I wrote my last post after VT and wasn’t planning to blog again until the Big Ten season was near. However, after last night’s horrendous egg against the Maine Black Bears at home, the final nail has been placed in this coffin of a regime. While it was unofficially over after last week’s loss to the Hokies, last night put it in ink. This team just seems destined for last place in the Big Ten again, which would make it the 5th time in 8 years of DeChellis ball.
It’s been one hell of a frustrating ride. Not all of it as been all-for-naught as there have been a couple highlights. Actually, just the 2006 ending of Illinois’ home win streak and the 2009 Big Ten season/NIT title run qualify. Everything else has been maddening ineptitude and heartbreak for players who had to endure such failures.
But I don’t think anything has been more depressing than these last 2 years. After 2008-2009, the program FINALLY had a pulse and he deserves some credit for that. But himself and the staff failed to capitalize on any of that momentum and the program looks headed for rock-bottom once again. Considering I thought this was a very real possibility about halfway through the Big Ten slate LAST season, it’s even more frustrating.
However, it’s really not a big surprise that ED was retained after last season. It took too long for this administration to fire Jerry Dunn. It took too long for this administration to give ED the resources needed to compete at this level. And now it’s taken way too long for this AD to move on from this regime. A valid argument could be made for termination after the following seasons:
- 2006-2007 season – After an improved 2005-2006 season with some success in the conference (6-10), the Lions went on to lose 13 BT games in a row, finishing last for the 3rd time in 4 years. This season also included losses to Stony Brook and SE Louisiana at home in the non-conference slate. This year fell well below expectations considering only one contributor moved on from the previous year’s squad (Travis Parker). With the 2005 recruiting class littered with duds, the roster lacked balance and depth. No progress on the court had been made in 4 years. The 2005-2006 NIT season became a clear effect from 5 wins against a terrible Northwestern team and a depleted Purdue program. At any other school…
- 2007-2008 season – 5 years had gone by and just one meaningless NIT appearance to show for it. Everyone felt bad for how Geary Claxton’s career came to an abrupt end, but it allowed for Battle to showcase his potential. Hard to imagine how that season would’ve played out if Claxton stayed healthy (I think you could argue they would’ve finished with less than 7 conference wins), but it’s even harder to imagine that team in the NCAAs. Especially after the 0-3 showing at the Old Spice Classic, a monumental collapse at home to an average Minnesota squad, and the ass-kicking to UW that was well under way before Clax’s injury. The 2-0 road BT start clearly was helped by NW’s futility and one of the worst Illini teams of the decade. With a little talent left on the roster, a new coach could’ve been brought in to give him some tools to work with. Especially with the infusion into the conference of some of the elite coaches in the game – Tubby Smith and John Beilein along with the emergence of Matt Painter to join the staples of Izzo, Ryan, and Weber. Bringing ED to the battle with those guys is bringing a knife to a gun fight.
- 2009-2010 – But it at least appeared for one year that the loyalty to ED might pay off. And then last year happened. It wasn’t so much that the team lost so many games or didn’t make the tournament, it was how they lost that was so agonizing. They were clearly the sign of an underachieving team that was poorly coached. It seemed like each game was a challenge in finding a new way to lose. The worst game I ever watched was last year’s Michigan game at home. I outlined my reasons for why a change needed to be made last year in the linked post above. Then the defections made it even more urgent. But we were dealt bland, insulting statements from Tim Curley about how he liked the direction of the program and its vision. It has only made him look like a fool, while insulting the 100 people who deeply care about the program.
Our athletic department and their honorable loyalty is why ED is still here. He originally signed to a 6 year contract, which I believe he convinced Curley and Co. that was the necessary time needed to turn the mess of a program around. I disagree but I’m just an outsider, and he did reward the AD with his best year ever in year 6. I guess that bought him two more years regardless of how bad last year was. But there is very little doubt in my mind that Ed DeChellis will ‘resign’ after this year if they expectedly go 5-13 or worse in the conference. It is nice to see the uproar about it all around Twitter and message boards. Usually embarrassing results like last night is met with apathy, but there seems to be plenty of care about this program and the futile results are not being accepted.
I don’t understand the point in firing DeChellis now. This isn’t the pros, and what does it say to the innocent kids like Talor Battle? He deserves better than what he’s going to get, so at least let him play it out. Firing the coach clearly signals that you give up on the season. That said, I’m very curious to see how this team plays the rest of the year. These guys aren’t clueless, they know how unrealistic their goals are now. How long before ED has a mutiny on his hands? I can see Battle being more concerned with his pro prospects than team success if they start out 0-7, which sadly is pretty likely. Then again, it’s usually 1-on-5 80% of the time anyway.
I have no idea what it would cost the university to buy-out the rest of DeChellis’ contract (that runs until 2013-2014, which again are for recruiting purposes). I don’t think it’ll be a factor because I don’t think it’ll be all that much, despite what many cynics say. Yes, our great university is incredibly greedy but this is the breaking point. I just hope a head football coaching search doesn’t detract from what should be an extensive, national search for a qualified new basketball coach.