DeChellis to take helm at Navy, leave Penn State

A jump from the Big Ten to the Patriot League isn’t a typical move in college basketball coaching.

Ed DeChellis made it anyway.

Drawn to the appeal of working at Navy, DeChellis left Penn State on Monday to take over the Midshipmen’s program.

“It’s not about me,” DeChellis said. “If I wanted to leave Penn State, I could have left Penn State. I didn’t want to leave Penn State. This was an agonizing decision. It had to take a special place to get me to leave my alma mater.”

DeChellis is 222-232 in 15 seasons as a head coach. He took East Tennessee State to the NCAA tournament in 2003, in turn parlaying it into an eight-year run at Penn State.

The Nittany Lions won the NIT in 2009 and earned their first NCAA tournament berth in a decade last season. But those were the only two times DeChellis posted winning seasons at Penn State, where his overall record was 117-139.

DeChellis was to lose four senior starters off a 19-15 team, and a rebuilding scenario appeared likely. Nonetheless, he said his job status was not an impetus for taking over at Navy.

“It’s not about an extension,” DeChellis said. “It’s about what I want in my life. It’s about what the Naval Academy offers me and my family at this point in our careers.”

DeChellis replaces Billy Lange, who resigned May 9 to become the associate head coach at Villanova. Lange was 92-115 in seven seasons, including a 19-win season in 2008-09.

The Midshipmen, who were 11-20 last season, have not reached the NCAA tournament since 1998. Despite Lange’s progress in the latter half of his tenure, he never advanced to the Patriot League semifinals. Navy last won a conference tournament game in 2001.

Still, there are impressive pieces DeChellis will inherit. Guard Jordan Sugars and forward J.J. Avila, the Mids’ top two scorers, will return, and Lange was particularly optimistic about his incoming recruiting class when he departed Navy.

Regardless, DeChellis’ move is unusual. Coaches rarely leave a power conference job for one in a smaller league, particularly a one-bid league such as the Patriot.

DeChellis, though, said he appreciates the opportunity to coach in Annapolis even if it means giving up a gig in a high-profile conference.

“It’s not about the job,” DeChellis said. “This is a great job. It’s a Big Ten job. It’s got great facilities, got all the bells and whistles you need to be competitive. For me, it’s not about bells and whistles, not about large arenas. It’s about something different. It’s about me doing what I want to do, which is working with young guys and recruiting young guys who want to represent our nation.”

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