It seems like DePaul can't ever do anything to please the Chicago Public League. The Blue Demons lose a bunch of games with Jerry Wainwright as head coach and the league abandons them. DePaul goes out and hires Oliver Purnell and the coaches revolt. Then Purnell hires assistants and the public league coaches take it as a personal affront that he didn't hire enough people with connections to the league.
This is getting a little ridiculous. But it seems like there might be no end in sight. Last week when Purnell hired his staff Simeon's Robert Smith and Morgan Park's Nick Irvin were up in arms about the lack of Chicago influence on his staff - most notably the fact that Tracy Webster wasn't included.
"It was messed up from the start, but DePaul had a chance to make it right after the hiring of Oliver Purnell, which was a controversial hire, and they could have brought in some of the local Public League coaches to interview," Irvin told the Tribune. "That's why I'm upset. They're all capable of doing it. The Public League has good basketball and good coaches.
"You want to send the car, but you don't want us to drive the car. That's a Public League thing. You don't want to hire anyone from the Public League, but you want the Public League players."
That about sums up the reaction, and honestly, I think it's ridiculous. I know how the game is played. These coaches certainly have a great deal of influence about where there players go - and in Irvin's case that includes top 2011 prospect Mike Shaw - but I'm glad Purnell and DePaul have refused to bend over backwards to accommodate them. There were good reasons for why DePaul acted as they did.
Let's start with accusation number one - the hiring of Purnell instead of someone with better Chicago connections. There were a number of candidates that were considered for the DePaul job, and a number that turned it down, but all along DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto made it very clear that she wanted a coach with a proven track record from a major conference.
She shook every tree she could in order to find that person. Eventually the Blue Demons landed a solid program builder from Clemson that should be able to elevate the DePaul program from the depths it had sunk to. Purnell's done similar turnarounds at Dayton and Clemson, so why not in the Windy City? Yes, he's not a Chicago guy, but newsflash, not all of the basketball talent in the country is located in Chicago, and even the talent that is wants to leave.
There are successful coaches in the Midwest that don't recruit the public league - Illinois' Bruce Weber comes to mind - it's not a necessity. It's an added bonus of being in Chicago. But if the people that hold the keys to that bonus don't want to play ball, there are other options.
And that brings me to my second point, the other options. You have to recruit well regionally and nationally these days. No matter where your school is located recruiting locally isn't enough. It's evident that Purnell recognizes this fact. He kept some people from the former staff and he added his own. He wanted people he was familiar with, but he also wanted a Chicago flavor.
Thus Purnell added associate head coach Ron Bradley (Purnell guy - came from Clemson), assistants Billy Garrett (DePaul guy)
and Kevin Nickelberry (Clemson guy), director of basketball operations Josh
Postorino (Clemson guy), and director of community, corporate and professional
relations David Booth (DePaul guy).
And the guy not on that list? DePaul interim head coach Tracy Webster. That appears to be where some of the flack for the hiring process is coming from. Smith is upset that Webster wasn't retained. This makes sense, because Smith and Webster are apparently good friends.
"I know they're going to be recruiting [Simeon freshman] Jabari
[Parker], and that has to do with his family," Smith told ESPN. "I'm not
going to help them with anything. As far as our gym, they'll have to see
us somewhere else. That may change in a month, in a year, but right
now, I have a bad taste in my mouth. Right now, it's not good for me."
Of course, not retaining Webster seems to make perfect sense. There is no question that he is going to hook up with another school. Webster is a very good recruiter that obviously has some solid ties to the public league. Still, my guess is that retaining the person that was the head coach - even if he had the word "interim" before his title - would be difficult.
And maybe Webster wants a new challenge. Would he consider becoming the head coach of Chicago State? That spot is vacant right now and it makes sense that Webster would go there. Sure, it's not DePaul, but if he could win at Chicago State he could certainly move up. And the Cougars are a place that could use an influx of talented players from somewhere like the public league. It seems like an excellent match, but will it happen? Probably not.
Because, if he failed, they probably wouldn't be able to complain any more.