Oliver Purnell


DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell resigns

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source: AP

DePaul and head coach Oliver Purnell have parted ways with two years left on his contract, the school announced. The veteran head coach, known for his ability to turn programs around, couldn’t do so at the Big East program and finished 12-20 (6-12) this season in his fifth year in charge.

The school announced his resignation on Saturday.

“It is my best interest and my family’s best interest to resign as head coach of the DePaul basketball program,” said Purnell in the official release. “We made progress here and improved with the talent and character of our student-athletes. DePaul provided complete support and is fully committed to its basketball program with its budget, the on-campus facilities and in the future with the new events center. I would like to personally thank the University community, fans and student body for their support and thank the student-athletes for their efforts over the last five years.”

Purnell signed a seven-year deal with DePaul in the spring of 2010 and finished with a 54-105 mark at the school with an astoundingly bad 15-75 record in the Big East. The 61-year-old Purnell has been a Division I head coach for 27 years and was finally fired for the first time on Thursday. The former head coach of Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson has never won an NCAA Tournament game.

While Purnell should certainly shoulder much of the blame for DePaul’s failures during his tenure, he did have an uphill battle from the start following in the footsteps of former Blue Demon head coach Jerry Wainwright. Wainwright left the cupboard about as bare as it could be when he was let go at DePaul and Purnell definitely had his work cut out for him trying to get Big East-caliber talent in place.

It also didn’t help matters that DePaul has some of the worst facilities of any power conference program in the country. A new arena is being built for DePaul basketball near Chicago’s South Loop and they’ll try to find a new head coach who can bring excitement back to a once proud program. The new arena should be ready by the start of the 2017-18 season.

In a pro sports market like Chicago, DePaul has gone from a national powerhouse that once made Final Four appearances and produced NBA draft picks to being largely irrelevant. Attendance has plummeted over the last 10 years and local media coverage of the program has become nearly non-existent.

Firing Purnell seems like the first step in a new direction, but as long as athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto is in charge, there is cause for concern. Lenti Ponsetto hired both Wainwright and Purnell and both men were clearly wrong for the job.

If you include the half-season under former interim coach Tracy Webster after Wainwright was fired mid-season in 2009-2010, DePaul basketball was 114-200 overall and 36-143 in the Big East under those two coaches hired by Lenti Ponsetto.

DePaul made the NCAA Tournament in all but three seasons from 1976 to 1992 but has only made two NCAA Tournament appearances since.

2014-15 Season Preview: College Coaches on the Hot Seat

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon (Getty Images)
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Last season, Rick Barnes headlined our ‘Coaches on the Hot Seat’ list. He then proceeded to advance to the Round of 32 in the in the NCAA tournament, land a top five recruit in McDonald’s All-American Myles Turner and turn Texas into a team that will be ranked in the preseason top ten. His job? It’s now safe.

This year’s list features a couple of other big-name coaches as well as a few experienced guys who simply aren’t living up to the high expectations set on them. Here are our top ten Coaches on the Hot Seat:

1. Mark Turgeon, Maryland: It’s bad enough that Turgeon is without a NCAA Tournament appearance in three seasons at Maryland. Turgeon is 59–43 (.578) overall and 23–29 (.442) in the ACC at Maryland and never finished above 7th in the league. It won’t get much easier in the Big Ten this season, especially after Maryland lost five players to transfer this offseason. Turgeon even blamed himself for the transfers and has to rely on five new players to fill out the rotation.

2. Oliver Purnell, DePaul: Besides coaching 26 years and never winning a NCAA Tournament game, Purnell has struggled to turn around an already horrible situation at DePaul. He has talent in place this season at DePaul, but Purnell needs to win in year five of a seven-year deal. In four seasons, Purnell is 42–77 (.353) overall and 9–57 (.136) in the Big East. DePaul has won no more than three Big East games every season since 2007-08 and badly needs some positive momentum before they enter a new arena in a couple seasons.

3. Donnie Jones, UCF: Jones has a 76–52 overall record at UCF, but he’s 29–37 in conference play and he’s never made the NCAA Tournament. When you also consider his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players, and Jones was suspended for the first three Conference USA games and sent a letter of reprimand while the program was put on probation, that’s not a good look. UCF struggled to a 4-14 finish in the AAC last season and didn’t look ready for the jump from Conference USA.

MORE: Best non-conference games | NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25 Countdown

4. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech: Since taking the Georgia Tech job, Gregory has a 43–52 (.453) overall record and 16-36 (.308) record in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have never finished above 9th in the league in Gregory’s three seasons.

Tom Crean (AP Photo)

5. Tom Crean, Indiana: The overall record for Crean at Indiana isn’t all that impressive, but the first three seasons were a rebuilding effort from the Kelvin Sampson sanctions. The Hoosiers made two consecutive Sweet 16s before struggling to go 17-15 last season and missing the NCAA Tournament. If Indiana has another lackluster year, could Crean be gone?

6. Anthony Grant, Alabama: Much like Crean at Indiana, Grant led Alabama to three consecutive postseason appearances — one NCAA Tournament — before a record of 13-19 last season. Grant has never won a NCAA Tournament game at Alabama and the program has lost 14 consecutive road games.

7. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: Seton Hall brings in a good recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead this season, but can Willard win enough to save his job? He’s 66–65 (.504) overall and 24–48 (.333) in the Big East and has earned just one NIT berth during his tenure in South Orange. As Seton Hall’s head coach, Willard has never finished above 8th in the conference.

8. Steve Lavin, St. John’s: St. John’s made a NCAA Tournament appearance in its first season with Lavin at the helm, but hasn’t reached the Big Dance in three seasons since. Recruiting efforts have also taken a slight dip, as Lavin didn’t land any blue-chippers in 2014 and has yet to land any commitments in 2015.

9. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss: The tenure of Kennedy at Ole Miss is filled with NIT appearances and near-.500 SEC conference records, but a 19-14 season and the loss of four underclassmen last offseason aren’t good signs. Kennedy needs a fast turnaround to the postseason to get his name back in good standing.

10. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State has reached the NCAA Tournament four times under Ford but they’ve been one and done in each appearance, and this year the Cowboys will move forward without Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. Ford needs to make noise in March to make Cowboy fans happy.

DePaul gets commitment from three-star 2015 power forward

(Under Armour)
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DePaul picked up its first commitment in the 2015 class on Sunday afternoon as three-star power forward Develle Phillips committed to head coach Oliver Purnell and the Blue Demons.

The commitment of Phillips was confirmed by a source to NBCSports.com.

A 6-foot-8 power forward, Phillips ran with D.C. Premier on the grassroots circuit and fits Purnell’s uptempo style. A native of Bowie, Maryland, Phillips gives DePaul the athletic front court players they require to run Purnell’s full-court press.

A three-star prospect, according to Rivals, Phillips is known for some occasional highlight-reel dunks.