In a 1917 essay in the New York Evening Mail, H.L. Mencken wrote, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible and wrong."

Over the years, that has morphed into "For every complicated problem there is a bad simple solution."

I'm not really a deep philosophical thinker. Outside of class requirements for general studies philosophy, I've never read a paragraph of Plato, Hobbes or Sartre. In fact, before Tuesday, I never knew the aforementioned quote was attributed to H.L. Mencken.

However, that quote came to mind while pondering the current state of the Saluki basketball program.

If you read message boards relating to SIU basketball or listen to radio talk shows you know that in some corners of Southern Illinois Chris Lowery is public enemy No. 1.

Lowery took over the program in 2004. In that time, the Salukis have failed to make the NCAA tournament twice, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and Iran has gotten closer to developing nuclear capability. And, Washington, D.C., was paralyzed by a monstrous snowstorm last week.

To read and hear the overheated commentary, one would swear the onus for all these disasters falls squarely on Lowery's shoulders.

Let's just breathe into a paper sack for a few seconds, get a cool drink of water and relax for a second.

First, let's be honest.

The last three years have been difficult for the Saluki basketball program. After six straight seasons in the NCAA tournament, including a 2007 Sweet 16 appearance, SIU has failed to reach the NCAA tournament in each of the past two years. Barring a stunning run through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this year, that string will reach three straight years.

That has been a bitter pill for some Saluki fans to swallow. Again, in fairness, a case can be made that last year's bally-hooed recruiting class was either overrated or is underachieving.

The solution, apparently obvious to some, is to throw out the coach and start all over again.

There are a lot of reasons that is a bad idea. The first is simple economics. In these tough times, a buyout really doesn't make cents, or sense.

The better reason, it's an over-reaction.

To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Justin Bocot, Anthony Booker and Kevin Dillard - they are what's left of the class - play, I thought all would be immediate impact players. There is no question they are all phenomenal athletes. All three have thrilled Saluki fans with acrobatic plays that almost defy belief over the past two years.

However, their growth as basketball players has been slower than expected. The entire team continues to struggle in fundamental areas, particularly in the closing minutes of games.

I understand the fans' frustration. While this team is young chronologically, this is not an inexperienced group. Even the three aforementioned players have more than 50 games under their belts.

Yet, I also see improvement that others seem to be ignoring.

Since the emergence of Gene Teague as a viable inside scoring threat, the Salukis seem to have a real offensive purpose. Shot selection has improved dramatically. And, the team is no longer content to settle for the first available 3-pointer.

In addition, Kendal Brown-Surles and John Freeman are getting better every game.

These improvements have been incremental. They have yet to result in a signature win.

And, there are other issues to be addressed.

While it may be pie in the sky to hope for a return to Floorburn U, this team needs to place greater emphasis on defense. It also appears that there is a lack of trust between teammates, particularly when a game is on the line. The word family has largely been missing in post-game new conferences this year.

Yes, these are serious issues. The first step toward addressing them is not starting over.

LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088.



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