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Lessons learned

The six-figure salary DePaul was offering for its men's basketball head-coaching opening was acceptable to Steve Hawkins in 2005. He also fully understood the challenges of the job, especially having his home arena located a fair distance from campus, and he was fine with that, too.

Hawkins wanted the DePaul job, considered it a destination position, and he even had devised a recruiting plan he was ready to put into action if he was hired.

The problem was the length of the contract. DePaul was offering a five-year deal. Hawkins sought a six-year one.

Neither budged.

Instead, DePaul signed Jerry Wainwright to a five-year contract in 2005, and Hawkins remained the head coach at Western Michigan.

Since then, Wainwright has been fired as the Blue Demons' coach, and Hawkins is still the Broncos' coach. Although Hawkins isn't a candidate this time around for the DePaul position, he still believes the length of the contract will still come into play no matter how much money is being offered to whomever.

"If you're expecting a quick fix, a coach, he'll see into that," said Hawkins on Tuesday. "You have to pay someone big money and give them the years. You have to have patience for a program for someone to build something and build something the right way.

"Yes, if you give somebody one year, two years, the pressure starts to mount. If the president, the athletic director and coach are saying, 'It's not a quick fix. We're going to do it the right way as quick as we can, win as fast as we can, but we have to put up the pillars before we put the roof on,' if everybody is saying that, everybody will fine. If the outgoing message isn't the same by everybody, you have problems."

Hawkins knew exactly what he was getting into in 2005. He had talked to Dave Leitao, the coach who was leaving DePaul at that time for the job at Virginia, and got a good sense of the DePaul job and what the future would hold for the upcoming Blue Demons' teams.

"Dave Leitao told me what was coming back," Hawkins said. "Year 1, I would have had two of my own guys. Year 2, there would have been four. Year 3, half of the guys would have been mine. In an aggressive Chicago media market and getting ready to go into the Big East and still having only half of my team in Year 3, people would have made their mind up whether I can coach or not.

"Things are different now than they were then. They were coming off an NIT bid. It wasn't considered a bottom-dweller job. They were going to be in the Big East. There was excitement over it."

It's why the sixth year was so vital to him when he, DePaul president Rev. Dennis Holtschneider and athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto began discussing specifics of a contract.

"We sat down and literally talked contract one night," Hawkins said. "I felt a sixth year was very important on the contract. The concerns I had were legitimate. They told me they were comfortable with a five-year deal. They told me they were kind of a mom-and-pop organization, and they wanted to see progress. I looked at her and the president and said, 'Then you won't mind a sixth year.' They kind of laughed. That was really it, and Jerry Wainwright got it.

"It did not surprise me at all Jerry wasn't able to get things turned around in three years [Wainwright actually was at DePaul for four-and-a-half years]. That's not enough time."

Hawkins does believe the next coach will need time, too, especially when it comes to recruiting. Hawkins' plan for it in 2005 was straightforward.

"You have to take a certain kind of kid to build a program," Hawkins said. "Look at what John Beilein did at West Virginia. He was able to get mid-major-plus players or low mid-major players who loved being at West Virginia and stayed in the program for three or four years. They played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. I think Wisconsin does the same thing. You build from the ground and make the program more attractive. Winning attracts everybody."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.