Just when basketball in Happy Valley seemed to be back on the rise, for the first time in decades, it appears that they may be headed back to square one.
The Nittany Lions were on a serious high after getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over 10 years and seemed ready to build for the future, only to be left high and dry by the very man that seemed to be resurrecting the program.
After eight topsy-turvy seasons in Happy Valley, Ed DeChellis jumped ship (literally) over the weekend, deciding to take the vacant job at Navy.
Dechellis may have thought it was the best move for his career, although I’m hard pressed to believe that, but he clearly didn’t think about the impact it would have on a Penn State program that he coached (in some capacity) for more than 20 season.
The Nittany Lions now must jumpstart a coaching search unexpectedly and extremely late in the offseason, when everyone else has already had their shot at the big names.
Literally, the lions have been left with bare bones and a rotting carcass when it comes to the talent field. Not so appetizing for a success starved program.
State is basically entering what could be seen as a lose-lose situation here. They’re like a baseball manager turning to the sparsely used reliever to eat innings during a blowout. Even if he pitches great, you’re still going to lose.
The rest of the BCS schools had their shot at the big name guys already, almost like they were given a head start on the Lions. But, that was the fault of Dechellis alone. If the Athletic Department knew he would jump at a lesser opportunity then I’m sure Penn State AD, Tim Curley, would have dumped the 52 year-old with a lowly .45 winning percentage for a more qualified candidate.
Oklahoma got Lon Kruger from UNLV, Arkansas corralled Mike Anderson from Mizzou, Maryland stole Mark Turgeon away from A&M and Miami even pried Jim Larranaga away from George Mason.
By the time DeChellis had decided to take a lesser job at Navy, for God knows what reason, the field was as thin as the hair on Joe Paterno’s head.
Most schools have been settled with their coach for a few months now and focusing solely on the recruiting trail. But Penn State is now left behind the eight-ball, trying to rebuild their program from the top down and working from the discount bin rather than the high end stores on Fifth Avenue.
Penn State is still a BCS conference school and, although not a basketball powerhouse, they are still a tough Big Ten school with some great tradition. So, while the job may not be on the same level as an Oklahoma, Arkansas or even Maryland it is still an enticing one and one that many coaches would jump at in an instant.
Sadly, due to the late start, the Lions may not see quite that reaction and many coaches across the country will not have that opportunity.
Either way the search must go on and even though Curley says that there is “no timeline on their coaching search”, we might as well break down some of the likely names you’ll be hearing over the next few weeks.
- Herb Sendek, Arizona St.– I say there is almost no chance Sendek leaves ASU for Happy Valley, but there have been rumblings that Herb has been looking for a way out recently. It is AN opportunity to leave but with much higher quality suitors having lined up in the past, I doubt this is THE opportunity he jumps at. Plus, the man’s got no rhythm…
- Ron Everhart, Duquesne – Sure, he’s done an admirable job resurrecting the Duquesne basketball program but facts are facts and they certainly don’t help Everhart’s case. A 51% Win/Loss record coupled with the fact that he’s never led a team to the NCAA tournament during his 17 year career could ultimately be the decider.
- Rob Jeter, UW-Milwaukee – As an assistant under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, Jeter started to get the admiration he deserved and now, coming off a regular season conference title and his third consecutive winning season at UW-Milwaukee he seems ready to step up to the big time. Just 1 NCAA appearance in 6 years could be worrisome along with his inability to recruit big time players, but Jeter’s still young (42) and has a bright future ahead of him somewhere.
- Bruiser Flint, Drexel – Great name, not so great a resume. Flint had some success early in his career, riding on the coattails of John Calipari at Umass but the well has seemed to dry up since. Bruiser has been a very capable coach in the CAA but still can’t seem to make the jumponto the George Mason/Old Dominion level. Let’s see him win a conference championship before we start discussing him for BCS league jobs.
- Jim Boylen – The former Utah head coach seems to be at the head of the pack, now that East Carolina’s Jeff Lebo gracefully bowed out. Boylen was Tom Izzo’s right hand man before taking over at Utah in 2007 and is seen as a good recruiter and great with strategy. His first two season at Utah were a big hit, with a trip to NCAA’s in 2008, and if given another year he may have had the Utes back on top in the MWC. With not much in terms of experience in line for the Nittany Lions, Boylen could be their best bet to build on this season’s success.