There are only a few collegiate teams that can claim the history that the DePaul Blue Demons can. DePaul, believe it or not, was once a proud and prominent college basketball program. Sadly for the Blue Demons times have changed and they haven’t been able to keep up. While now their biggest claim to fame is being the school George Mikan attended, most people think of them as the program that went 0-18 just a few years ago in Big East Conference play.
It’s really shocking when you think about it. DePaul has history, location, and have played in one of the most prestigious hoops conferences that ever existed. Considering all of those factors one has to wonder why they haven’t reclaimed some form of modern relevance. Like other “sleeping giants”(programs that once were great but fell on hard times) DePaul just needs a swift kick in the rear to be woken up. Hopefully for Blue Demon fans the seven private Big East schools either leaving or dissolving the conference will be the necessary jolt to the program.
DePaul is being granted a clean slate. However they decide to attack is up to them but let’s be clear, if DePaul wants to be a player in college hoops they better be willing to change their ways.
Ray and Joey Meyer were DePaul coaching mainstays for nearly three decades. In that time the program enjoyed some of its more notable successful seasons and DePaul was a highly thought of program. Then something weird happened, DePaul thought they were the program, not the coaches. Joey Meyer led the Blue Demons to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his first eight seasons including a few appearances in the Sweet 16. After 1992 the program didn’t make it back to the NCAA Tournament under Meyer and dismissed the otherwise widely successful coach in 1997.
Then it happened, DePaul ended up hiring a slew of bad coaches. Pat Kennedy(67-85 overall record while at DePaul), Jerry Wainwright(59-80), present coach Oliver Purnell(19-42). The only exception in the coaching hirings was Dave Leitao, who thought of DePaul as a stepping stone program instead of a place where he could do serious damage. After 3 pretty successful season(58-34) Leitao left the program to become the head coach for the Virginia Cavaliers. That’s what happened to DePaul, Virginia became more of a destination spot for coaches than a university who calls the great city of Chicago home.
Chicago is exactly where the program needs to start in the rebuilding of their brand. Simply one of the best cities in the country to live, Chicago provides a place easy to recruit players and more importantly lure in the right head coach for the job. While the city is very important for the draw factor, it’s far less important than the head coach. In college basketball the only thing more important than the players is the person who recruits them.
If DePaul was able to use Chicago to their benefit there is no reason they can’t attract one of the better coaches in the country. DePaul should be a destination spot for coaches not a place to help build their resume or where uninspired coaches are hired.
There is absolutely no reason for this program to be in the shape it’s in now. Currently one of the Big East’s laughing stocks, DePaul should welcome the death of the conference with open arms. A new conference, a new (better) coach, Chicago, it’s all right their for the school. Now it’s only up to DePaul to decide where they want their program to go.
DePaul, do you prefer to say irrelevant and have your program slide in the direction of once great programs like the San Francisco Dons or would you like to start mattering again.
Unfortunately, I feel that’s a rhetorical question.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. Follow him on the Twitter machine @JosephNardone