It's no secret that there are a lot of people out there who think Penn State would be better off with someone other than Ed DeChellis coaching the basketball team. They might be right. Heck, there I've been known to suggest it myself. One trip to the NCAA tournament in eight years isn't very impressive on its face. And now that Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones, and David Jackson have run out of eligibility, Penn State is facing a multiyear rebuilding project that many fans don't have the stomach for. So the calls for cutting our losses now and going in a new coaching direction have been bubbling under the surface for the past several days ever since Penn State lost the heartbreaker to Temple in Arizona.
But of course, it doesn't matter what we think. It only matters what Tim Curley thinks. Cory Giger from the Altoona Mirror had a conversation with Curley, and the head of Penn State's athletic department gave DeChellis a ringing endorsement.
Saying the future of the men's basketball program is "bright," Penn State athletic director Tim Curley gave coach Ed DeChellis a vote of confidence following the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.
"He just runs a class program," Curley said, "and I'm supportive of everything he's doing.
"I just hope people will support Ed and his staff," Curley added. "They've done a fantastic job."
When the article hit twitter last night you can pretty much anticipate the response it got. To a lot of people, this endorsements sounded a lot like George W. Bush standing in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina saying, "Heckuva job, Brownie." (To be fair and balanced before you conservatives flood my email defending Bush, substitute the last sentence with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano saying "the system worked" after the bomb in Times Square failed to detonate. Now let's leave the politics at that.)
More after the jump.
I've always been one to make excuses for Ed. He took over a horrible situation. He had no talent to work with. The facilities were horrible. The fans didn't care. The culture was broken. Then when Penn State started winning, there were injuries. Players transferred. There wasn't enough depth. The schedule didn't work out the way he thought it would.
But through all of that, in watching this senior class come together, I've been saying for the past two years that it was the NCAA Tournament or bust in 2011 for Ed DeChellis. If he couldn't get to the dance with this group of players, there was no hope. After the loss to Maine, I'll admit I gave up on Ed DeChellis. After they beat Illinois and Michigan State I thought maybe they could play their way through it, so I reluctantly got back on board. Then they lost to Michigan along with some other losses and I quit again. I didn't think there was any hope this team could make the tournament.
And yet they did.
Some people call it lucky. Some people say a team with four seniors shouldn't have to fight through the bubble to get to the tournament. Some people say one first round tournament exit does not erase seven years of failure in making the tournament. All of these statements may be true. But I have to say, I agree with Curley in this case. Now is not the time to fire Ed DeChellis.
Yeah, I know next year is going to suck. Yeah, I have seen Ed's poorly drawn up "money" plays. Yeah, I have witnessed more than a few of his coaching decisions that left me shaking my head. Yeah, I doubt Ed is the going to be the guy that can make Penn State a regular in the Sweet 16. I'm not disputing any of that.
My concern is the message it would send to cut Ed loose now. He was hired with one purpose: Get Penn State to the NCAA tournament. It took eight years. Eight very difficult, frustrating years. Maybe he didn't do it fast enough to our liking, but the guy did it. And you can't deny him that. He overcame the obstacles, and he took Penn State to the NCAA tournament.
What kind of message would it send if we fired him now? Name me a coach in America who would take the Penn State job after we tell Ed his goal is to make the NCAA tournament, and then fire him after he does. We preach "Success with Honor", and yet we shouldn't honor contracts for people who accomplish the things we ask them to accomplish? If we do that, the Penn State job suddenly becomes a very undesireable one. It becomes a job where a coach is asked to work miracles for unreasonable fans with unreasonable expectations. Good luck hiring a big name coach.
We're Penn State, people. We're not North Carolina or Kentucky. We have no basketball tradition. We have no right to demand final four teams at this point. Maybe some day down the road, but not right now. Our goal since the day Ed was hired was to return to the NCAA tournament. He did that. You may not like the way he got you there, but he did it. You can't move the goal posts on him now.
That being said, mission accomplished. Congratulations, Ed. You made the tournament. You reached your goal, but now it's time to turn the page. The next step is capitalizing on the success.
Next season is already looking like a bad one due to players who gave up and transferred after last season's setback. With the program and tradition Penn State has, we have to expect multiple-year rebuilding projects. Someday, maybe we can grow out of that. But that's the reality we live in today. So next year I won't be judging Ed solely on wins and losses. I'll be paying attention to recruiting and player development. My eye is on 2013 for a return to the NCAA tournament. If that doesn't happen, I'll revisit the "Fire Ed DeChellis" debate at that time.