From the moment the final buzzer was sounded last Wednesday night after the loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament--and well before that--DePaul fans found whatever medium they could to call for the firing of Oliver Purnell. Some penned articles and many more composed tweets. Most figured he would not be around next year, but many others recognized that a move would likely not be made until after the Big East Tournament had been concluded.
Saturday afternoon, it was announced by school SID Greg Greenwell that Oliver Purnell would not return as head coach next season, while the school described the move as a "change in leadership..." The only surprise found in Oliver Purnell's departure from DePaul is really in the method by with it came about: a resignation, not a firing. This only confirms that no one fires Oliver Purnell.
One could pontificate for ages about whether or not this move should have been made sooner or whether or not the right move was made in the first place about five years ago. The important fact is that what is done is done and the program's only option is to look forward at who will be the next coach tapped to revive this once-great, ailing giant. Over the coming weeks, many coaches will have their names brought up, and we have a few suggestions ourselves.
Of all of the coaches whose names have been brought up in the time since Purnell's resignation was announced, Howland is the most prestigious. Howland took UCLA to three straight Final Fours in the mid-2000's and was questionably fired after the 2013 season, but he was also able to coach some of the best current NBA players, such as Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. Before that, however, Howland coached in the Big East, leading Pittsburgh to two straight Sweet Sixteens and a Big East regular season and tournament championship in 2003.
Howland is a proven winner and I think he is the only coach who is older that DePaul should really consider. The Blue Demons are looking for someone who is young to bring energy back into the program, but Howland can still do that at age 57. His success has been proven and players would certainly love to come play for a coach who has shown that he can turn players into stars. A look at the list of players he has coached that are currently in the NBA proves that point exactly.
It goes without saying that Howland is familiar with the conference and he has made it no secret that he wants to return to coaching after being a commentator for NBC Sports for the past few years. His prestige may require a bit of money, but I think that a price tag is hard to put on revival. He is a coach that has proven his ability and his track record is certainly something that can be an excellent recruiting tool to use around Chicago. After all, Dan Stack already has the perfect pitch laid out for Howland:
"Hi, I'm Ben Howland. I went to 3 Final Fours and coached Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. Want to come to #DePaul and build something?"— Dan Stack (@StacDemon) March 14, 2015
The world was really introduced to Masiello as the head coach in last year's NCAA Tournament. As head coach of Manhattan, he took the Jaspers up against Louisville and his former coach, Rick Pitino. The Jaspers looked poised for the upset all game long, but couldn't manage to seal the victory, allowing Louisville to slip by into the round of 32. Immediately after that, Masiello became name that was popping up in the coaching carousel, as it was obvious some power conference school would offer him a job. Well, he was all set to become the USF head coach, but an error on his resume caused South Florida to rescind their offer. He was allowed to coach Manhattan after he completed the work required to finish out his undergraduate studies from his time at Kentucky.
Since then, Masiello's stock has continued to rise. His Manhattan Jaspers have made the tournament once again and many are still whispering his name as one that could make the leap to a power conference school, despite the hiccup he suffered with his resume. DePaul would be foolish not to pursue him. When talking to other DePaul fans, one issue they felt needed to be addressed was defense.
@morrisoncrying after 5 yrs of OP I want defense...even a semblance of defense. Amazing some say how tough job is but never blame coaching— OldSchoolDemon (@OSD_DePaul) March 15, 2015
Masiello has defensive coaching ability in spades. As a Pitino disciple, Masiello learned exactly how to inculcate a defensive presence in his players; the results speak for themselves: Manhattan was ranked 27th and 35th in adjusted defensive efficiency on Kenpom.com in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Masiello will be able to bring that signature Pitino defensive style that has worked for years at Louisville, and Kentucky before that, to whatever school that is lucky enough to hire him.
It is also a widely-known fact that Masiello is an excellent recruiter. Perhaps the biggest feature a prospective DePaul coach will need is an ability to recruit the Chicago area. In recent years, Chicago has produced some of the best talent in basketball, from Anthony Davis to Derrick Rose to Evan Turner. The Blue Demons even came close to signing Cliff Alexander, but lost out to Kansas. If DePaul is ever to hope to succeed, they have to have someone at the helm who can hang with the best of them on the recruiting trail. There is too much talent in Chicago to be allowed to go to other top schools. Masiello can make sure that these guys stay right at home.
Come on. You didn't think we could talk about a Power Five coaching search without mentioning a Duke assistant, did you? Capel is a different case than the last two Duke assistants to leave for the midwest (Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski), because Capel has been a head coach in the past. After his playing career at Duke concluded, and following a less than stellar USBL career, Capel took an assistant job at Old Dominion under his father. Jeff Sr. After two years there, he was named the head coach of VCU. At 27. Let me repeat that: JEFF CAPEL WAS THE HEAD COACH OF A DIVISION ONE BASKETBALL PROGRAM AT 27. In his four years at VCU, the Rams had more wins (79) and a higher winning percentage (.658) than any program in the state of Virginia.
In 2006, Capel was named the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, succeeding Kelvin Sampson. So, not only was Capelcoaching a D1 team at 27, he was coaching a Big 12 team at 31. Jeff Capel's time at Oklahoma is mostly remembered for signing Blake Griffin and leading the Sooners to a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, before losing in the Elite Eight.
After leaving Oklahoma, Capel returned to Duke to become Coach K's assistant/lead recruiter, where he has been since 2011.
So, what do we know about Jeff Capel? He's young. He knows how to recruit. He's learned from one of the best coaches in the history of the sport. All three things should be present on the DePaul checklist for finding their next coach.
Originally, I wasn't going to have Ty Corbin on this list. However, recent events have made me change my mind. Specifically, when it was reported by Stephen Howard that there was mutual interest between the Blue Demons and Corbin. While I would probably put Corbin the lowest of any candidate on this list, I can certainly see why DePaul would want him. He played for Ray Meyer, has coaching experience (though, not college.), and is a big name. It's always a risk when you hire a guy who has never coached at the college level before, NBA experience or not, because the styles are very different, plus you have to be able to recruit. So, again, while I don't think Corbin is the worst DePaul could do, he's certainly not the best.
Bobby Hurley/Bryce Drew
We finish off the list with a two-for-one special. Hurley and Drew are two of the names you're going to hear all offseason for the big-time jobs, and it's easy to see why. They've both taken mid-major teams (Buffalo and Valparaiso, respectively) to the Tournament this season, and both are superstars on the rise. They both remind me of Archie Miller last season. If their teams start winning Tournament games, watch out. The suitors will come calling. I think Hurley is more likely to leave Buffalo than Drew is to leave Valparaiso, only due to the fact that Drew attended Valparaiso and has built the program from the ground up. However, Drew has had much more success than Hurley, so it's possible Drew is higher on the list for teams. ESPN's Jeff Goodman thinks that Hurley is the right fit for the Demons.