State of the Program

While I’ve put my own blogging on the backseat, I have kept tabs around what’s been said around the interwebs. Lots of people are calling for DeChellis to be fired and I can’t say I disagree. But a particular piece over at BSD got under my skin a little bit. I would agree with this particular article 100%, if it was 2005. The basic argument that I interpreted from RUTS is Penn State doesn’t care about its basketball program. They don’t put any money into it and use the profits to run the rest of the athletic department. He uses PSU’s basketball expenses from 2004-2005 and proof that DeChellis is the lowest paid coach in the league as evidence of his argument. Here’s a particular quote I disagree with:

If Penn State ever overcomes its losing basketball tradition, it won’t be because of a coaching change or monster recruiting class.  It’ll be from a cultural shift in the hierarchy of the athletic department — a decision to make winning a priority by investing resources and energy into the program instead of being satisfied flirting with the NCAA bubble every eight years.

Now lucky for me, I addressed this topic already. In fact, I did so before the season and it was my first real post on this new site. I don’t know how anybody can say the AD doesn’t care when they’ve made all of those changes in the last 3-4 years. Ed DeChellis, while he might not have won on the court, got the AD to level the playing field against our own conference. If there’s anything to remember about ED’s era of PSU hoops, it’s that because he might’ve been the only one able to do so. That is why he probably was the best hire back when Dunn ‘resigned’. No one in their right mind should’ve taken the PSU job in 2003, unless they genuinely cared about the school and had the patience to wait for the AD to catch up the program to the level of competition on the recruiting trail in the Big Ten.

As far as our basketball expenses go, below is the compiled data for the 2008-2009 athletic year (from the Department of Education). The expenses are obviously the figures for each Big Ten school’s basketball program. The Salary column represents the average male head coaching salary at each school. The Coach column is the total number of coaches that went into the average salary figure.

School Expenses Salary Coaches
Iowa $4,443,481.00 $645,604.00 10
Illinois $4,772,399.00 $424,093.00 8
Indiana $6,946,942.00 $327,321.00 10
Minnesota $5,113,345.00 $464,363.00 10
Michigan $4,494,976.00 $466,967.00 13
Michigan St $9,031,373.00 $594,290.00 10
Northwestern $3,720,715.00 $248,129.00 9
Ohio State $4,697,478.00 $478,874.00 15
Penn State $4,407,895.00 $207,924.00 13
Purdue $4,701,270.00 $446,258.00 8
Wisconsin $5,446,455.00 $362,362.00 11

It’s not very surprising that Penn State has by far the lowest average head coaching salary. That is primarily because Joe Paterno and Ed DeChellis are the two cheapest coaches in their respective sports. Meanwhile, the other schools are paying their football and basketball coaches more than millions each. But looking at the basketball expenses, PSU is very competitive within the league. If you consider the fact that Ed DeChellis is only making roughly 650K, PSU is already giving up at least 500K to most of the other schools in the conference. Yet, despite ranking 10th in expenses last year, if PSU paid coach Ed the going rate of coaches these days (let’s say 1.3 million or double his current salary), PSU’s basketball expenses last year would have been 5th in the conference (behind MSU, IU, MN, UW). Spending money is not the issue, and I believe the culture of the men’s basketball team has changed. But I hope it becomes a known fact in the offseason (so I don’t have to hear anymore demoralizing comparisons to the Pittsburgh Pirates). We will find out with the status of coach Ed DeChellis after this year.

There is no reason Ed should be allowed to coach another basketball season here at Dear Old State. His 7 years of basketball here have produced nothing but overmatched players (with few exceptions) playing aimless basketball. With the transformation happening off the court within the program, I understand and am a little more forgiving that DeChellis has been allowed to coach here for so long with such futile results. However, this 2009-2010 campaign has been a complete failure, which is even more amazing when you consider that many people didn’t even have the expectation to go to the NCAAs this season. There are no excuses to go 0-12 with a roster compiled of entirely your own players.

I’m not mad whatsoever about Ed’s extension right before the year. People think PSU honestly wants Ed to coach here until 2014, despite never getting to the NCAA tournament in 6 previous years. The reality of the extension, though, was to provide the fake appearance of Ed’s job security to recruits. It has burned PSU in the past. Last year was a great year for the program as we finally landed on the map nationally, even if the season ended in the Not Important Tournament. But it’s becoming more and more evident that the reasons for last year’s magical run were the players on the court, not the coaches.

I posted how futile our offensive ‘system’ is by exposing how we played against Michigan State. I have never seen a team just straight up ignore the option of dumping the ball into the low post and forcing the defense to collapse just a little bit. This chuck and duck bullshit has been going on for too long. It is so frustrating to watch that I have stopped caring about the team. At least before this year, we had Claxton and Cornley, who would post up, demand the ball, and produce. This year, there’s nobody with that mentality or anybody with the ability. But what’s sad is if you look at the bigger picture, Penn State’s offense since Ed DeChellis has been here hasn’t been the problem. The defense, or lack there of, has.

Below is Ed’s conference games only, tempo-free profile since he’s been here. I could not find the data for Ed’s first season in 2003-2004, but frankly, I’m sure it was just as bad. Here’s some explanation of what the data stands for:

  • PPP is points-per-possession, or PSU’s offensive production.
  • O-PPP is the opponents points-per-possession, or PSU’s defensive production.
  • EM stands for Efficiency Margin, which is obviously the difference between the two.
  • Actual is Penn State’s Big Ten W/L record (and where they placed)
  • Mean is what Penn State’s record should be, based on their EM. Better explanation here by John Gasaway, the originator of most of these stats.
Year PPP O-PPP EM Actual Mean
2004-2005 0.90 (11th) 1.14 (11th) -0.24 (11th) 1-15 (11th) 0-16
2005-2006 1.02 (6th) 1.13 (11th) -0.11 (*10th) 6-10 (8th) 4-12
2006-2007 1.02 (5th) 1.19 (11th) -0.17 (*10th) 2-14 (11th) 1-15
2007-2008 0.98 (8th) 1.12 (*10th) -0.14 (*10th) 7-11 (7th) 3-15
2008-2009 1.00 (7th) 1.04 (7th) -0.04 (T-8th) 10-8 (6th) 7-11
2009-2010 0.96 (9th) 1.10 (*10th) -0.14 (10th) 0-12 (11th) 2-10

*Northwestern has been the team that finished last in EM from 05-08 and also finished last in O-PPP in 07-08 and this year (so far, obviously).

As you can see, Penn State’s defense has consistently been the worst over the years (in a conference whose reputation is solely on that aspect of the game). The only time it has been average, PSU went on to win the NIT. For a while there, the problem was PSU never had the athletes to match up in this conference, but that hasn’t been the case the last 3 years. In fact, I find this team to be one of the most athletic teams we have had in a long time. I even said I thought this year’s squad had the potential to be one of the best defensive teams from PSU ever in the preseason, but that obviously has not been the case. You can also see in the table that PSU has actually won a lot more games than they ‘should have’, based on their per-possession play. That basically means Ed’s already terrible 29-82 conference mark should actually be even worse (something like 21-90). I mean just compare the 2007-2008 team to this year’s. They have identical efficiency margins but the 07-08 team (which Gasaway coined as the most fortunate team since 2006) has 7 more wins.

I’m sick of watching this brand of basketball, if you can even call it that. Ed’s proven to be over his head coaching at this level. I don’t even care if PSU wins their last 6 games and finishes 6-12 in the conference. For this program to make the NCAA tournament, a new head coach has to be put in place. This team has underachieved and just looks lost most of the time. Players aren’t developing and the young players aren’t even given the chance. I can go on and on about my gripes with ED from the toilet paper soft non-conference schedule year-after-year, the numerous wasted scholarships on the recruiting trail, the apparent illogical player substitutions, his ‘use’ of timeouts, or his refusal to fight for his team over any sort of questionable call (1 technical in 7 years), but I’ll digress.

However, there are plenty of arguments for why Penn State won’t fire Ed after this season. First, they just gave him an extension last year. I’m skeptical that they would be willing to buyout that 4 year contract like everybody else. Also, Talor Battle and his class will be seniors next year. I always had the feeling since the start of the offseason that Ed was going to get 2 more years (after last season) to get to the NCAA tournament with his guys. The expectation wasn’t to do so this year anyway, so Curley and company might still allow Ed the opportunity next season. Also, we’re Penn State, where coaching stability reigns supreme. I like that we are willing to give coaches their fair share of time here to build a program, which is opposite of the schizophrenic atmosphere of coaching changes in college athletics these days. But I will also admit we are loyal to a fault.

Here is why I think it would be a big mistake to give Ed an 8th year. While you always run the risk of a mass exodus of players with a new head coach, I’m willing to bet that doesn’t happen if a new coach is brought in next month. Battle is the only player who will have bigger and better opportunities elsewhere, but does he really want to sit out a year to wait for just one year at a school? Or jeopardize an NBA career by going too early? His brother would also have to wait, too, assuming he would want to be released from his LOI if Talor leaves. Throw in the fact that the low-income family has already moved to State College and, IMO, Battle and Buie have no choice but to stay in 2010-2011. Also, I’ve always had the feeling that all the players on this team genuinely like each other and there’s no off-the-court chemistry issues (unlike the holdovers from the Dunn era). I think they would all stay if a new coach is brought in, or at the very least, only a few would leave on their own accord. You also give the new coach a cupboard to work with. He would have 5 senior scholarship players and an entire team returning with the addition of Buie. Not only would he have the opportunity to have some moderate success right away, but he also gets the opportunity to have a full year to fill 5 scholarships with his first recruiting class. It is a great time after this season to make a transition to a new coach.

But say PSU keeps DeChellis. What are the odds that a 2-16 or worse team is going to have an NCAA-like turnaround next year with the exact same players? I think it would just delay the inevitable (if you look around the conference, PSU isn’t the only team returning plenty of guys next season). The situation then plays out like this. Battle and his class leave along with tons of experience. Buie, with 3 years of eligibility, will have plenty of opportunities to transfer. The 5 scholarships for 2011 are filled with Ed’s guys, and they probably ask for their release with a new coach. The new coach could be left with just 7 scholarship players and only a few weeks to fill the 2011 class. That is a 2 year rebuilding project, at least, since we do things the right way here (that means no shortcuts like Calipari). The little stability that Ed has generated is all for nothing.

Yes, this is all speculation. But this analysis is something athletic directors have to consider when evaluating their programs. Keeping Ed for next season is a mighty big risk, but firing him now could come with a pretty big price tag. Throw in the fact that they’re going to have to pay more for a new coach, no matter who it is. It’s quite the dilemma. Many people feel strongly that PSU will act either way. I have no idea how it will unfold. All I know is Tim Curley can’t be pleased with the return he’s getting on the investments made on the program in recent times.

I guess we’ll find out his decision in a month.

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8 Responses to State of the Program

  1. Bill says:

    Amazing and accurate insight for such a young man.
    A#1 job with no holes IMO, you covered all the bases, pitched a no hitter, and then hit a Grand Slam!

  2. Tim says:

    Well done, sir. Good job pointing out the necessity of Ed’s contract extension after the NIT run – So many idiots out there in Message Board-Land don’t how contracts work in sports.

    Also, way to point out how there would not be a mass exodus of players if Ed were not to return next year – One thing I’ll credit Ed with is invoking that ‘family’ atmosphere and making sure there weren’t any major clashes happening within the family. That was a bigger problem under Jerry Dunn than most folks remember.

  3. Ian says:

    Dead on.

  4. Steven Keating says:

    Legit as fuck. I’m convinced. Fire the man.

  5. TonyLion says:

    Okay, we’re 0-12 in conference and the season flat out sucks.

    But Tim Curly notices 14k showing up at the BJC last Saturday. That’s almost capacity.

    You gotta wonder.

  6. M1EK says:

    Fire him. If Parkhill could do what he did with what he had going for him, DeChellis has no excuse whatsoever for this – he’s now worse than Dunn.

  7. [...] on his hot seat: State of the Program (by Battle Does it Again [...]

  8. [...] Remember the guy that nearly crushed Talor Battle in a post-game, passionate man hug? He’s writing his own Penn State Basketball Blog, Battle Does It Again. [...]

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