BERLIN- In somewhat of a surprise move this week, Berlin native and former Stephen Decatur High School basketball standout Oliver Purnell decided to leave the head coaching job at Clemson University and the ACC to take the reins at DePaul University in Chicago, a school with a rich basketball tradition that has fallen on tough times in recent years.
The announcement came on Tuesday that Purnell had accepted the head coaching job at DePaul and was leaving Clemson and the ACC after a successful run at the South Carolina school. Purnell grew up in Berlin and played basketball at Stephen Decatur, where he was part of the memorable state championship team in 1970.
From there, Purnell went to Old Dominion where he was a star player and All-American. After a brief assistant coaching stint at Maryland, Purnell spent three years as the head coach at Radford before accepting the head coaching job at his alma mater, Old Dominion. He stayed at Old Dominion for three years before moving on in 1994 for Dayton, where he coached the Flyers to a 155-116 record.
In 2003, Purnell accepted the job at Clemson, where he has coached for the last seven years. Purnell enjoyed a great run at Clemson, compiling an overall record of 138-88 and took the Tigers to the last three NCAA tournaments. This year’s team went 21-11 and lost in the first round to Missouri. Ironically, for all of his success everywhere he has coached, Purnell has never won an NCAA tournament game.
Purnell has earned a reputation for turning around losing programs wherever he has coached, which is reportedly why he chose to take on the storied DePaul program that finished last in the Big East this year.