Highland: Sports

Forrester out as SIUE basketball coach

Lennox Forrester, who led the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s basketball program through its transition to a NCAA Division I program, is out as the Cougars’ coach.

SIUE Director of Athletics Brad Hewitt announced late Tuesday afternoon that the university will not renew the contracts of Forrester and his coaching staff.

“This was a difficult decision, coming after a thorough and thoughtful evaluation of the past eight years of work,” Hewitt said in a statement. “I would like to thank Coach Forrester for his dedicated service to SIUE and his leadership in developing young men of character. These student-athletes have represented the university and the men’s basketball program in a positive manner.

“Ultimately, our won-loss record and program support are not where we believe it should be.”

Forrester’s eight-year record at SIUE was 82-146.

The Cougars are coming off an up-and-down season that resulted in 12 wins — their most of the Division I era — and 16 losses. They advanced to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament as the No. 7 seed, but for the second straight year were eliminated in the first round.

SIUE finished an impressive 11-3 at Vadalabene Center, but was was frustrated on the road at 1-12. A season-low occurred in the regular season’s final game, a 64-61 loss at last-place Austin Peay.

In interview with the News-Democrat in Feburary, Forrester, 46, pointed out the chronology of photos lining the hall of the SIUE athletic department office, each depicting a program milestone. He said his goal was to add a photo of the university’s first OVC championship team to the collection.

He also cautioned repeatedly throughout the season, however, that the “transitional” days from Division II to Division I were behind the Cougars and would not be used as an excuse for losing.

“The only way I can put it is that I’m very privileged and honored to be the basketball coach at SIUE,” Forrester said during the February interview. “Job security is always a risk in the coaching business, but few coaches can ever say they were the first. No matter what, I’m the first Division I coach at SIUE and I feel very blessed by that.”

Introduced as SIUE’s seventh head coach in 2007, Forrester began his tenure during the Cougars’ last season in NCAA Division II, winning 17 games. He arrived in Edwardsville after five seasons as an assistant coach at Bradley and 10 at Evansville, where he was recruited as a player.

He replaced Marty Simmons when Simmons left to become head coach at his alma mater, Evansville.

Forrester was awarded a three-year contract following the 2011-12 season. That contract expired with the conclusion of the most recent season.

The university will begin an immediate national search for the new head coach. All inquiries into the position should be directed to Senior Associate Athletic Director Jason Coomer at 618-650-2841 or by email at jcoomer@SIUE.edu.