Oliver Purnell Era Begins at DePaul

Signs 7-year contract to turn around DePaul men's basketball

By Peggy Kusinski
|  Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 PM CDT
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Head coach Oliver Purnell will be leading from the bench for the DePaul Blue Demons.

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He's not Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh or UCLA's Ben Howland. 

Instead, DePaul's big surprise is ... Clemson's Oliver Purnell.

Who?

Oliver Purnell. 

The negotiation for the man who's coached for 22 years went down during the NCAA National Championship game at the Peninsula Hotel. By 11:30 p.m. central time, the hotel bar was closing as athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and Fr. Dennis of DePaul were closing a deal with a toast to their new coach.

Purnell has built programs at Radford and Old Dominion, and rebuilt the them at Dayton and Clemson. 

"We all felt the connection, the perfect fit for DePaul," Ponsetto said before introducing Purnell to the media Tuesday.

Purnell says the Blue Demons can be at the top of the Big East and doesn't see them as a mid-major despite only two appearances in the NCAA tournament in 18 years.

"It's happened before, it can happen again," he said.

Purnell's priority will be turning around a DePaul team that has won only one Big East game in the past two seasons.

"I'm looking at this with fresh eyes," Purnell said about his 7-year, $14 million dollar deal. 

He will begin with recruiting in the city of Chicago - then out - while also building a power staff.  Its just the project that has earned Purnell Coach of the Year in three different Division I conferences.  Possibly a job he can retire in too, if he has the fire after turning 57 years old next month.

"It starts tomorrow," Purnell said in cleaning the slate with the current Blue Demon staff and roster of players.  Purnell has made no promises to any of them, nor has the promise of a new arena been made either. 

"The facilities are good enough."

Ponsetto said Purnell was always at the "top of the radar" despite names like Jamie Dixon and Ben Howland being surfaced for the job.

"There were people that we were talking to that we had institutional permission to have conversations with that we mutually agreed we weren't going to discuss it," Ponsetto said.

Lenti Ponsetto said no offers were made to any other coaches.

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