Surprise coaching search begins at Penn State

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STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - An unexpected coaching search is underway at Penn State after Ed DeChellis left his alma mater to take the same position at Navy.

The blinds in the corner office that used to belong to DeChellis were drawn Tuesday morning at the Jordan Center. Around the corner and down a long corridor, athletic director Tim Curley began working the phones a day after DeChellis announced his surprise resignation.

Asked what he was looking for in the next coach, Curley didn’t name names, but stressed the priority of finding the right fit for the program. Penn State prides itself as a power conference team whose athletes also excel off the court.

“Our program is built on certain values and tradition, a certain way of operating,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon with The Associated Press. “Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure we identify a coach who identifies with our system and the Penn State way.”

Though not necessarily someone with Penn State ties, like DeChellis.

“We’re conducting a national search, so we’re open to the best candidate that we can find,” Curley said. He said there was no timeline, though he hoped to move quickly to find a replacement.

A native of western Pennsylvania, the 52-year-old DeChellis returned to Penn State in 2003 after a successful seven-year stint at East Tennessee State. Penn State won the 2009 NIT under DeChellis, then surged into the Big Ten tournament final this past spring to secure a trip to the NCAAs and a date with Temple.

The 66-64 loss to the Owls turned out to be DeChellis’ last game. He compiled a record of 114-138, with a 41-95 mark in regular-season Big Ten play.

Curley said DeChellis left the program in an “excellent state,” with a great foundation. “If you look at the body of work … you saw improvements in all the areas.”

Following the departure of career leading scorer Talor Battle and three other senior starters, the next coach will inherit a young and relatively inexperienced roster, other than point guard Tim Frazier.

Fans with pie-in-the-sky hopes have mentioned high-profile names from mid-majors like Butler’s Brad Stevens or VCU’s Shaka Smart on wish lists. But both hot commodities recently signed long-term extensions to stay put.

Midwest or Pennsylvania ties could be a selling point, especially if Penn State has any hope of getting more competitive on the recruiting trail.

Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who left Penn in 2006 to replace Hall of Famer John Chaney with the Owls, is certainly a known commodity. But he signed an extension with Temple a year ago to keep him in Philadelphia through 2018. Dunphy, a Philadelphia native, took in the Phillies’ game vs. the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, and did not look like a person who was interested in a career move.

Former Bucknell coach Pat Flannery is available. The architect of the defensive-minded Patriot League squads that had back-to-back first-round NCAA victories in 2005 and 2006 is a fundraiser now for Bucknell after stepping down in 2008.

Known for his fiery intensity, Flannery had experienced health problems in his last couple years on the bench. Flannery since then has said he is completely healthy again.

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