The coaching change at DePaul was made official at 11 a.m. this morning. Jerry Wainwright is officially stepping down as head coach and Tracy Webster will be taking over on an interim basis for the final 15 games of the regular season and the Big East Tournament.
Wainwright came into the packed conference room on crutches and read a prepared statement where he thanked those people, players, coaches and administrators that helped him during his time at DePaul. His career officially ends with a 59-80 record and a streak of 22-straight losses in Big East play, a conference record.
Wainwright said that a coach is judged by three things at DePaul - his ability to develop the minds of student athletes, the way those athletes represent the university and ultimately his or her won-loss record. No one questions that Wainwright did a superb job with the first two qualifications. The problem was the third.
Athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said that she thought that Wainwright could succeed this season with a roster composed of players he recruited. She was encouraged by the early season start when DePaul went 5-1, but a recent 0-4 slide that included a loss at Florida-Gulf Coast and three Big East losses (none by fewer than 13 points) sealed Wainwright's fate.
"Obviously we could've made a change at the end of last year," Ponsetto said. "I think I was optimistic and I think coach was optimistic that as we transitioned players and started to move towards more student-athletes that he recruited that our success rate would increase. I think we got off to a good start. ... I think it indicated that we were rolling in a pretty positive direction. We hit a couple of snags in the road and we kind of went into a little bit of a downturn and I just felt like that I didn't want to replay the same end of the season that we had last year."
In the end though Ponsetto didn't want to repeat last season's game-by-game firing watch and last week she came to the difficult conclusion that it was time to make a change. After Wainwright's statement she took the podium and answered a myriad of questions concerning the future of DePaul men's basketball.
Ponsetto said that DePaul will conduct a national search for a head coach after the season. Some of the assistant coaches, including Webster and assistant David Booth, whom Wainwright called "special young talents," will be considered for the position. Some bigger names, including Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson - a Chicago native, Isiah Thomas at Florida International, along with mid-major coaches like Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery have already been floated by pundits.
DePaul is waiting until the end of the season to being its search, so sitting head coaches will certainly be considered for the position. Ponsetto that the DePaul is "an outstanding institution" and that "men's basketball
has the tools that they need to be successful. I'm also grateful to coach Wainwright, he highlighted some things for us and we immediately got those things done. ... I don't think this is
a hard job. I think this is a great job."
She continued to reaffirm DePaul's commitment to the Big East, Allstate Arena and educating Chicago student athletes. While Ponsetto said that DePaul's legacy and history is built on Chicago players and that she'd like to be in the mix on more of the Chicago area players, national recruiting is also a high priority for the next coach.
"I think we certainly would like to have a stronger foothold in the Chicago area," Ponsetto said.
Ponsetto also said that DePaul has the "financial resources to pay a top-level coach."
"I obviously think we're going to look for the best fit and someone that can be successful in the Big East," Ponsetto said. "We're going to look for someone that come in here and be successful and win and do well in all three categories that coach Wainwright talked about."
For now though DePaul's savior isn't walking through the door. It is up to Webster to safely guide the ship through the murky waters of conference play. Ponsetto expects the team to compete for the rest of the season.
That effort starts on Thursday when the Blue Demons play Providence at Allstate Arena.