Oliver Purnell is out as DePaul’s head basketball coach.
While it’s not exactly shocking news considering Purnell and the Demons peaked at a measly 12 wins in his five seasons; the university’s athletic administration affords us the right to be curious.
The language of Purnell’s exit consists of him “resigning,” which obviously means he was either forced out or chose to leave on his own terms. One would hope that it’s the former after Purnell won just 21 conference games at DePaul, but the Demons’ season ended on Wednesday. Most schools that know they’re firing a coach don’t take very long to do so. Nevada, who ended its disappointing season on Wednesday, fired coach David Carter just hours later.
Maybe Oliver Purnell made it easy on DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, and decided to move on from a situation that clearly wasn’t working. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman implies that Purnell was indeed forced out, but the overarching point is that Ponsetto is adding another whiff to her unimpressive resume.
A couple years ago (when this site was still in its infancy), I wrote that the university would be best served moving on from her if hoops success truly is the goal. And if you know anything about DePaul’s basketball history, there’s no question that should be their athletic priority.
However, I also noted that the possibility of that happening is very slim – as Ponsetto has made great strides in other areas of the athletic department, such as improved academics and the promotion of women’s sports to varsity. Not to mention, as a former four-sport athlete for DePaul, she’s been enshrined in the Hall of Fame for eight years now.
If Ponsetto won’t or can’t be fired, then it’s imperative DePaul at least brings in a supplemental voice to guide the direction of the basketball program. Oliver Purnell being fired certainly indicates the program is in a bad spot, but it also means they have a chance to start new and finally get it right.
Help is on the way in the form of a new arena at McCormick Place, expected to finish construction in about two years. The downtown location is a massive upgrade from the Demons’ current home in Rosemont at AllState Arena – nearly 45 minutes from Lincoln Park.
Aside from boosting student attendance/enthusiasm, the new arena will assuredly be attractive to potential recruits in Chicago’s rich hotbed of talent.
Considering all of that, it would be a shame for this once-proud basketball program to once again have the wrong man running the show.
So whether that means firing Ponsetto or bringing in someone that can help make the right hire – DePaul would be smart to be thorough in the search of their next basketball coach.
After the failed Oliver Purnell experiment, there really isn’t room for another mistake.
(Featured Photo courtesy of Bryan Horowitz)