CHICAGO, Ill. - DePaul Vice President and Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy wants to give the Blue Demons a chance.
He was already wary of the team’s 1-5 start to the season but still wanted to see what the staff could accomplish. That changed on Jan. 17.
DePaul lost to Providence at home 100-62. Peevy not only saw this season’s struggles on full display against a program with a first-year head coach, but he saw the prospects of success next season begin to fleet.
That began the consideration which led to the decision to fire head coach Tony Stubblefield. It also led Peevy to the opportunity he now sees before him: to change the trajectory of DePaul athletes in a new era of college athletics.
"I'm not interested in making history in a negative way," Peevy said. "This is the opportunity for us, in a short period of time, to change the trajectory of DePaul athletics and DePaul basketball forever."
DePaul has been a stagnant program ever since it migrated to the Big East.
The Blue Demons have been through four head coaches since joining the conference in 2005 and have amassed a 96-281 record in Big East play. Nearly through 19 seasons as a Big East member, DePaul has yet to eclipse its 100th conference win and last made the tournament in 2004.
Still, Peevy is hopeful. Not because of optimism, but because he can conduct a proper coaching search with a better understanding of the college athletics landscape.
Peevy was hired on Aug. 24, 2020, oversaw the final season of Dave Leitao’s second tenure with the program and fired him on March 15, 2021. Stubblefield, through no fault of his own, was hired during a time where college athletics is undergoing a massive overhaul due to COVID-19, the transfer portal and the impending Name, Image and Likeness legislation that would into effect that summer.
"I will use every tool available, including use of a search firm, for certain aspects of things that I can't do personally," Peevy said. "This is just a different go around because we're not limited by Covid. We do actually have a campus that people can come on to. We can bring, if we wanted to, candidates into Wintrust. I have the opportunity to fly out and visit somebody. That, I couldn't do three years ago."
That coaching search, Peevy said, will be all-encompassing.
It will take as long as it needs and will survey candidates of all backgrounds and experience. It doesn’t matter if that candidate is from the NBA, an assistant, a first-time head coach, someone with head coach experience or someone outside the box. Peevy, who noted he already has a list of names of potential candidates, wants to have the search finished by April 1 but it could take longer to get the right coach.
He has one goal in mind: make the NCAA Tournament. He also has the chance to lift DePaul basketball out of obscurity and lift the entire university as a whole.
"It's an investment in this university's future, and we have a golden opportunity right now that might not be there in a year, that might not definitely be there in a couple years," Peevy said. "The time is now to impact us going forward. I want to look back on this time period as the new wave of not just DePaul Athletics, but DePaul University."
The good news for Peevy is that he correctly pointed out that a massive overhaul doesn’t have to take years anymore.
College basketball is at the backend of the COVID-19 eligibility grants, which gave athletes in 2020 an extra year of eligibility, while also integrating NIL into its recruiting efforts. Weave the transfer portal into that equation, and programs like Missouri, Kansas State, Northwestern State and Milwaukee all enjoyed 20-win seasons in the 2022-2023 season.
"We get a chance to skip some steps here," Peevy said. "Normally, pre-COVID, pre-NIL, you got to build a program, you get a coach, you lose most of your guys. You got to start with a really young team and develop over time. We don't have to do that."
However, a quick turnaround can’t be the expectation.
Peevy outwardly said DePaul’s NIL support and growth is at the bottom of the Big East. That growth and support were at risk sitting at 3-15, and factored into his decision to move on from Stubblefield.
Some Big East programs revel in NIL success. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Villanova men’s basketball team has a NIL valuation of over $3 million. According to a report from the University of Connecticut, UConn is fourth nationally in total NIL compensation as a program.
If Peevy wants to change the university’s trajectory and return the Blue Demons to March glory, the next hire at DePaul has to be a coach that not only understands the modern-day landscape but thrives in it.
In creating a head coach vacancy midseason, it signals DePaul is open for business. It’s a chance to wipe its slate clean and refocus on what its goals should be.
Peevy wants to give DePaul a chance. He has that opportunity now.
"The opportunity that I thought existed here at DePaul is even greater than I thought," Peevy said. "I want the opportunity to hire the best coach available that is ready to take DePaul back to the NCAA tournament."