The youngsters in the Chicagoland area that have dreams of playing big time Division One college basketball don’t have that much knowledge to the history of DePaul Blue Demons basketball. The glory days of DePaul were in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s under former head basketball coach Ray Meyer as he had the likes of future NBA players in Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings playing for him. This era of DePaul basketball would be highlighted by the Blue Demons making the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 1979. Since 1992, DePaul has only made the NCAA Tournament twice and since they joined the Big East Conference in 2005, they have become the whipping boys of everyone other school in the conference. From 2005-2012, the Big East was home to 16 basketball schools and unless you were an early riser at the Big East Tournament, you rarely saw DePaul play because they were typically the first team that was eliminated. By the time that big boys of the conference rolled into Madison Square Garden for their first game of the conference tournament, DePaul was already nestled back in Chicago. In 2010, Oliver Purnell was charged with turning the Blue Demons program around. And in five seasons as DePaul’s head basketball coach, Purnell has a conference record of just 15-75. Purnell resigned last week and once again DePaul is starting over.
The main thing that is holding DePaul back are their basketball facilities. DePaul’s campus is located in Chicago, but the Blue Demons play their home basketball games at the AllState Arena which is located in Rosemont, Illinois which is about 15 miles away from the school. AllState Arena which was once known as the Rosemont Horizon is an outdated venue. The school announced plans for a new 10,000-seat arena on Chicago’s South Side that is expected to be available in 2016 which would be a huge shot in the arm for the Blue Demons. The Chicago area is littered with basketball talent and recently DePaul has missed out on all of it. It would be good for the Blue Demons if they only had to compete with the University of Illinois for the top talent in the area, but that hasn’t been the case. In 2007, DePaul would see a Chicago product in point guard Derrick Rose attend the University of Memphis. In 2011, power forward Anthony Davis would decided to attend the University of Kentucky. In 2013, small forward Jabari Parker would take his talents to Duke University and this year center Jahlil Okafor is on Tobacco Road at Duke as well.
More than ever we’re in an era where basketball players want to attend schools and play for coaches that are going to get them to the NBA and they also want great basketball facilities which are things that DePaul currently lacks. DePaul got lost in the shuffle of the old Big East. The new Big East is easier to navigate, but DePaul is going to have to roll up their sleeves and get to work if they want to succeed. What DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto must do is find a head basketball coach with ties to the Chicago area that can relate to the players there and get some of them the likes of Aguirre and Cummings to stay home while still selling them on a vision of playing big time college basketball and also getting to the NBA. An arena closer to DePaul’s campus would be good because it would be something that would also get the student body there involved while giving the Blue Demons a true home court advantage. Ponsetto and DePaul appear to have a plan in place; now it is just a matter of executing it in order to once again make DePaul relevant on the hardwood.