It was an interesting week for the Penn State men’s basketball program.
Ed DeChellis earned the program some unwanted national headlines when he complained about his Nittany Lions’ practice woes. In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at the Nittany Lions’ practice situation.
Let’s look at the controversy.
At his weekly news conference last week, Penn State men’s basketball coach Ed DeChellis publicly complained about his team being forced out of the Bryce Jordan Center and into the IM Building across the street. Why did the Nittany Lions need to vacate the BJC? Well, a couple of weeks ago, there was a Bon Jovi concert. Last week, there was a career fair and a little event called THON – you know, the student-run event that raised $9.5 million for children with cancer.
Basically, DeChellis’ gripe with the athletic department, the Jordan Center and the Penn State administration is that the university doesn’t take basketball seriously.
It shouldn’t be taken seriously.
In his eight seasons as head coach, the Nittany Lions have NEVER made the NCAA tournament. With just one road win this season, that’s unlikely to change. The last time the Lions made the big dance, Jerry Dunn was head coach. Yes, the same Jerry Dunn who was run out of town to make way for DeChellis. With Steve Lavin ready and waiting to come to Happy Valley, DeChellis was brought in. That decision has resulted in an NIT championship and zero tourney appearances.
Back to the matter at hand, though – the issue of being pushed out of the Jordan Center and into the IM Building. It’s been reported that the hoops at the IM Building were crooked and multiple holes for volleyball net stanchions needed to be taped over as to prevent tripping over their caps.
The apologists for the basketball program will tell you that Ed and his squad should not be subjected to the horrendous conditions at the IM Building. Crooked hoops? A dangerous playing surface? Say it ain’t so, Ed, say it ain’t so.
It says here that DeChellis doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If his program were in the NCAAs year in and year out, he’d have a right to gripe about things like practice facilities and travel accommodations. Heck, he could even complain about the chicken fingers at training table and no one would bat an eye. But this is a losing program that has done very little in DeChellis’ eight seasons.
Here’s some food for thought: Bon Jovi, the career fair and THON also displaced the Lady Lions. Did we hear a peep out of women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington? No. Of course, Washington has her squad on the verge of her first NCAA women’s tournament appearance. Barring a collapse, Washington will have her squad there in just four seasons while DeChellis is still looking for his inaugural appearance in the Big Dance after eight seasons at the helm.
The Lions’ chances took a huge blow on Sunday night in a 76-66 loss to Wisconsin that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
While DeChellis didn’t like holding practice at the IM Building, he said that it made watching film extremely difficult.
Yes, watching film.
Check out this quote:
“We’re trying to figure out whether to watch tape before we practice or after we practice. Will we have enough time on the practice floor? But, in the same sense, a couple of the staff guys said, We have to see it before we go over there and do it because they won’t get it, they won’t understand. It’s the first time we played Minnesota,” he said. “If we had played them before, it’s a little easier, OK, remember this, and it all comes back to them. But, this is the first time we play. It’s a 30-40 minute presentation before we play them and I’m not there yet whether we watch tape before in our film room and then walk over, or, go practice, and then bring them back after, let them shower up and watch tape after we watch practice. So, I’m still tugging with that. Then, the actual practice tape at the IM building is a little bit challenging to watch because the film angle and the lighting, more guarding Minnesota stuff, we like to break that down tonight after we actually did it on the floor so we can show the kids tomorrow. Hey, this is how you guard them. Hey, this is good, this is not so good, but it’s hard to see over there, and it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the lighting with the floor and the reflection. All we see when we tape it is lights that shine back up off the floor. It’s just the way that it is. It’s nobody’s deal, it’s just the lighting situation.”
So it’s not just the hoops and the floor. It’s also the lighting.
Give me a break.
I’ve often said that if you have a great coach, it doesn’t matter where you practice. Perhaps the team needs to spend some time in a small college or high school gym to realize just how good it has things. Remember that NFL coaches are often forced to practice at college and high school fields as they ready their teams for the Super Bowl. Perhaps “roughing it” would toughen up DeChellis and his squad.
Keep in mind that if Penn State were to make the Big Dance, it would be playing at a neutral site, practicing in a gym that it’s never practiced in before.
Of course, DeChellis wouldn’t know anything about that.
Chris Morelli is a writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics. He is also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!