In one of the most bizarre coaching moves I’ve ever seen, it was announced Monday afternoon that Ed DeChellis took at least a $200,000 paycut to be the head coach of Navy. This bombshell unleashed quite the reaction on twitter, giving true meaning to the phrase ‘mixed bag of emotions’. After hours of reflection on the news, I still don’t have a clue about what this says of either DeChellis or the program.
I had grown sour with DeChellis, the basketball coach, for quite some time now. Eight long years of his undisciplined basketball was really taking its toll. I remember my frustration with the embarrassing losses to Maine, SE Louisiana, Stony Brook, hell, even the Shippensburg exhibition disaster. I was sick of the same elementary defensive breakdowns, offensive freelancing, lack of capable big men, lack of bench, recruiting mishaps, and his timidness towards referees. I never felt like he accomplished anything worthy enough to last 8 years here. The previous two times he seemingly gave the program some momentum (05-06, 08-09), he followed it up with crushing duds (06-07, 09-10). There was no real evidence that this ‘flash in the pan’ season was going to bear greater fruits for the program, either. Everyone had 2011-2012 as a rebuilding year, but it’s now looking like a throwaway year.
However, I have always respected DeChellis, the man. He’s always been first class in everything he did. He stayed true to his principles, the school, and the NCAA rules despite all of the devastating struggles over the last 8 years. It was easy to get behind his family philosophy, especially with the kind of kids he brought in here. His charitable work around the community was admirable and he graduated all of his seniors. As one of the few who has seen this regime from the very start, I was genuinely happy for him on Selection Sunday, along with the rest of the guys. He’s gone through quite a lot to get there.
So the million dollar question. Why leave your ‘dream job’ at your alma mater, fresh off your first NCAA tournament to take a clear demotion at a harder job for less pay?
There has been so much speculation about this. In actuality, no one really knows but Ed DeChellis. At his press conference, he claimed that he felt ‘a calling’ while visiting the Naval Academy over the weekend. Nate Bauer at BWI wrote a solid piece about this theory. I buy some of it. But my question is, where did the calling come from to go visit and listen to the Naval Academy? Why was he there looking for another job in the first place? He said that Penn State was his dream job. I can see why the Naval Academy would appeal to DeChellis, but not enough to essentially betray his alma mater and leave his players behind, especially this late in the game.
David Jones, who broke the story, claims DeChellis felt disrespected and unappreciated, because he did not receive a contract extension after this season. He quoted sources that stated DeChellis would have been fired if they did not make the NCAA tournament this year and that Ed got no reassurances from Curley after the season. This is just garbage to me. DeChellis is no fool and knows the lack of job security in this sport, especially at this level. He had to know just how far Tim Curley was sticking his neck out last season, when he offered support for their ‘vision’ after going 3-15 in the conference. Now you sneak into the NCAA tournament by the skin of your teeth and you want guaranteed job security? I don’t buy it. DeChellis still had 3 years on his contract, anyway. Now maybe he should’ve got a 1-year extension for the all important 4 year contract for recruiting purposes, but I don’t see that as a big deal. Especially since recruiting was pretty much completed for the future.
With the youth on next year’s squad, it was nearly a consensus that next year was going to be tough. I would think Curley would also acknowledge this. We will never know what those conversations between the two were like, but I have a hard time believing that Curley would fire Ed if the team struggled next year (especially with Staten slated to be in the mix the next year). If Jerry Dunn got 2 years, Ed would’ve got 2 years. Jones also threw out a claim that DeChellis had a multi-year, 1 million dollar contract offer from a midwestern, mid-major school. Assuming that’s true, if it was really about job/financial security for ED, he’s a moron for not taking that. I don’t think he would be duped by some agent that he could get a much better offer.
Now, the simple fact that Ed DeChellis is leaving his alma mater after an NCAA tournament season for the Patriot League looks absolutely horrible for this program. Jones and ESPN writer Dana O’Neil are trashing Tim Curley and Graham Spanier for its lack of commitment. The basis for this criticism once again is the coaches low salaries and that annoying IM building practice story that will never go away. First off, if Penn State was paying Ed DeChellis double at 1.3/1.4 million a year, he would be making more than Joe Paterno yet still would be one of the cheaper coaches in the league. The reason why his salary is so low at a measly 650K is because he was willing to be paid that little when he first took the job. His qualifications when he was hired in 2003 certainly didn’t scream 1.3 million dollars. PSU fans would’ve expected more bang for that kind of buck at the time of the hire. Has he done anything in his tenure to deserve a raise? I personally don’t think he even deserved to see his contract through after some of those forgettable seasons. Now I can’t comment on assistants’ salaries. If they are substantially the lowest in the league, that needs to be addressed by the administration. These guys work too much like slaves when it comes to recruiting to be grossly underpaid.
A quick word on that whole IM building fiasco. The BJC isn’t perfect, but it’s not an abomination. That place gets plenty loud when PSU is winning. Is it sterile and bland? Yeah, but that’s what you get since it’s a MULTI-PURPOSE FACILITY. The practice gym is just fine as our the new coaches’ offices/player lounges/locker rooms. These are the ‘bells and whistles’ DeChellis is talking about, since he got the support to implement them. The problem is the fact that PSU housing apparently runs the place and not the athletic department. Why there can’t be some sort of co-existance between the two is beyond me. But that is why the basketball teams get kicked out to the IM building in favor of Bon Jovi. Was it a big deal that it happened during a crucial stretch of the season? Maybe I’m old-school but I thought the whole thing was blown out of proportion. I mean, we talkin’ ’bout practice. What I will say is I think it was pretty dumb that they retrofitted Gym 2 with crooked hoops instead of giving them Gym 1 or 3. And that they were forced out in favor of intramurals. That should’ve been handled better, I agree.
Anyway, I just don’t know what to think about the administration. There’s too many budget details that’s behind closed doors. I don’t know what the recruiting budget is like and how it compares to other Big Ten programs. No, Ed doesn’t have a private jet, but is that really common/necessary? I think DeChellis was the right hire in 2003 to get PSU out of the Stone Age (which they deserve criticism for letting it get to that point back then, but that’s old news). However, I think the administration made a big mistake last year not firing ED and making a run for Mike Rice, but I understand the loyalty given to ED and, more importantly, the seniors of this year. I think the administration definitely cares, but probably not enough as they should to really turn this program into a winner. But now Tim Curley has been given an ample opportunity to make a statement about how much he cares. Are they really going to leave basketball behind to hockey and wrestling? It’s going to be an interesting week or so, depending on how long the process takes. I’m curious to see who expresses interest in the job, as I think it is more attractive than people give it credit for. Although, all the negative press certainly is hurting its appearance at the moment. I just hope that someone prominent in the business who is interested in the position isn’t turned away because he’s out of the price range.
Back to DeChellis: I don’t think I will ever understand the thought process into his decision to leave for Navy. Maybe he was just burnt out from it all and wanted a change of scenery. Maybe his youngest daughter didn’t like her first year at Penn State. Maybe he really is a true American like Ricky Stanzi. Maybe he just didn’t want to take on another rebuilding project. All I can say is I’m just so confused. I can’t get behind any contract issues. He’s never struck me as a man of greed, and I think his voluntary pay cut supports this. I can’t get behind any administration problems, considering they more than gave him enough patience. Yeah, his job security wasn’t the best, but he apparently believed the team he had assembled could compete. So is Ed really quitting on Penn State and his players? I just can’t believe he’s that kind of guy, either, but you can’t help but feel a little betrayed by it all, especially with the timing.
I guess I’m just going to have to settle for Uncle Sam came calling and he couldn’t turn him down. So long, Ed, we never saw eye-to-eye on the court, but always off of it. Thanks for your hard work and passion, you certainly gave it your best shot. Good luck.