Make or break season for Oliver Purnell at DePaul?


Oliver Purnell

Oliver Purnell has a long way to go to turn around DePaul basketball. And given the lack of progress he’s shown, you have to wonder how much time he really has to do that. This is year four of Oliver Purnell’s seven year deal. And in order for him to make it all the way to the end, DePaul will have to show us something much more than they have in the three year Oliver Purnell era.

Here is what Purnell has done in the Big East Conference: 1-17 his first year, 3-15 his second, and 2-17 last year. The program is 7-82 in league play since 2008. They haven’t reached the NIT since 2007 or the NCAAs since 2004. No power conference team allowed more points last season than the DePaul Blue Demons.

This is very reminiscent of Northwestern football between 1976 and 1981. The Wildcats went 3-62-1. At one point NU lost 34 straight games, a mind-boggling run of futility that remains the longest losing streak in major-college football history.

Yet here Northwestern is today, ranked in the top 20 and hosting today’s biggest game in college football. ESPN College Gameday didn’t exist in 1981, but if it did, could anyone have ever imagined it coming to Evanston 32 years later? Will DePaul host basketball Gameday many years from now? Can the Demons return to Ray Meyer levels?

oliver purnell

Every coach that followed Meyer: his kid, Pat Kennedy, Dave Leitao, Jerry Wainwright all had at least one winning season. They all won at least 20 in a year, yes, even Wainwright. Oliver Purnell hasn’t come even close to that mark yet.

“The pieces are in place,” Purnell said at the season tip off luncheon.

“This is what you live for, the time to come together with your team, to compete. This is our Christmas,” Oliver Purnell continued.

He’ll have to show progress soon, and it begins by actually playing some defense this college basketball season. Although, according to Purnell, the real problem is rebounding, not defense.

“It’s hard to defend when you don’t rebound,” he said.

DePaul held the annual D-Club gold outing and dinner at Ruffled Feathers Country Club in Lemont (the course where the DPU golf team competes) and Purnell reiterated that having a new arena downtown was critical to the program. And to turning around recruiting, the lifeblood of a college program.

Oliver Purnell said that he kept getting asked when are you going to get an arena in Chicago.

“It’s been addressed, and it’s been addressed beautifully,” he said.

DePaul’s current freshmen will play in that arena when they’re seniors. It is scheduled to open in 2016-17.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and Facebook,subscribe to his RSS feed here

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