Nothing has ever come easy for Penn State. Wins, recruits, fans, and even support from Penn State itself. Each day is an uphill climb and a battle against what should be an easy process. Penn State is a major BCS school with a rich athletic tradition, building a basketball program shouldn’t be rocket science. You don’t need to bring in Coach K, but you lay solid foundation down with a decent coach and administration support and you’ll have a good team in a few seasons. It isn’t easy, but the blueprint has been there for years and years with plenty of college programs.
Eight years ago Penn State brought in Ed DeChellis as some supposed savior to the program. Well, he was an alum and Penn State wanted to pick up a guy who made them feel good, they could pay next to nothing and had a somewhat successful mid-major stint. At the time people didn’t like it that much, but considering how the Jerry Dunn era had ended it was time for a change. Give the guy some time to recruit and see what he can do in a killer Big Ten conference.
Fast Forward to tonight.
Penn State started tonight’s must-win game on an 16-2 run. They shot well, played tough defense and took Wisconsin out of their comfort zone. Everything was going great, but anybody who has followed Penn State basketball knew that something bad was bound to happen sooner or later. You know what happened? Ed DeChellis subbed Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks out of the game effectively killing the scoring run for 8 minutes allowing a cold shooting Wisconsin team to drag themselves back into the game. It was a battle of cold shooting against rattled nerves.
Now, I understand giving your guys a breather, and Ed has done a better job not letting Billy Oliver step on the court, but when you’re stepping on a team’s throat you don’t take the knife out. You tell your guys to suck it up and keep playing. Certainly while playing in a game that both teams score less than 40 points has plenty of it’s own abnormalities, the coaching and decisions that created this sort of cripple fight shouldn’t be overlooked just because Penn State won.
In the 8 years that Penn State has played under Ed DeChellis, one team has had a killer instinct, most of which was fueled by a crazy-steroid-pumping Jamelle Cornely. Short of that every single team DeChellis has been a part of has lacked that extra level. Pick up a 15 point lead? Play prevent offense for the next 30 minutes. Give up a run, clap your hands and stomp your feet. After a little bit of practice you can almost map out a Penn State game over the box score. Poor start, playing catchup, solid second half, no finishing power. It’s almost always the same thing. Some games go Penn State’s way, but for the most part you know how these games are going to go.
Tonight wasn’t any different except Wisconsin played no better than the Nittany Lions. This is certianly not to take away from the efforts of the likes of Tim Frazier, who has continued to blossom in the latter part of the season, but to point out that Penn State could have easily been run out of the gym if Wisconsin showed any signs of life.
I bring all of this up on a night that should be celebratory, and with NCAA implications on the line the victory should not be taken lightly, but with the hopes that someday this would reach the eyes of Tim Curley. While that is highly unlikely, the point remains the same. Penn State should not confuse this season’s success off of an 8 year plan succeeding but a group of seniors who are just tired of losing.
In the athletic department’s 8 year plan, this was Ed’s last hurrah. This entire roster is his own, he’s seen them through, coached them up, and four years later he’s got a shot. Normally that’s how things work, teams grow up and get better, but unfortunately that’s not how it works at Penn State. This team by all accounts isn’t going to pick up where it left off and ought to and will struggle to find wins next season. A coach who is going to build your program isn’t relying on the work of an All-Time-Leading Scorer but the roster he has to work with. Certainly there will be ups and downs, but nothing about the 8 years of DeChellis should give anyone the impression that is what is going on.
So at this juncture Ed should leave on a high note. Honestly,at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an extension to keep things as-is, but he’s hit his peak. I was once on his side, understanding that many fans expect Penn State to turn into Duke. I’ve gone to bat for him on several occasions but my patience has ended if Penn State is serious in any way about basketball this is the time to transition.
Or, we can wait 8 more years for the perfect storm.