Navy hired Penn State coach Ed DeChellis on Monday.
Go ahead an re-read that sentence. DeChellis left Penn State and the Big Ten for Navy and the Patriot League.
“It’s not about the job,” DeChellis said tonight. “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 arena. 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.”
Those are noble sentiments, and ones that certainly sounded earnest and genuine as DeChellis spoke with reporters in State College (and a handful of out-of-towners on a piped-in phone line).
Still, it was a move from Penn State to Navy, which might puzzle some people. Even if DeChellis didn’t factor in the potential for a difficult season (the Nittany Lions return just one starter from a 19-15 NCAA tournament team), it is an atypical move.
(And if DeChellis did consider the possibility he could be ousted if the Nits had a rough season, that would make him smart. In most lines of work, it’s better to chase a job when you already have one. Coaching is no different).
But just how rare is it for coaches to jump from a power conference to a smaller league. Here’s a look at the last six offseasons, divided into direct jumps (like DeChellis’) and indirect jumps (for instance, George Mason hiring Paul Hewitt after he was fired at Georgia Tech this year or a coach resigning under pressure and resurfacing elsewhere).
Direct jump: None
Indirect jump: Mike Davis (resigned at Indiana, hired by UAB), Gary Waters (resigned at Rutgers, hired by Cleveland State)
Direct jump: Steve Alford (Iowa to New Mexico)
Indirect jump: Tommy Amaker (fired at Michigan, hired by Harvard), Dan Monson (resigned midseason at Minnesota, hired by Long Beach State), Ricardo Patton (resigned at Colorado, hired by Northern Illinois)
Direct jump: None
Indirect jump: John Brady (fired at Louisiana State, hired by Arkansas State), Ben Braun (fired at California, hired by Rice)
Direct jump: None
Indirect jump: None
Direct jump: Greg McDermott (Iowa State to Creighton)
Indirect jump: Jeff Lebo (fired at Auburn, hired by East Carolina)
Direct jump: Ed DeChellis (Penn State to Navy)
Indirect jump: Paul Hewitt (fired at Georgia Tech, hired by George Mason), Pat Knight (fired at Texas Tech, hired by Lamar)
OK, so getting a head coaching job down a rung in the perceived college hoops hierarchy immediately after getting fired or nudged aside isn’t uncommon. Maybe it doesn’t occur every day, but it’s happened 10 times in the last six offseasons.
The direct jump, though, was strictly a Hawkeye State thing of late until DeChellis’ move.
Alford won one NCAA tournament game in seven years at Iowa, found himself facing an increasingly restless fan base and bolted for an underrated gig in Albuquerque and is 98-39 with an NCAA bid in four years. McDermott was facing a win-or-else season in Ames after four losing seasons and might have wound up with a better job at Creighton, where he very well might have become the first college coach to go 23-16 in a year.
Both Alford and McDermott found potentially long-term homes and good situations with their moves while extricating themselves from less-than-perfect circumstances. On the surface, at least, it would appear DeChellis just did the same thing —- to both his and Navy’s benefit.
—- Patrick Stevens