A day after getting the news, Clemson fans are still wondering why Oliver Purnell bolted for Big East also-ran DePaul. They're not getting many answers, though. On the one hand, against common speculation, Clemson seems to be suggesting that money--Purnell is getting a hefty raise from the Blue Demons--wasn't the issue:
"Whether you have the money or not, it always depends on what else is possible for you to spend it on," said Katie Hill, senior associate athletic director for internal affairs.
"It’s not in anybody’s best interest to say we woulda, shoulda, coulda or had an opportunity to," she said.
Hmm. I'm a little skeptical here. The suggestion Hill seems to be making here is that Clemson has the money but has better things to spend it on, implicitly, I think, including a coach that is superior to Purnell. I'll believe that when I see it. My guess is that the Tigers will not--at least not seriously--go after any of the high-priced coaches out there, such as Butler's Brad Stevens, who is easily the hottest name in coaching right now. Clemson has never indicated that it's willing to pay the kind of money a coach like Stevens would command on its basketball team. In fact, it's never indicated it's willing to pay what it would have had to pay Purnell to match DePaul's offer.
Another reason I think money may be a bigger issue than Clemson would have us believe is that, contrary to the idea being circulated by some, I seriously doubt Purnell left Clemson because he believes DePaul is a better job. If he did, he's out of his mind. DePaul is in Chicago, and thus has a great recruiting base, a better one than we and the Tigers have in South Carolina, a state that's not known for it's basketball talent and that cedes most of what it does have to the powerhouses north of the border. However, the Chicago talent doesn't--or at least hasn't for many years--go to DePaul. The regionally recruited talent goes to Big Ten schools, and the national talent goes to top Big Ten schools or other national powers like Duke, UNC, or Kansas. This isn't to say that Purnell won't win at DePaul. A coach that can build a wall around the city schools and start bringing in some of that talent could do it. Purnell has to know that it will be a challenge, though, a bigger challenge than continuing to win with what was a very competitive Tigers program.
My take? It's just speculation, but I think money likely was at stake here. What else could it be, if Purnell didn't leave for a better program? We'll know soon enough, as the hire Clemson makes should be telling in this regard.