When DePaul athletic director DeWayne Peevy fired Dave Leitao after six seasons in his second tenure at DePaul, he made a simple statement to the press about the ensuing search for the school’s next men’s basketball head coach.
“I hope that it’s my first and my last,” he said.
After a month-long search that spanned almost 40 candidates, Peevy and DePaul decided to pluck Tony Stubblefield away from Oregon to make him the Blue Demons’ next head coach. Stubblefield, with no previous head coaching experience besides on an interim basis, promised to deliver better recruiting results than his predecessor and have a team that other programs “fear playing.”
Three seasons later, it’s up for debate if Stubblefield has been a better recruiter than Leitao. He has landed a couple of four-star recruits, which Leitao was also able to do, but has yet to secure a program-changing recruiting class.
What’s not up for debate, however, is that nobody fears playing DePaul. Not UConn. Not Marquette. Not Creighton.
Heck, even Purdue Fort-Wayne and Long Beach State came into Wintrust Arena and escaped with wins this season. This DePaul team wouldn’t scare a puppy.
The Blue Demons are now 1-4 after losing back-to-back games against South Carolina and San Francisco in Arizona this weekend. Their only win came against mighty South Dakota last Tuesday at Wintrust Arena. That win did nothing to alleviate the concerns surrounding this team.
Whether it’s tomorrow or after the season, Peevy will have to own up to making the wrong decision hiring Stubblefield and then begin his second search for a coach capable of fixing this program. DePaul’s administration will also have to step up and show they care about its flagship program by finding the money to hire a big-time coach.
This DePaul team is a mess.
It’s an offensive mess. It’s a defensive mess. It’s just a plain out bad team.
It ranks 128th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 221st in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Somehow, DePaul has improved 50 spots in the defensive category from last year to this season. That ranking, however, is surely going to fall when the opponents get tougher.
The offense, though, is completely rudderless. Stubblefield has shown no ability to put his players in winning situations on that end of the floor. The Blue Demons are averaging 15.6 turnovers after five games and ranks 312th in the nation in turnover percentage, according to KenPom.
Against San Francisco in a 70-54 loss on Sunday, it took DePaul over five minutes to hit a shot to start the second half as the Dons increased their three-point halftime lead to 12.
On the other end, the Dons grabbed four offensive rebounds to start the second half and pushed their weight around to the tune of 42 points in the paint for the game. DePaul never managed to make it a game after that. The deficit never came below 10.
Chico Carter was the only DePaul player to come out of the Arizona Tip-Off games with two good games on the offensive end after scoring 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting. The rest of the offense, however, was a no-show. Caleb Murphy, the other point guard in charge of running the offense, fouled out after 20 minutes on Friday and then coughed up the ball six times on Sunday.
Sure, Jalen Terry and Mac Etienne — who have both missed the start of the season with an ankle injury and an illness, respectively — can and will help in the turnover and rebounding categories. But they aren’t exactly All-Americans.
These are issues that usually expose DePaul in January and February in the Big East. DePaul has yet to face one program that projects to be an NCAA Tournament team this season. Believe it or not, this can only get worse.
The rest of the non-conference schedule is brutal. Games against Texas A&M, Northwestern and Iowa State await in December. And then it’s Big East play. The conference has improved from top to bottom. Every other program has something to be optimistic about this season.
Unless you are DePaul.
November is usually a good month for the Blue Demons. Stubblefield was 10-3 in the first month of the season in his first two years at DePaul. He will be lucky to win 10 total games this season.
This roster has been poorly constructed. It doesn’t have a point guard that can take care of the ball. It doesn’t have a forward who can consistently create their own shot. It doesn’t have a big that is capable of dominating inside on offense and defense.
That falls on the coach who was touted as a good recruiter when he got hired. Ultimately, it should be the reason Peevy tells Stubblefield he’s moving in a different direction when this season ends.