When Penn State won the NIT the expectations for the program were as high as they had ever been. With plenty of returning talent, a larger fanbase, and a lot of support from the university, Penn State seemed ready to take a step towards a competitive basketball program. Accordingly Ed DeChellis received a contract extension through the end of the 2013-2014 season.
At the time it made sense. DeChellis’ extension was a necessary part of what appeared to be the foundation of a successful basketball program if for no other reason than it expressed the programs stability to recruits who might have been interested in playing for Penn State. In the words of Tim Curley “We are very excited about the significant progress our men’s basketball program has made under Coach DeChellis and are thrilled that he will continue to lead the program into the future,”
The problem that the program faces now is the inevitability that DeChellis has reached his limit. After winning the NIT and setting a school record of 27 wins DeChellis should have never allowed a 20 loss season to occur. While there is something to be said for the leadership and statistical losses from player graduation, there is no doubt that the losses suffered by the Nittany Lions were more often than not a result of bad execution and preparation on the part of the coaching staff.
Although DeChellis has taken positive strides in comparison to what he inherited, the question becomes how long does Penn State allow this to go on? DeChellis coached teams have shown time and time again tremendous heart and effort but have lacked in the killer instinct and the ability to execute against a deep and talented Big Ten conference. While there is no doubt that DeChellis is great example of a Penn Stater on and off the court, there comes a time where his ability to win basketball games needs to be addressed.
Recently this week Tim Curley was interviewed on the Big Ten Network about the state of college athletics in regards to the economy. Curley correctly mentioned that the economy is hurting everyone; and he alluded to cuts in spending across the board for Penn State including trips for post and preseason competition as well as general spending on all programs.
How this ties into basketball–In the 2008-2009 season Penn State basketball brought in $7,761,060 and spent $4,407,895 equating to revenue of roughly 3.3 millions dollars. That equals to 6 times DeChellis’ current salary of $642,366. This means technically Penn State could make DeChellis on of the highest paid basketball coaches in the country and still turn a profit .
While there are surely aspects of the basketball programs budget that I am missing, the principle is clear. Penn State is paying DeChellis next to nothing to fix a problem he can’t fix anymore than he already has. With talks of spending less money on everything it is very likely that short of a epic collapse DeChellis will not only make it to the end of his contract, he could see it renewed again. Even if Penn State fires him tomorrow, they are such a loyal university that it is more than likely the next coach would come from the bench, not from a “national search”, essentially giving the same problem to someone else, expecting, and getting similar results. Penn State isn’t in the business of spending money on a big name coach, they’re in the business of spending as little money as they can to keep the status quo. That is ultimately is what Ed is doing for Penn State. Looking good off the court, graduating players, and keeping the team in the game. Clearly the agenda of Penn State athletics is not the winning attitude but the attitude of mild success.
If there is any current sign of this happening it was how DeChellis went about recruiting these past two years. Ed didn’t go for an easy fix junior college transfer; he got players that won’t come in until after next year. Peter Alexis and Tre Burke were two of his first pick ups of the off season, players that won’t even be here until the 2011-2012 season. The rest of the recruits coming in next year look to be solid players. Buie, Bowman, and Graham all have the tools that are needed to build a solid foundation, but they are still unproven. DeChellis seems in no hurry to pick up players for the easy fix, he’s interested in investing the future, like a coach who intends on staying.
In the end you can’t blame Ed for the vision. There is no doubt he cares about the team and his job. I know he wants to win, and is doing as much as he can to do it. However if the athletic department is not serious about building a winning basketball tradition they need to admit it.