In an unexpected move, Ed DeChellis is the new men’s basketball coach at Navy, the school announced on Monday night. DeChellis had been the head coach at Penn State for the past eight years and last season directed the Nittany Lions to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
DeChellis’s decision to leave Penn State for Navy includes a considerable pay cut, according to published reports, but apparently job security was more of priority than financial comfort, although during a news conference hours after the hiring confirmation, he repeatedly denied that supposition.
DeChellis, 52, completed his stay in State College with two winning seasons and four times lost 19 or more games.
“It’s not really about that, and I can’t say that enough,” said DeChellis, who takes over two weeks after former Navy coach Billy Lange resigned to become associate head coach at Villanova, where he was director of basketball operations under Coach Jay Wright from 2001 to ’04. “I could have left last year. They could have done something to me last year, the year before, the year before [that]. I mean it’s just a lot of would of, could of, should of.”
Penn State finished 19-15, including 9-9 in the Big Ten, this past season and advanced to the first round of the NCAA tournament where it fell to Temple, 66-64, on a last-second shot. Navy, meantime, went 11-20 overall and 6-8 in the Patriot League, although two of those wins came against Army.
Had DeChellis remained at Penn State, he would have faced a substantial challenge to get back to the NCAA tournament in light of the departures of several top players, most notably Talor Battle. The senior finished second in the conference in scoring at 20.2 points per game and became the only player in school history to be named team MVP in each of his four seasons.
In 2009, DeChellis was named Big Ten coach of the year, becoming the second coach in school history to receive that award. That season he led a team that started three sophomores to a school-record 27 wins, including 21 in the regular season, and the program’s first NIT title.
Penn State subsequently rewarded DeChellis, who signed a three-year contract extension that ran through 2014.
“It’s not about an extension,” DeChellis said when asked if he had requested and was denied another extension. “It’s about what the Naval Academy offered me and my family at this point in my our careers and my career. It’s a different lifestyle. It’s a different way of life. . . . It’s not about those other things with me anymore. It’s not.”
DeChellis mentioned multiple times during his news conference that among his top priorities at Navy are to win the Patriot League and to get the Midshipmen back into the NCAA tournament. Navy has not participated since 1998 and has not won a game in the tournament since 1986.
Navy has had three winning seasons since 2002 and has logged at least 11 losses every season since 2000. The Midshipmen have lost 20 games or more three times during that span.
“I willing to try to learn and formulate as quickly as I can,” DeChellis said. “I’m going to reach out to some former coaches who I know at the academy very, very well like a Don DeVoe and a Doug Wojic, who was his assistant and so forth, to get their thoughts. Don was very, very successful there, and Paul Evans was very, very successful there, so Navy has had some tradition in basketball, and we’re going to try to go back in there and duplicate it.”