Ex-DWS star Young 'in shock' over Clemson coach's departure

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Clemson sophomore guard Andre Young woke up Tuesday morning to texts that Tigers coach Oliver Purnell was leaving.

At breakfast, assistant (now interim coach) Ron Bradley told Young and other teammates that Purnell was taking over the vacant spot at DePaul -- a program that has not been relevant since the late Ray Meyer manned the bench. In fact, the Blue Demons went 8-23 this season and 1-17 in Big East play.

"As far as my reaction, I was just surprised, in shock," said Young, who is from Albany and starred at Deerfield-Windsor. "It just happened kind of fast."

Just like that, Purnell, who guided the Tigers to three NCAA tournament appearances in a row, was gone. The 56-year-old Purnell was 138-88 in seven seasons at Clemson and is 394-279 in 22 years with stops at Radford, Old Dominion and Dayton. He led Clemson to the NCAA tournament the past three years, but the Tigers lost in the first round, making him 0-6 overall in the tourney.

Purnell joins a long line of Tigers coaches who have left what appeared to be a program on the rise for a challenge in a different league. Bill Foster, who led Clemson to the regional finals in 1980, left in 1984 to restart the basketball program at Miami. Cliff Ellis, the Tigers' winningest coach, left in 1994 to go to Auburn, and Rick Barnes departed for Texas in 1998 after leading Clemson to three straight NCAA tournaments.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said during a news conference he was also shocked by Purnell's decision to leave. He said he learned of the move during a phone call from the coach at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Young, meanwhile, keeps things in perspective.

"It's a business and it's a business decision," Young said. "I'm sure one of his goals is to build up Depaul and make it a formidable team in the Big East."

Purnell's departure, however, won't deter Young from staying. Young, who is Clemson's backup point guard, simply said he wants another quality coach.

"I plan on staying here," Young said. "I think the big focus right now, as well as that of the team, is coming together. We really think we can do big things next year. The focus is to work hard in the offseason and come back next year to go big things."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.