Walking by the basketball offices I ran into Ed DeChellis standing, looking at the blown up pictures of the 2011 roster. He wasn't crying, but you knew that he was in pain. His senior class, his first and only true class at Penn State had just been blown out by Ohio State. There was a lot of emotion in the night, and losing the game in such a fashion was truly the last straw. As he saw me approach, he straightened up, dusted himself off and thanked me for coming to the game. We went our separate ways but if not for interrupting him, he could have stood there for many more minutes.
That wasn't the only time I had run into DeChellis after a game though. I saw him after beating Wisconsin and Illinois, his face was the polar opposite of senior night. Bright, full of joy, and real happiness, not for himself but for his players. They were one step closer to reaching their goal of the NCAA tournament. Each win was huge, each loss hurt.
Was he a great coach? No. Recruiter? Not really. Xs and Os guy? Sometimes. On the whole Ed DeChellis was only ever great at one thing while at Penn State.
And that was caring. Sadly, sports has twisted us up. We spent a whole week riding Ohio State fans for trading in morals for wins or saying that "everybody does it" but we've failed to recognize someone who has never compromised his morals, ethics or character for a victory. Ethics are only worth having when you win, anything else and it's just you being a nice guy.
I'm not going to sit here on my couch and tell you that being a nice guy wins you basketball games though. Penn State is the sort of athletic institution that should be working it's hardest to put forth a Big Ten level basketball program. Frankly Ed DeChellis was not that man, but he never gave less than 110% when it came to his work. If anyone can attest to that it is Andrew Jones.
I guess as fan of Penn State basketball, and I mean fan, yesterday left me confused emotionally. If DeChellis had been fired, I would have been happy to see the program move on. That being said, DeChellis' departure is more of a depressing referendum on the athletic department than it is his wins and losses and it's results.
And that is where the real tragedy lies. Ed DeChellis for better or for worse gave everything he had to this program for 8 years and got nothing for it. It was his dream to coach his Alma Mater, to shape young boys into men, and to instil upon them the sorts of traits that he would his own children.
Penn State preaches success with honor, and we often think of that in terms of not breaking the law or NCAA rules, but that honor has other meanings. Ed DeChellis fulfilled, regardless the amount of time it took, his promise to the university. An NIT title, and NCAA berth, a growing student fanbase (30 average to 1000 average per game), graduating student athletes at the highest rate on campus, and bringing the program to a more competitive level.
In return, Penn State gave DeChellis the administrative finger. Happy to be making a buck, they sent him to the IM building in the middle of a promising season and told him to wait for Bon Jovi. When he asked for his own courts, they were busy with a dinner, and then when he achieved those goals he was told nothing was certain in the future.
So DeChellis left. I'm not pretending that I'm not excited about a new coach, but I'm ashamed that Penn State would let it happen this way. People don't take $250,000 pay cuts, leave a major BCS conference, and take a position 2 weeks after it opens on a whim. They do it because they're running out of gas banging their heads against the wall.
I have never been a big fan of Ed DeChellis as a coach, but I do regret some passing tweets I have made about him because I know what this job meant to him, and I know how hard he tried. I've seen him after games excited, and I've seen him on the verge of tears.
If there was anything I want you to take from this rambling it is that Penn State is a better place because of Ed DeChellis. Wins and losses matter when they happen, but the lives DeChellis shaped and molded along the way will live on forever. You may not care for his coaching, but Ed DeChellis did his job with uncompromising passion, character, and ethics. In a crooked game, that isn't easy to do, but DeChellis never faltered.
So for that I thank you Ed. I'm sorry that the university that I love never gave you the same respect you gave your job. Best of luck and Navy, and Lets Go State.