Thursday was a battle of cellar-dwellers. Butler, just three years removed from back-to-back National Championship game bids, found themselves in a rut in their first season without Brad Stevens. In their first season in the Big East, they've occupied DePaul's seat at the bottom of the Big East the entire season.
The Blue Demons, looking to win on Senior Night, have had their own problems this year, highlighted by the loss of Cleveland Melvin, who left the program in February. DePaul could have done what they have failed to do in their first three seasons with Purnell - win four Big East games - including a season sweep of the Bulldogs.
Instead, DePaul suffered their worst loss of the season, and fans voiced their displeasure with the program.
When the final seconds ticked away on DePaul's 79-46 loss at home to Butler, a fan base that once ruled the city, groaning at a 33 percent field goal percentage. They shook their head at every three-pointer missed, 17-of-18 failing to connect. They saw senior Brandon Young end his home career on an embarrassing note, despite a 24-point performance. What's even more embarrassing is that Young and his back court partner Billy Garrett Jr. accounted for more than 75 percent of DePaul's offense.
Thursday only fueled the talk of "Fire Purnell" in Lincoln Park. After an 11-20 season and a sixth straight last-place finish in the conference, DePaul fans are tired of the current "rebuild" and want to move forward.
Unfortunately for them (and maybe DePaul basketball), it won't happen just yet. At least not next season.
According to the Chicago Tribune, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto told the newspaper that Oliver Purnell will return for the fifth season of the seven-year deal he signed in 2010.
"When he came here we talked about taking four or five years to get it turned and to get the caliber of student-athlete we want in the program," Ponsetto said. "It's definitely a rebuild, this process that we're in, and we're going to stay the course, recruit, just get better, and execute."
In spite of a horrid 41-84 record at DePaul, Purnell has a voice of approval from the one person whose opinion matters the most in this situation: his A.D. The Blue Demons will continue on with Purnell into the later portion of his contract, which makes sense. DePaul knew the time needed to turn around the program, which is why they hired Purnell for seven years. There would be no reason to sign him for seven years only to cut him after four and pay him three years of guaranteed money. But if no significant progress is made before the end of the 2014-15 season, the old ball coach will likely get his walking papers.
In a business sense, this is the right move for DePaul. Purnell is starting to get his players, like Garrett and Tommy Hamilton, and although it's been a rough ride so far, the program seems willing to gut it out another year.
But what about the fans? DePaul has struggled with maintaining any resemblance of a fan base since joining the Big East, and poor play has made them an afterthought not only in the conference, but in the city of Chicago. They are still waiting to break ground on a new arena much closer to campus, but the fans - specifically the students, as DePaul boasts one of the more pathetic student sections in college basketball - will only embrace the program again once it starts to embrace winning.
Only time will tell Oliver Purnell will be around to see the day.