No one expects much from first-year DePaul Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell, at least not in the short term. He is taking over DePaul, after all. While Purnell has a reputation for building programs where before there were none, that is a long-term endeavor. The short term was simple: Win a few more games than expected, recruit a few decent players, and get the Purnell era in Lincoln Park started off on the right foot.
Purnell's most important recruiting job? Getting 6-foot-10 DePaul forward Mac Koshwal to ignore his NBA hype and come back for another year. Consider that recruitment unsuccessful: Koshwal is going to test the NBA waters again this year, making him ineligible to return to DePaul for his senior year. (Koshwal tested the NBA last year, too.)
"We’re sorry that we won’t have the opportunity to work with Mac during his senior season and see him finish his career at DePaul with his degree," Purnell said in a statement. "We wish him nothing but the best in the future."
It would be easy to spin this as a genuine failure for Purnell and his staff; after all, Koshwal was DePaul's best returning player, a beast of a man in the paint that could at the very least anchor the coach's rebuilding effort in its first year. He would have been a help, no doubt about that. But it's hard to think too much of it. Koshwal has been getting NBA looks since his freshman year. His head coach was fired and replaced in the middle of a disappointing season. By the time he built a relationship with his new coach, he'd be a senior staring down that ominous 2011 draft. Koshwal's decision makes perfect sense, something even the most jaded DePaul fan would grant.
The good news for Purnell is that he does have players coming in. Good players? Not necessarily. "Projects" is probably more apt. But considering where DePaul is as a program, and where it can conceivably go under Purnell, that's not such a bad start at all.