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PSU AD Curley gives DeChellis vote of confidence, says he did 'fantastic job'

March 21, 2011 - Cory Giger
UNIVERSITY PARK -- 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."

(NOTE: The Curley interview was on my radio show Monday. Several people have asked to be able to hear the audio, so I posted a link to the right. Curley comes on at about the 40-minute mark, and the first few minutes are spent talking about PSU's wrestling national title and the women's basketball program.)

DeChellis, who's under contract through the 2013-14 season, has been widely criticized by Nittany Lion fans throughout much of his eight-year tenure. Some of the criticism has continued on Internet message boards despite the NCAA Tournament appearance.

"We had a fantastic year," Curley said. "He got to the tournament, and if maybe we didn't get an injury there, we may be still dancing."

Penn State lost to Temple, 66-64, on a last-second shot in the second round. The Lions played most of the second half without second-leading scorer Jeff Brooks, who suffered 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."

Penn State finished 19-15, giving DeChellis a record of 114-138 in his eight seasons. The Lions turned it on late, winning three games in the Big Ten Tournament to earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

"I thought they just had a great season, and certainly the last month of the year we really put it together," Curley said. "It was just, I think, a great coaching job by Ed and the staff, and this great group of seniors really made us proud."

The key for DeChellis going forward will be to turn recent success -- the Lions also won the 2009 NIT title -- into consistent success through strong recruiting efforts.

"Any time you have that kind of success ... I'm sure that recruiting is a little bit easier that way," Curley said. "We don't have a lot of scholarships going into the spring, but I'm sure he's going to take advantage of it.

"And certainly going into next fall -- early signing period -- people can see that we're a basketball program that can go to the tournament each and every year and the future's bright here."

Despite his optimism, Curley seems to understand there is a segment of fans who remain disappointed 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.

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UPDATE: I heard from many PSU fans Monday night after this story went online, most angry that Curley gave DeChellis such a ringing endorsement and saying that the athletic department still doesn't place enough emphasis on men's basketball.

I'm not here to say I agree with everything Curley said. And no, the season in its entirety wasn't "fantastic."

What I'm hearing most from PSU fans is that they still don't have much respect for the job DeChellis has done, that him taking eight years to finally reach the NCAA Tournament was way too long and that many people still want the coach ousted.

Look, I get that there's frustration over the program's overall lack of success and consistency. And I get that many things DeChellis has done have been questionable, not the least of which is that this year's team had no depth at all and that next season looks very bleak.

But one thing that surprises me is how angry so many people still are at DeChellis just a few days after the Lions reached the NCAA Tournament. Penn State has been to the big dance four times during the entire Joe Paterno head coaching era. Four. That's it.

DeChellis just got them there, but instead of being happy, many fans are still so angry that they want him gone.

Few people were more critical of DeChellis this season than me. When the Lions lost to Maine, I wrote that he should be fired if the season spirals out of control. Well, it didn't, and in fact, after that very low point, the team turned things around and got to the dance.

As I've said and written several times before, getting to the NCAA Tournament is a big deal in my book for a program like PSU, which has no tradition, a terrible local recruiting base with very little Division I talent and almost never gets to the big dance. Now that DeChellis has gotten the team there, he deserves the opportunity to build on it and see if it provides a bump in recruiting over the next year or two.

If it doesn't, then he should be gone when his contract expires in 2014. But to get rid of him now, after a three-year span in which he reached an NCAA Tournament and won an NIT title, isn't going to happen.

Fans can continue to gripe and moan about wanting it to happen and criticize the coach for past struggles, but you'll all be wasting your breath. Penn State actually would look pretty stupid to fire DeChellis now after a rare NCAA Tournament appearance for the school, and if it did so, potential coaching candidates would see that as a very bad sign and would be leery about taking the job.

Like it or not -- and I know many people won't like it -- but Ed DeChellis almost certainly is going to remain Penn State's head coach for the remainder of his current contract.

 
 

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