extension that will
pay him $750,000 a season to coach the Salukis.

Lowery's deal was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Saturday.

The deal announced Sunday triples Lowery's salary this season,
when he guided Southern Illinois to a school record 29 wins, and
the program's highest ranking, No. 11, in the Associated Press
men's basketball poll.

"I am flattered by the university's offer and its desire to
keep me as head coach," Lowery said while attending the Final Four
in Atlanta. "Southern Illinois is a special place, and our leaders
have bold plans for the future. I feel there are no limits to what
our men's basketball program can accomplish."

Southern Illinois was a fourth seed in the West Regional -- its
highest seed in the tournament -- after winning its fifth Missouri
Valley Conference regular-season title in the past six seasons. The
Salukis pushed top-seeded Kansas to the brink before falling in the
regional semifinal.

Southern Illinois' run through its league and to the school's
third appearance in the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 triggered
widespread interest in the 34-year-old Lowery, the youngest coach
in the tourney.

Southern Illinois athletics director Mario Moccia said the
contract underscores the Salukis' commitment to keeping Lowery, the
reigning Missouri Valley coach of the year. He has won the award
twice in his three seasons guiding Southern Illinois, where he has
gone 78-26.

"Given Coach Lowery's track record as a head coach, we felt it
was essential to retain him," Moccia said in a statement.

Moccia, who during the Missouri Valley tournament last month
made clear his major goals included keeping Lowery "for a long
time," said Lowery's success in the NCAA Tournament commanded
attention from possible suitors.

Moccia said he hoped a competitive financial package and
Lowery's ties to the school -- he played point guard for three
Salukis teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s
-- would persuade him to stick around.

In the school's statement Sunday, Lowery said the program had
not yet peaked and credited Moccia for his leadership and vision,
adding that both men share a belief the program can continue to
grow.

"Chris and I have forged a special relationship," Moccia
added. "We share a competitive desire to achieve success. And we
feel the potential of Southern Illinois University is unlimited."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.