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With DePaul's season on the horizon, ESPNChicago.com had a chance to catch up with coach Oliver Purnell.
Q: What do you know about this team heading into the first practice?
A: I know that it’s a team that’s eager and wants to be coached and has done everything we have asked them to do. I think that’s a unique quality and something to build on.
Q: What do you try to establish first when coaching a new team?
A: There are two things. We want to establish ourselves as a team that is known as a very good defensive team and one that gang rebounds. I think that’s really, really important. I think it’s important to try to put some premium on building confidence with a group. We don’t want to overload them and not play effective basketball. We could throw 11 or 12 pressure-type defenses at them, but that doesn’t make sense. You ease them into things you do. You want to get them comfortable and play effective basketball as they learn the system better. I think that’s better.
Q: How soon can you expect this team to start playing your style of basketball?
A: I think the goal every year is to get better. I think the first year it’s evident you’re not going be where you want to be on Day 1 or the second week of practice. You’re just not going to. Common sense for a basketball coach is you don’t expect too much too early. My expectation is for us to continue to get better. It’s important that we believe in what we’re doing. We got to constantly let them know that anything that is worth having, anything you do well, is worth working for. It takes time and is a process. I expect our players to go through a process, especially with our pressure defense.
Q: What’s realistic to expect from this team?
A: Realistic expectations are to be better. Believe in team, believe in family, play extremely hard, to be known as an outstanding defensive team, known as a team that is a very tough out. That’s it. We want to win as many games as we can. In terms of long-term goals, we want to get better, win as many games as possible and compete for tournaments. The short-term goals are the most important right now. We want to push the ball on offense, gang rebound. The biggest short-term goal is to win our first game.
Q: You have three in-state games scheduled this season. Not all high-major programs will do that. What’s your philosophy in scheduling Illinois teams?
A: If you check out my record, we played every in-state Division I team in South Carolina. We played a lot of Division II teams in scrimmages. It makes sense to me. Obviously, your fans will be interested in seeing those teams. It helps your attendance and following. We don’t mind if fans cheer for two state teams. We don’t mind if fans cheer for Illinois and want to cheer for us or if they want cheer for Chicago State and cheer for us. In tough economic times, it makes more sense to play a Chicago team than Delaware State. It creates interest. It creates a following. I think the media likes it. It just makes too much sense. We want to create a brand that we hope to spread. We have a good product, and we hope to spread it.