With the Penn State basketball season officially in the books, we’ll take a look at the future of Happy Valley hoops in today’s edition of Morelli OnLion. Specifically, we’ll look at the future of men’s basketball head coach Ed DeChellis, who recently got a vote of confidence from athletic director Tim Curley.
With the season over, let’s talk some hoops.
Time for Change
On the surface, the Penn State basketball team’s oh-so-close loss to Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament makes the season a success. After all, it was the first time in the Ed DeChellis Era that the Lions made it to the Big Dance.
A short time after the loss, Curley gave DeChellis a big vote of confidence.
“He just runs a class program,” Curley told Cory Giger, who hosts a radio show on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. “I’m supportive of everything he’s doing.”
There’s a big difference between a class program and a winning program. Penn State may have a class program, but it doesn’t have a winning one. When you are celebrating NIT titles and first-round exits from the NCAA tournament, something is wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was great that the Nittany Lions made it to the tourney. As a PSU alum and a big hoops fan, I know that college basketball can be a hit in Happy Valley. I’ve witnessed it first-hand. I can remember an upset over UCLA in the first-round of the NCAA tourney during the Bruce Parkhill days. More recently, I can remember a shocking win over UNC during the Jerry Dunn tenure. But fans crave a winner and let’s face it – the winning has come in short spurts during the DeChellis Era. Make no mistake about it, though, this was DeChellis’ best season. However, most of the credit can go to senior guard Talor Battle. The gutsy youngster often put the team on his back and carried it. His shot to tie the tourney game with Temple nearly sent the Lions to OT with the seventh-seeded Owls. Once again, though, a DeChellis-coached team came up short.
It’s clear that DeChellis isn’t going anywhere, especially when you listen to Curley.
“I just hope people will support Ed and his staff,” Curley told Giger. “They’ve done a fantastic job.”
I’ve talked with several colleagues who were excited by the Lions’ run to the NCAA tournament. However, I believe this season will go down as the Mirage of 2010-11. Yes, that’s right, a mirage. Back in the early 1980s, the Pittsburgh Steelers were struggling mightily. However, in 1984, Chuck Noll managed to take a ragtag bunch of players – led by QB Mark Malone – all the way to the AFC Championship game. Although the Steelers were blown out by the Dan Marino-led Miami Dolphins, 45-28, the trip to the title game was looked upon as a success and gave Noll a few more seasons at the helm of the Steelers. That’s what the run to the NCAA tourney will do for DeChellis.
The lesson here is to be careful what you wish for, Nittany Lion fans.
Curley called the season “fantastic.”
“We had a fantastic year,” he said. “He got to the tournament, and if maybe we didn’t get an injury there, we may still be dancing.”
Forget Success with Honor. Making excuses is quickly becoming the Penn State way.
Of course, Curley was referencing the injury to Jeff Brooks, who went down in the first-round loss with a shoulder injury.
“I think if he would have stayed healthy – we had a really good shot,” Curley said. “We had a great shot as it was.”
Close, of course, only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes. Apparently, close also counts at Penn State. DeChellis’ squad finished the year at 19-15, giving him an overall record of 114-138.
In this writer’s opinion, now is the time to dump DeChellis and go get a dynamic young coach who can take the Lions to the next level – actually winning some tournament games. Butler coach Brad Stevens, for example, would be the perfect candidate. Stevens has an overall record of 116-24 and has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back Final Fours. He won’t be at Butler for long, and now would be the perfect time for PSU to open the vault and bring Stevens to Happy Valley. For those who say it can’t be done, simply look at what happened to the Penn State wrestling program. For years, PSU wrestling was a middle of the road program. However, Cael Sanderson was brought in and the Lions captured their first national title since 1953.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney would have been another excellent candidate, but he signed a 10-year deal on Sunday night to stay with the Spiders.
It appears that Nittany Nation is stuck with DeChellis.
“I just hope people will end up supporting him and really try to get to the games (next season) and make sure that we give him every opportunity to be successful,” Curley said.
Apparently, eight seasons is not enough.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He is also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at email@example.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!