By Joe Henricksen

Purnell, DePaul and recruiting

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By Joe Henricksen

The hiring of former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell at DePaul has received mixed reviews. In reality, with where DePaul basketball is right now in both stature and success, Purnell is a pretty solid hire. I mean who did people really expect DePaul to hire under the circumstances?

What DePaul gets is a reputable coach who has had some success coaching in one of the top three conferences year in, year out. Purnell has won a lot of games over the last few years at a school that is not exactly oozing with a basketball reputation. The Clemson program was pretty down under coach Larry Shyatt when Purnell arrived. In the three years prior to Purnell's arrival, Clemson was 40-49 overall and a dismal 11-37 in ACC play. In Purnell's last four years at Clemson the Tigers averaged over 23 wins a season, went 35-29 in the ACC and made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. That's a turnaround.

In an article written by Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com, the majority of the AAU coaches and high school coaches in the Chicago area were quoted as being pretty shocked with the Purnell hiring. Some were even a bit dismayed. Those that I've spoken with since the announcement was made were also surprised and had little excitement. They are surprised at the fact DePaul hired someone with really no connection to Chicago and who has few relationships in the city and suburbs. Some were very critical.

I don't know Oliver Purnell. When watching him on the sideline at Clemson I always confused him with that dude from Officer and a Gentleman, Sergeant Foley, played by Louis Gossett, Jr. (Come on, the resemblance is there). I don't know Oliver Purnell any better than I know Oliver Stone, Oliver North or Oliver Platt. Seems like few do here in Chicago, which is certainly a cause for concern for some. That can be overcome, though DePaul really doesn't have the time for meet-and-greets and Tea Time with the Coach.

It will take some work, but it will pass -- the questioning, the negativity, the potential but short-lived blackballing. All of that can be remedied with some hard work and old fashioned charisma, which I have no idea if Purnell has. But anytime anyone has anything to say about Purnell it's usually positive and noted he's a classy guy. I still remember the pessimism thrown around when Bruce Weber hired Jerrance Howard as an assistant. City coaches and the Chicago AAU folks wanted a "Chicago guy" on the Illinois staff. Howard, though, worked his tail off to establish relationships and everything has worked out just fine.

This much is certain: DePaul must have a Chicago feel on its staff. It's an absolute must. And it didn't get that with Purnell. But not all is lost. Whether that means retaining some of the past staff or finding new, genuine fits, it's absolutely imperative Purnell finds assistant coaches (preferably two) who are already respected, trusted and established in the Chicago area. Recruiting Chicago really is about relationships. It's about knowing and understanding how to recruit Chicago.

My first order of business would be to retain Tracy Webster. It's not the norm to have a former interim head coach stick around. However, this is a no-brainer. Webster, in a short time on the job, has done a terrific job of laying new recruiting groundwork for DePaul basketball. With Webster playing an instrumental role, DePaul has been able to get more young prospects on campus in the last year. Plus, players and coaches are at least talking a little more DePaul basketball as a result of Webster's relationships throughout the city, suburbs, high schools and AAU scene.

Webster is the guy who not only has long-lasting relationships with high school and AAU coaches, but since being back in the city and at DePaul has really connected and built relationships with current high school players. These kids know and like Webster, and they already in their short time in high school connect the likable Webster to DePaul basketball.

And now DePaul has something new and fresh to sell. They have to try and capitalize on the new look and feel of the program -- or at least the selling of the new look and feel. These opportunities only come around so often, typically after a huge year on the court that draws media attention and rekindles the fanbase when things are rolling or --as is the case with DePaul -- with a coaching change at the top when things are dwindling.

Locally, DePaul, no matter how hard the new assistants worked the past nine months, was up against the wall. Bringing in the new assistants was needed, but unfortunately as long as the man in charge was still around and suffering through another dreadful season, the scenery really never changed. Jerry Wainwright's job security, dismal records in the Big East, lack of TV and media exposure and the overall negative vibe were too much to overcome. Yes, teens are gullible and impressionable, but come on. You couldn't blame them for not really buying in, even with some high-energy pumped into the program with three new assistants.

But now DePaul has its shot. It will still be difficult getting over the drawbacks, ranging from the points previously made and the dreadful Allstate Arena issue, but it's at least possible again. There is a spark, a new hope, like Opening Day in baseball where everything is green and full of promise. OK, maybe I'm getting too analytical of the significance of one Oliver Purnell, but you get the point.

Purnell and his new staff will need to see if it can get back in the thick of things for De La Salle's Mike Shaw, who has established a couple of favorites ahead of the pack. DePaul will surely pounce on up-and-coming Mycheal Henry of Orr, East Aurora's Ryan Boatright and others. Getting one may be tough, but a new head coach can at least try and sell the idea of a group coming in together and being the group that gets immediate playing time and restores a tradition while playing in its backyard.

DePaul basketball is far from being back. And no matter your view of the job search conducted by Jean Lenti Ponsetto or how high your expectations were for the new hire, DePaul basketball is better today than its been since the Blue Demons won 20 games and an NIT game in 2004-2005.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now beginning its 16th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

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26 Comments

First time commenter but I have been coming back to this blog time and time again because of the content. I am a DePaul fan and you always keep it real. This blog has become a must read for me and others. Keep up the great work.

Great points with getting some city coaches. Maybe a high school coach to smooth things over for Purnell's staff? I do believe it can be done.

Depaul is bad. Has been bad. Will remain bad. And Ponsetto? Get real. This is the little school under the El and they act like it.

Joe: I am worried. here is why. It's almost too late to get really in the mix with a lot of these 2011 recruits. They are either committed or have their favorites. Then you look at the Class of 2012 and there are hardly any Illinois kids even worth offering, let alone be difference makers. The only way I think DePaul gets it going again is if they do their work with the freshmen class. They have to get a couple of the big stars in the Class of 2013.

As always, love your stuff Joe! Could jean lenti ponsetto be played by Debra Winger?

Adam J, might you be an Illini fan?

I like Jean Ponsetto and I think Purnell is a solid hire with a proven track record. The big key is getting some of the top local kids to stay home, then a few from outside of the area as well. How do you do this? Well, you have Booth, Webster and Garrett who are all okay assistants, but you just gotta hire someone with big time Chicago Public League ties. If you get the right CPL person, you can get Henry from Orr, Parker from Simeon, and big Tommy Hamilton from Young. That's a potential NCAA championship contender if you throw in a point guard and a shooting guard. You have to find out who that person is because there are a few basketball persons within the city of Chicago who fit this profile. They can help Purnell tremendously.

IT ISN'T TOO LATE TO GET IN THE MIX WITH 2011 RECRUITS!
THEY HAVE MADE AN ORAL COMMITTMENT, THE KEY WORD IS ORAL!
OLIVER PURNELL GRADUATED HIS PLAYERS AT CLEMSON!
ALL HE NEEDS IS 3 CHICAGOLAND PLAYERS A SEASON AND THE REST IS A BEAUTIFUL THING, KEEP THE NATIONAL RECRUITING EFFORT GOING, BUT SEAL THE DEAL WITH THE CHICAGOLAND PLAYERS!
FIRST HE MUST DECIDE ON HIS STAFF, RETAIN THE CURRENT STAFF OR BRING IN HIS GUYS!
GENE CROSS, ONE TIME ASSISTANT IS AVAILABLE, IN FACT I RECOMMEND THAT HE GET THE BASKETBALL OPERATIONS JOB, IF TOM ISN'T RETAINED!
MEET THE CITY COACHES, AND THE SURROUNDED SUBURBAN COACHES AND THE AAU GUYS, BE FIRM, RESPECTFUL, AND LET THEM KNOW THAT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY IS THE LARGEST CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY IN THE NATION AND A GREAT PLACE TO PLAY BASKETBALL AND GET A GREAT EDUCATION!
WELCOME TO CHICAGO, OLIVER PURNELL, AS WELL AS YOUR FAMILY!

These public league people are impossible to please. They are unreal. It's not about them. I would hate having to deal with many of these people on the recruiting trail. Purnell will have his hands full.

Why do newspapers and sportswriters continue to get opinions and even care about what high school coaches even say about recruiting. The CPL coaches have no CREDIBILTY and it has always been about them . They weren't happy when Illinois hired Kruger, Self and Weber. The hell with them. Weber had to find out the hard way. The relationship aspect is a bunch of BS because every coach knew McClain and Webster and those players still weren't going to Illinois. The HS coaches and AAU coaches are given way too much credit when it come to infuencing the kids college decisions. I know coaches like Smith, Slaughter, AAU coaches like Mullins, Streets, etc. love Weber but how many of those coaches top player have actually played at Illinois or for Coach Weber? Few at any minimum. Maybe these coaches are looking to be hired as assistant coaches. I like everybody else should give coach Purnell the opportunity to succeed instead of making idle threats toward a coach or program.

What's the buzz on why Cross resigned at Toledo after only two seasons?

DePaul set themselves up for criticism by having that big press conference. What guys do you think they should be looking at for assistants?

Let's be realistic. The Chicago Public league has the best basketball players in the country. I know many don't like the Public League, but we have to face the fact that the talent is in the CPL. Depaul hasn't landed any of the top kids from CPL outside of Koshwal in a long time. The CPL has won 5 consecutive state basketball titles and 6 in 5 years. They have kids who've competed in the NCAA final four over the years, and throughout the tourney representing schools all over the country consistently. There are presently 7 or 8 players in the NBA from CPL and numerous division one college players out there performing. The prospects are even better for the future. There are several kids over 6'7" in 6th grade right now in the CPL elementary program within which there are 300 teams in 5th through 8th grade. Make no mistake, DePaul needs to hire a CPL connected person. Not a street agent, not an AAU coach, but a qualified CPS - connected "educated" person who can tell you what's coming from even grammar school. You need this diplomat who can speak to the masses within the Englewood and West Side communities in Chicago, as well as inside the Big East Board room and elsewhere. I know who it is, and I bet DePaul can get him for 15% of what they gave Purnell. Think about it. I guarantee you will get the top kids like DePaul did when they got Mark, Quentin, Bobby, Lance, and others. You guys reading this should know who I'm referring to, and Purnell should try to find out who this is. It will help him build much faster by getting the studs from Chicago, including Blackshear who we all know is better than Jeremy Richmond.

Cross is done. He can't help DePaul, and Purnell needs to fire 2 of the 3 coaches they have there now. Look inside the Chicago high school sports scene for an educated person with a strong conection to CPS.

THAT IS WHY YOU RECONSIDER GENE CROSS, HE DOES HAVE TIES TO THE CPS, HE RECRUITED LORENZO THOMPSON FROM CRANE, HE WAS AN ASSISTANT AT NOTRE DAME, VIRGINIA, AND UIC, AND OF COURSE ONE TIME ASSISTANT AT DEPAUL, THE BASKETBALL OPERATIONS JOB IS RIGHT ON THE MONEY FOR GENE CROSS!
HE ALSO RECRUITED BANKS FROM WESTINGHOUSE TO UIC, WHEN HE WAS ON THE THAT STAFF!

Great Blog Joe! Appreciate and respect your opinion.

Cross has to be "crossed out." He mysteriously left Toledo and you may not want to find out why. (I know)

DEPAUL HIRES A NEW COACH, AND THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE A PRESS CONFERENCE, THAT IS CRAZY, IT IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT, AND WHEN YOU ANNOUNCE SOMETHING, YOU HAVE A PRESS CONFERENCE!
REMEMBER LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE LARGEST CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY IN THE UNITED STATES!
THE ASSISTANT COACHING SITUATION WILL WORK ITSELF OUT, THAT TAKES TIME, COACH PURNELL ISN'T NEW TO GETTING HIMSELF A STAFF TO WORK WITH HIM, HE WAS ONCE LEFTY DRESELL'S ASSISTANT AT MARYLAND, HE KNOWS THE ROPES!
THIS ENTIRE DISCUSSION GOT OUT OF HAND, BECAUSE SOME FEEL, THAT THE CPS COACHES SHOULDN'T HAVE EVEN BEEN ASKED ABOUT THE NEW HIRE AT DEPAUL, IT'S LIKE, WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH THIS SITUATION, WELL WHEN YOU BREAK IT DOWN, YOU NEVER WANT ANYONE TO FEEL LIKE THEY ARE ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, THE KEY WORD IS RELATIONSHIP, AND AS I TYPE, ONE IS BEING DEVELOPED, WITH RESPECT FOR ALL, THE CHICAGOLAND AREA IS A SPECIAL PLACE TO RECRUIT FOR THE FUTURE, JUST ASK, ILLINOIS, UIC, LOYOLA, ILLINOIS STATE, BRADLEY, CHICAGO STATE, SIU, EIU, WIU, WISCONSIN, OHIO STATE, DRAKE, CALIFORNIA, KANSAS, TENNESSEE STATE, NORTH CAROLINA A&T, INDIANA STATE, IOWA, NIU, DAYTON, XAVIER,
KANSAS STATE, VALPO, FAIRFIELD STATE, KENTUCKY, WESTERN KENTUCKY, OAKLAND, UMKC, DAVIDSON, CORNELL, HARVARD, PRINCETON, PURDUE, OREGON STATE, IOWA STATE, RICE, CENTRAL FLORIDA, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL, OREGON, EVERY SCHOOL THAT I NAMED, HAS A CHICAGOLAND AREA BALLPLAYER, IF YOU THINK THAT THE CHICAGOLAND DOESN'T ENRICH A PROGRAM, I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU! COACH PURNELL KNOWS THIS WAY BETTER THAN I DO!
WELCOME TO THE CITY OF BIG SHOULDERS!

When it comes to Gene Cross, Jo-Jo is right on the money. Don't go there. .... DePaul just needs to look at that Hoops Report Super Six story from each summer, go after one or two of those assistant coaches. When was that blog?

DePaul doesn't have to win with just Chicago kids. If Purnell has connections somewhere else, why not let those kids come in? I know they are in Chicago and I agree they should get some Chicago kids and establish connections, but winning programs don't have to be based on the CPL. There is loads of talent in alot of other cities nationwide.

Mike is right regarding recruiting other areas and getting players out of state. However, DePaul can't be shut out of Illinois. These are the kids that are at least familar with DePaul and will give them a look because it is close to home.

All Chicago haters need to move out of the city. DePaul certainly cannot build with Chicago players only, but they can't get the best from elsewhere if they can't get some of the best from the city within which the program resides. Who should DePaul pursue in the high school class of 2011? I guess the 6'5" Wayne Blackshear is the hottest prospect who will be a 2 or 3 in college. 6'6" Mike Henry from Orr who is a 2 guard for the next level is special. So is Sam Thompson from Young with the 40" vertical leap. He jumps very high and will probably be a 3 at the next level, but he must expand his shooting range and learn to create a bit off the dribble drive. 6'7" Mike Shaw of DeLasalle is a good one who will be better in college. Ryan Boatwright is the best point guard from the class of 2011. Pickney of Simeon, Keifer Sykes of Marshall, and Derrick Randolph of Young (if he regains his academic eligibility) are the best of the remaining point guards.

HEY MIKE YOU ARE CORRECT, BUT IT DOESN'T LOOK GOOD WHEN YOU HAVE BIG TIME TALENT IN YOUR BACKYARD AND YOU CAN'T CONVINCE THEM TO ATTEND YOUR UNIVERSITY!
SURE NATIONAL PROSPECTS WILL STILL BE RECRUITED, BUT WAYNE BLACKSHEAR, MACARI BROOKS, JAMIE CROCKETT, AND PLAYERS OF THIS MAGNITUDE SHOULD BE RECRUITED AND HOPEFULLY SOME OF THEM WILL PLAY FOR DEPAUL, REMEMBER DEPAUL IS IN THE BEST BASKETBALL CONFERENCE IN THE COUNTRY, AND WITH THE EXPANSION OF THE BIG DANCE, A WINNING RECORD IS VIRTUALLY ASSURED OF THE BIG DANCE OR THE NIT, SO THE EXCUSE LEVEL GOES DOWN SIGNIFICANTLY!
1979- DEPAUL GOES TO THE FINAL FOUR, MARK AGUIRRE, BERNARD RANDOLPH, SKIP DILLARD ALL FROM WESTINGHOUSE HIGH SCHOOL!
THE YEAR PAT KENNEDY TOOK OVER, Q. RICHARDSON, BOBBY SIMMONS, LANCE FROM JULIAN ALL SIGN TO COME TO DEPAUL!
THE PATTERN IS SO PLAIN, GET SEVERAL CITY GUYS, AND ROUND OUT THE ROSTER AND WINNING TIME WILL HAPPEN, COACH PURNELL KNOWS THIS!
THE CHICAGOLAND AREA IS A GOLDMINE FOR BASKETBALL SUCCESS, DEPAUL MUST GET IN ON THE RECRUITING MORE HEAVILY, FOUR YOUNGSTERS PLAYED IN THE CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP, AND NOT ONE SIGNED WITH DEPAUL, PURDUE IS GETTING ONE, RICE ANOTHER, AND OREGON STATE, THE YOUNGSTER FROM SIMEON IS GOING TO DAYTON, JUST THINK IF DEPAUL HAD JUST SIGNED ONE OF THEM?
THIS IS WHY OLIVER PURNELL GOT THE JOB!

I never said I hate Chicago. I love Chicago. I was making a point that there are other cities that exist besides Chicago and plenty of talent not in Chicago.

Here is why the Oliver thing won't work.....although he seems like good people. They are going after Mike Shaw at De La Salle hard. They send assistant coach Garrett into De La Salle. WRONG! Being an outsider, Oliver doesn't know that De La Salle got Garrett and his top-rated Providence St. Mel team thrown out of the IHSA tournament years ago for stealing and later playing a young man they stole from De La Salle. Garrett and Coach Tom White have kept their distance for years...avoiding virtual punches....but now De La Salle is showing class by letting De Paul in their front door....but privately they are laughing at the gall of Coach Garrett everytime he steps in the building! Oliver, and Jean....Ya gotta know this city before you THINK you can operate here!!!!!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on April 6, 2010 8:03 PM.

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