Dec. 7, 2004
Oliver Purnell is a blue-collar coach in that he has had to scratch and claw for everything he has gotten.
As a player, he led Old Dominion to a Division II national championship.
As a coach, Oliver has taken on the very difficult jobs. He has not been blessed with walking into great programs and taking programs already at a high level. Oliver is like a number of other coaches who has not gotten the lucky breaks that other coaches get, which is being at the right place at the right time.
Coming to Clemson with 15 seasons of experience as a Division I head coach, Oliver has been named conference coach of the year in three different Division I conferences. He has taken teams to eight postseason tournaments and has eight 20-win seasons. His record is most impressive in building programs.
Additionally, his players have been successful academically. In his nine years at Dayton, all but two of his four-year players graduated.
He has put himself into a position where he is very highly respected on a national basis.
That’s why he has a leadership position with the National Association of Basketball Coaches. That’s why he is a coach for the U.S. Olympic team. He developed Dayton into a very good program and left them in very good shape because they were strong last year after he had departed.
A lot of times you find out a lot about a person by what kind of shape they leave a program. Dayton is performing well in a tough league. I told Oliver recently I had even more respect for him after seeing Xavier and St. Joseph’s in the NCAA Tournament last year.
In his first true recruiting class here, he brought in some gifted players. They are young. Because of that, they are going to be up and down like a yo-yo.
Although we are in the best basketball conference in America, as he continues to recruit and put in his program, we will have good basketball at Clemson. He will have the kind of program that we will enjoy seeing.
I also like the way Oliver handles his kids. He knows what he needs to build a program. He knows where he’s going. The fact that he’s taken some down-trodden programs and built them into programs that could compete at a very high level underscores he has been there before.
The learning curve with Oliver is short.
We want to be very fair to Oliver because we want him to be here a long time. That is the reason for extending his contract at this time. (Vicki Purnell is getting her feet on the ground in the community. Oliver outdid himself with Vicki.)
And Oliver feels very strongly about Clemson. He believes Clemson is a good place. With the rebuilding of Littlejohn and the environment now that we’ve put our kids in.
Our lockerroom facilities are as good as I’ve seen — both men and women. We should be starting this month or next with rebuilding the basketball offices in the front third of Jervey Athletic Center.
We will be creating a good environment for the kids on campus, similar to what we are trying to do with football. We are also creating an environment that we can recruit to.
We are excited about the future development of our facilities. When football moves into the West Endzone, we will have some great space to begin to work with for our Olympic sports. Once football and basketball are in place, we have some opportunities to create good space for our Olympic sports.
Terry Don Phillips
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