Speed could key Blue Demons' rise

Another year of experience in Oliver Purnell's fast-paced system could pay dividends

Updated: June 3, 2011, 4:32 PM ET
By Elena Bergeron | ESPN The Magazine
Cleveland MelvinMitchell Layton/Getty ImagesCleveland Melvin gives DePaul more than a glimmer of hope next season.

It looked like more of the same. For all the preseason hoopla surrounding former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell's takeover of the DePaul Blue Demons, the bottom line was identical to the miserable year Jerry Wainwright (and interim coach Tracy Webster) put together in 2009-10. In each season, the Blue Demons managed just one Big East win and maintained its stranglehold on last place, a streak that's now three years strong. The Big East may have been the best league top-to-bottom last year, but DePaul's continued ineptitude meant there was a considerable talent drop-off between the conference's upper reaches and its basement.

But just because the record didn't reflect success doesn't mean that Purnell's first year was a flop. There were crucial changes to the team's style and culture that should go a long way toward bringing the team back to respectability, and possibly position the Blue Demons for their first season above .500 since 2006-07.