(CBS) After five losing seasons, Oliver Purnell has resigned as DePaul’s head basketball coach. He compiled a record of 54-105 with a 15-75 mark in Big East play.
DePaul’s season came to an end on Wednesday in the Big East Tournament with a 78-63 loss to Creighton. He stepped down Saturday in a meeting with athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto.
“It is my best interest and my family’s best interest to resign as head coach of the DePaul basketball program,” said Purnell in a statement. “We made progress here and improved with the talent and character of our student-athletes. DePaul provided complete support and is fully committed to its basketball program with its budget, the on-campus facilities and in the future with the new events center. I would like to personally thank the University community, fans and student body for their support and thank the student-athletes for their efforts over the last five years.”
Purnell owns a record of 448-384 in 27 seasons as a college head coach, leading Clemson to three straight NCAA Tournament berths prior to his time at DePaul. However, he hasn’t once won a game in the tournament.
“We would like to thank Oliver for his time at DePaul,” said Ponsetto. “He moved the program forward with the building of the roster and we wish him and his family well in the future. We are grateful to Coach Purnell for turning a corner in DePaul recruiting. We are clearly a stronger program because of his leadership. As we now turn to a search for a new coach, we do so gratefully for what he contributed these past five years.”
Purnell’s previous head-coaching positions were at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson, where he built each into a 20-game winner. He took over as DePaul’s coach after the dismissal of Jerry Wainwright and finished with a 7-24 record in his first season, 2010-11, then topped out at 12 wins. Six Big East victories this season marked his best in five seasons.
In an exclusive interview in September, Purnell was asked whether he worries about his end at DePaul.
“I don’t get concerned about that, because of experience,” he said. “I know where we are, I know what we can do. This program has more potential than any program I’ve taken over before. Now, it’s time to start squeezing some of that out of it.”
Much of DePaul’s basketball future lies in the plans of a new downtown arena, which Crain’s Chicago Business reported has risen well above the initial cost to $250 million, a project likely to be completed in 2017. This would serve as Purnell’s most important recruiting pitch.
A native of Berlin, Maryland, Purnell struggled to establish recruiting grounds in the unfamiliar city of Chicago. Two of his greatest gets failed to complete their DePaul careers; Cleveland Melvin being dismissed from school as a senior, Shane Larkin transferring to Miami before ever taking the court.
These were among many challenges Purnell faced in Chicago.
“Every program that I’ve built — some more than others — you have hiccups,” Purnell said then. “It’s just always the way it is. We did at Dayton, we did at Clemson and maybe here more than others. You sort of suppress the hiccups and remember all the good times.”
The Blue Demons opened Big East play winning five of their first games. However, they finished this season losing 11 of its last 12 and bowing out in the conference tournament.
A national search for Purnell’s replacement is set to begin. This will be Ponsetto’s third head-coaching hire.