When the DePaul Blue Demons hired Oliver Purnell as their head coach over four years ago, the reaction around the college basketball world was shock. Purnell had not been on anyone's radar for the position despite the proverbial nationwide search and while he came with a reputation as a program-builder (albeit one with an awful 0-6 record in the NCAA Tournament), he had zero connections to Chicago. Those lack of connections led to real surprise over the hiring from Chicago's AAU and high school programs, who were never won over by Purnell's predecessor, Jerry Wainwright.
However, what may be just as shocking as his hiring is the fact that he still has the job after what have been a miserable four years.
Under Purnell, the Blue Demons have gone a hearty 42-77. That's a winning percentage of .353. They have also gone 9-57 in Big East Conference play with a winning percentage of .157. They have been the lowest seed in the Big East Tournament every year and have only won one game, this past March over Georgetown.
By any metric, that is pitiful.
There is no question that Purnell was not walking into an easy job, even one that is the biggest program in Chicago. DePaul has not had a winning season since 2007; they have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004; and they play at the aging Allstate Arena, a half hour from campus and they draw terribly there. They rejected an offer to play rent-free at the United Center for the next ten years and a new arena proposed by the city (renderings here) has drawn significant opposition from DePaul faculty.
Purnell has largely struggled to make serious recruiting inroads in the city, as was feared considering his unknown status as mentioned. However one bright spot was Tommy Hamilton IV, who was selected to the conference's All-Freshman team.
It does seem that a reason why DePaul has held onto Purnell is due to his contract, which still has three years remaining, but even then, one would presume that has to be progress at some point. And to that, Purnell is running out of time.
Virtually any coach with a record like Purnell's would be hard-pressed to find themselves entering a fifth year, and yet, here we are. Given that DePaul is hardly in a better position now than when Purnell took the job, the time for waiting for improvement is over.