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Big East Season Recap: DePaul Exit Interview

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Our ten-part series keeps rolling right along as we take a look at the DePaul Blue Demons in part three.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After winning three Big East games to open conference play, the Blue Demons slipped right back into their old ways. Will things ever get better for them?

Derek Rayment: I don't think they can get much worse in all honesty. They haven't been in the NCAA Tournament since 2004 and didn't show much promise in Oliver Purnell's years. That 2004 team was coached by Dave Leitao, who is now back with the Blue Demons after Purnell's firing. So, yes, I do think things will get better for them. It's certainly a different landscape for Leitao now but not many coaches have been able to win at DePaul. And in Leitao's three previous seasons with them, they had winning records.

Adam Hillman: This upcoming year may be difficult for the Blue Demons with a new coach and a real lack of talent on the inside. Tommy Hamilton jr. is their only option who has played a key role in their rotation in years past. Although, Depaul has done a great job recruiting in the Washington D.C area, which is one of the most underrated basketball pipelines in the nation. If either or both Oumar Barry and Develle Phillips can develop into a quality forward, then improvement could be possible as soon as next year. Billy Garrett jr. should evolve into one of the better point guards in the coming year, but the question is who will thrive around him. If Leitao can snag Marcus Lovett jr. away from St. Johns and Illinois, DePaul may be able to become well, a better team come 2016-2017.

Pierce Roberson: DePaul exceeded expectations, and that should tell you how low this program has fallen. Gone is Oliver Purnell, the latest head man to guide the Blue Demons to mediocrity. When the time came to pair Billy Garrett and Tommy Hamilton with a promising young coach that can grow along with his two stars, the team tabs a blast from the past in former coach Dave Leitao. He had a good run in his initial stay in Chicago, taking the 2004 team to the NCAA Tournament, but his time at Virginia was far from pleasant. I think things will certainly get better, but not without a significant effort from its main cast and their returning director.

Some were surprised that Oliver Purnell was fired. Some felt he deserved one more season. Do you think DePaul had reason to fire Purnell or was he unfairly scapegoated?

Derek Rayment: Sorry but he deserved it. They never came close to a .500 record under Purnell. I feel like five seasons is more than enough time to show progress and there wasn't any under him. A team should improve as the season goes along and the month of February was very tough for DePaul. That should fall primarily on coaching.

Adam Hillman: Retaining Purnell for one more year would just be ridiculous. Purnell never won more than 12 games a year and struggled to recruit in the Chicago area. He has sent this program into an all time low point and only reached six wins in the Big East once. Chicago is a haven for basketball, finding talent and convincing them to stay close to home really should not be that hard of a task.

Pierce Roberson: Oliver Purnell's stay was extended one year longer, in my opinion. Most coaches don't survive four seasons of hovering around the 12-win mark, let alone five, but DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto was generous enough to give Purnell one more season. It looks like an improvement on the court, but not in the record books. Chicago-area recruits are still not flocking to Lincoln Park. Not that I expect them to snag the Jalen Brunson's and Myles Carter's of the city just yet, but Purnell failed to make an imprint in that category, not counting Garrett, his dad is an assistant coach, and the transfer Myke Henry. It was best for both parties to move on.

Dave Leitao was the last man to take the Blue Demons to the NCAA Tournament. Since then he had a failed stint as a head coach at Virginia, then was on Frank Haith's staff at Missouri and Tulsa. What has Leitao learned in the last ten years that makes him ready for this job?

Derek Rayment: How to win at DePaul. He did it in his years with the Blue Demons and I am sure he has learned from some mistakes at Virginia and then in his time as an assistant. I don't know if he's the savior but he'll be able to take DePaul in a positive direction.

Adam Hillman: What it is like to fail. Before his job at Virginia, Leitao had only had one season under .500 and never missed a postseason tournament at DePaul. His stint at Virginia taught him the value of recruiting. In prior jobs, he was never really working at that position long enough to need to take a serious look at recruiting for the next year. His first two years at Virginia were dominated by upperclassmen who were a product of the old regime. Probably his highest achievement at Virginia was signing future NBA forward, Mike Scott. Although, he was developed by Leitao and Tony Bennett. Scott was not even considered one of the nation's 100 best players when he came out of high school. His inability to sign any other premier player taught him the importance of finding diamonds in the rough and convincing local players to stay in the area. At his new job, recruiting in the Chicago area will be of the utmost importance and he will need to find talented players around his area.

Pierce Roberson: Leitao's stint at DePaul was a massive success compared to his time at Virginia. Aside from a spectacular conference season in 2007 where they took a share of the ACC Title, it was a lackluster stint in Charlottesville. If anything, Leitao learned how to be a better recruiter. In four years at Virginia, his one solid find was Mike Scott, now with the Atlanta Hawks. His experience in the Chicago market should help him out there, but if he can't find jewels within the Chicago prep talent pool, DePaul is destined for another few years at the bottom of the Big East.

Billy Garrett, Jr. is one of the most unappreciated players in the Big East because he plays for DePaul. Do you think this is finally the year he starts getting some recognition and makes the Big East First Team?

Derek Rayment: No, I don't. He's good but making the first team? He will have to have better stretches of play than he did last season. Also, his team will have to finish higher than they did in order for him to make the first team. You just don't see a player making the first team from an 8th place team that often.

Adam Hillman: With Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono, Rysheed Jordan, and D'vauntes Smith Rivera all returning, it is unlikely that he will make first team. I do expect improvement and that will he join the lower portion of that class of elite guards in the Big East, but first team next year is just too far of a stretch.

Pierce Roberson: Garrett will have a great season, but there are too many top guards returning next year for me to say he'll make the first team. I expect a huge leap from him coming into his junior year. He should be a near lock for the second team.

Early prediction for next year for the Demons?

Derek Rayment: I think they'll be in the bottom four once again. They'll be much the same. In the year after I could see them making a jump with Garrett Jr. as a senior and Leitao more adjusted. In my opinion, they have to get better defensively in order to compete. They've been very soft in recent years with a limited ability to rebound. Once they improve in those areas and get tougher, you could see them win more games.

Adam Hillman: This team has the potential to surprise with the incoming freshmen and Billy Garrett Jr. If Tommy Hamilton becomes a presence in the paint and Aaron Simpson drastically improves, this team could shock the Big East. Those are a lot of what ifs and most likely the only one that will come true is the development of Billy Garrett Jr. DePaul has the look of yet another rebuilding and losing season.

Pierce Roberson: I have them situated in the lower half of the conference. I'm not big on this year's recruiting class and there are some holes in the lineup defensively. This team has a good core in Garrett, Henry and Hamilton, and if Dave Leitao is able to motivate this club, they can steal a few games and improve on that 12-win mark. That being said, it's still DePaul, and I'm having a tough time believing this team can make the postseason. They could surprise me, but it looks like another rebuilding year.


Check back later this week as we'll take a look the Georgetown Hoyas!