Oliver Purnell

April 6, 2010 by Post Team 

Oliver PurnellOliver Purnell:DePaul  agreed with Clemson men’s basketball coach Oliver Purnell late Monday on a seven-year contract that will pay Purnell well beyond the $1.6 million salary he was making with the Tigers.

Purnell will be introduced at a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference Tuesday in Chicago, DePaul spokesperson Greg Greenwell confirmed.

“DePaul presents a great opportunity,” Purnell told Tuesday morning.

The stunning hire — culminated shortly after the Duke-Butler NCAA national championship game — salvaged a search for a new coach that lasted nearly three months.

The Chicago Tribune and Web sites, both citing sources, first broke the story in the early morning hours Tuesday.

“It’s a super job,” Purnell said. “They are very, very committed to restoring a tradition and make DePaul Chicago’s team.”

Purnell wasn’t on any reported DePaul prospective hire lists throughout the winter. He said Tuesday he was contacted four or five days ago. DePaul had made overtures all over the country and few seemed to know where Blue Demons were headed.

DePaul interviewed Minnesota Timberwolves assistant and former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus late last week for the job.

Jerry Wainwright, who had two years left on his contract, was fired as coach on Jan. 11, with the Blue Demons at 7-8 overall, 0-3 in the Big East.

DePaul finished the season 8-23 overall and dead-last in the Big East at 1-17 under interim coach Tracy Webster.

DePaul went winless in the Big East in 2008-09 and finished 9-24 overall that season.

Meanwhile, Purnell took Clemson to the 2010 NCAA tournament with a 21-10 record (the Tigers lost to Missouri in the first round 86-78). Clemson was 9-7 in the ACC.

Purnell reached the NCAA tournament with the Tigers in three straight seasons, losing in the first round in each of those appearances. He was 138-90 in seven seasons at Clemson, but 50-62 in the ACC.

Prior to Clemson, Purnell resurrected Dayton in a nine-year run that ended with a 24-6 record and an NCAA appearance. He made two NCAA tournament appearances at Dayton.

He also coached at Old Dominion for three years (one NCAA appearance) and three seasons at Radford. Purnell has never won an NCAA game.

Purnell said the move was much more about the challenge at DePaul and had nothing negative to say about Clemson.

“I hope they feel we left the program in great shape,” Purnell said. “I feel that way.”

DePaul has struggled in the 16-team Big East. “On paper, it looks very tough,” Purnell said. “But once I evaluated this I saw that this was like a lot of the jobs I’ve had before Clemson. They were tough jobs as well,”

DePaul presents a number of challenges. The Blue Demons are less talented than the rest of the Big East. They also have facility issues — including having to play off-campus near O’Hare International Airport at the Allstate Arena — as well as a relatively apathetic fan base in Chicago, which tends to be a town that follows its professional teams.

Clemson, meanwhile, is consistently one of the best and rowdiest home courts in the ACC.

Clemson loses seniors all-ACC forward Trevor Booker and wing David Potter but was expected to returned the rest of its team that reached the NCAA. Most experts figured the Tigers to challenge for an upper-division spot in the ACC.

Purnell’s departure means there are now two coaching openings in the ACC. Boston College is looking to replace Al Skinner, who parted ways with the program last week.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at

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