Back to the drawing board. DePaul basketball finds itself in a familiar unenviable situation once again. The Blue Demons are looking for a head coach. After five losing years at the helm, Oliver Purnell has resigned and left a big opening at the Big East school.
Unlike DePaul’s last coaching search. the potential candidates that keep popping up actually have some juice. There’s reason for excitement when you hear the names. The last time the Demons went coach hunting, following the firing of Jerry Wainwright in 2010, the list of possible successors was ho-hum at best. When Purnell finally got the gig, people were far from giddy. Purnell’s resume looked good on paper, but there was no electricity. Above all, there was no reason to believe the hiring would fix DePaul’s most glaring problem. The move didn’t translate into the ability to recruit Chicago kids or top tier players from elsewhere. Things have changed.
Since Purnell stepped aside, a slew of names have surfaced for the gig. The top three have Demons fans smiling. Bobby Hurley, Bryce Drew, and Tyrone Corbin all would give the program a boost. Hurley, however, seems to add the most positives.
Corbin is a former DePaul star and one of the most popular players to ever don the Blue and Scarlet. He’s coached in the NBA after playing for 16 years. He’s likeable for sure—but a losing record in the pros coupled with his lack of name recognition outside of The Windy City gives Corbin the bronze. While Corbin is probably the most polished former Demon when it comes to coaching, other alums, such as Rod Strickland, would likely draw more of a buzz if hired to pilot the team.
Drew is interesting. Young, dynamic, and successful. The former Valparaiso NCAA tourney hero now coaches his beloved Crusaders. Valpo has gone dancing twice with Drew, who has compiled a solid 94-42 record. The former Chicago Bull would likely have an edge on Corbin when it comes to recruiting. His energy and attitude would be appealing following years of older coaches. In the end, though, Drew should probably be DePaul’s second choice.
The top prize is Hurley. A two-time national champ as a point guard at Duke, he is known throughout the college basketball world. He’s a winner through and through and he’s proven it during his short time as a head coach. He turned a losing Buffalo squad around in short order, posting a winning record in his first season, then leading them to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history this year. Hurley would work well with DePaul’s current star, fellow floor general Billy Garrett Jr., and he’d likely be able to provide Garrett with some new weapons. Hurley can coach—it’s in his blood—but his ability to recruit is what puts him over the top.
Players will want to play for Hurley for many reasons. They’ll know he’s been in their shoes at the highest level. They’ll meet a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, Jersey guy who’s methods make sense and were learned from the cream of the crop. Hurley will bring instant credibility back to the once-mighty DePaul program and talent from across the country will want to be a part of it.
One of the biggest knocks on DePaul in recent years has been its inability to keep Chicago players in town. Instead of playing for the Blue Demons, recruits head out of state for the chance to win. Like Drew and Corbin, Hurley would offer improvement in that area. Unlike the others, Hurley’s reach will go far beyond Illinois from the jump.
While playing under his dad, legendary high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., Hurley won four straight state titles at St. Anthony in Jersey City. The elder Hurley, a Hall of Famer, has won 27 titles at the school. If chosen for the DePaul job, the younger Hurley will bring great knowledge of The Garden State and New York Metropolitain area, bastions for hoops talent. Hurley’s brother Danny is doing a nice job as head coach of Rhode Island. These Hurleys can flat out coach and recruit. DePaul needs to act while they still have a chance at one of them.
Along with Hurley, Drew, and Corbin, there are some other intriguing possibilities out there. Former NBA sharpshooter and current UC-Davis head coach Jim Les and ex-Bull and Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus come to mind. But the best bang for the buck would be Hurley.
DePaul is at a crossroads. But reason for optimism exists. One of the top candidates for their open coaching position happened to play alongside the greatest college basketball player of our time in Christian Laettner and play for the greatest college coach of our time in Mike Krzyzewski. He is the son of the greatest high school coach of our time. Now it is DePaul’s time to reach out to an iconic Blue Devil and give him the job of returning the Blue Demons to prominence.