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Penn State Basketball: Don’t Expect Ed DeChellis to Go Anywhere Before Season’s End

by on December 26, 2010 7:26 PM

Here is a very short list of things that absolutely will not happen in the next few months:

- The Nittany Lions will not make the NCAA tournament.

- Ed DeChellis will not be fired before the end of the season—and probably not at all.

Admittedly, the first of those won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s been paying the least bit of attention. And the second? Well, that depends.

Some Penn State hoops followers—those lacking a bit of perspective, we’d argue—are less curious about when DeChellis will face the axe than they are shocked that he hasn’t already. They point to his 102-127 record in seven-plus seasons as head coach, and especially to the lack of any NCAA tournament appearances, as irrefutable proof that DeChellis doesn’t know what he’s doing. They want him gone immediately, a sentiment that has only picked up momentum since the Lions’ demoralizing 74-64 home loss to Maine last week. If the Penn State administration can make it happen before Monday’s Big Ten opener at Indiana, these folks figure, all the better.

The more benevolent—and, we’d argue, reasonable—fans out there would see the lack of progress made during DeChellis’ tenure and figure that, while it won’t happen this week, he’s not long for the job. They may be right—there’s plenty of reason to think that the 2010-11 season could be DeChellis’ last—but even those patient enough to give the coach until season’s end are probably wrong about how it will go down.

Fire Ed DeChellis? Don’t hold your breath.

History says the Nittany Lions can travel to Bloomington on Monday feeling at least a little bit optimistic: Penn State is 4-3 in conference openers under DeChellis. (Of course, the Lions are also 1-15 all-time in the Hoosiers’ home gym, so there’s that.) This year’s IU squad is 9-4, with losses to the likes of Northern Iowa and Colorado. Hardly a gimme, but still a winnable game for the Lions.

On paper, at least, there aren’t many left after that.

The reason many assume Penn State’s season is a lost cause has less to do with the games it has already lost (although that double-digit stumble against Maine is hard to ignore) as it does with the remainder of the schedule. After Monday, the Lions face a January schedule that includes games, in order: at Michigan, home against Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois, and at Ohio State and Purdue. A 1-6 or 0-7 start in Big Ten play wouldn’t shock anyone.

And that, barring a semi-miraculous run through conference play, is why DeChellis might well be coaching his last few months of basketball in the Bryce Jordan Center. Say, somewhat generously, that Penn State goes 6-12 in the league, and even manages to win a game in the Big Ten tournament; that still puts the Lions at 14-17 overall, out of contention for even an NIT berth. With four starters graduating after this season and no obvious replacements for their production lined up, it’s hard to imagine Penn State being any better next season.

The solution? There isn’t an easy one, but bringing in a new coach will seem to many to be the obvious move. And, as stated, that could happen as soon as mid-March. Just don’t expect it to happen any sooner. Not while Penn State still has games on the schedule.

There are a lot of reasons it won’t—and shouldn’t—happen, not least being the fact that Penn State tends not to fire coaches for any reason. There’s also the fact that, for about a half-dozen reasons (all of which his employers are aware of), Ed DeChellis has far and away the hardest job in the Big Ten; there might not be a major-conference coach in America with a tougher task. But we’ll get into that later in the season.

For now, just remember this: Ed DeChellis is a Penn State graduate who wants nothing more than to win at his alma mater. He is a cancer survivor recognized nationally for his work with cancer charities. And he runs a program—a clean program, and a profitable one—at a school that has never enjoyed consistent success in men’s basketball.

One day soon, DeChellis may be quietly nudged out the door. But he won’t be “fired,” not officially, and certainly not in the middle of a season that no one should have expected much out of in the first place.

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