DePaul Needs a Defensive Minded Coach

When you look at the DePaul Blue Demons’ struggles over the last few years, much of their difficulties can be pointed towards their performance on the defensive end of the floor. With that in mind, we take a look at a number of coaching candidates who can instill a defensive work ethic at DePaul.

The Blue Demons have ranked in last place in the Big East Conference in Defensive Field Goal Percentage for the last five years. That statistic has a direct correlation with DePaul’s record over that time.

So for DePaul to improve, they need to bring in a defensive mastermind to turn things around in Lincoln Park.

Below are a few candidates who are up to the task.

Ben Howland

Quick, name the only coach who has been to the Final Four who is not currently employed or retired. If you guessed Ben Howland, then you are correct.

The former UCLA coach will be a hot commodity this season after taking the last year off to work as a TV analyst. Howland has made it clear that he wants to return to coaching.

It’s also no secret that DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has a good relationship with Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. Dixon’s mentor is Howland. DePaul indirectly approached Howland five years ago during their last coaching search. Howland was comfortable and secure in his position at UCLA at the time and declined interest in the position.

Five years later, things have changed. Howland is now itching to get back into coaching.

Howland’s resume at UCLA includes three consecutive trips to the Final Four (2006-08). The only other active coaches to accomplish that feat are Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski. In his 10 years in Westwood, Howland led the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament seven times and compiled a.685 winning percentage.

Howland’s teams at UCLA, Pittsburgh, and Northern Arizona all had the trademarks of being solid defensive teams. Now, if you’re looking for a coach who runs an exciting, uptempo offense, then Howland probably isn’t your guy. He plays a grinding style of ball, but he wins games on the defensive end of the floor. That could be exactly what the Blue Demons need.

Ben JacobsonNorthern Iowa

If DePaul can’t land a former high major coach like Howland, then look for them to go for a current successful mid-major coach.

Ben Jacobson led Northern Iowa to the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with a 30-3 record this season.

Jacobson has never had a losing record during his nine years at the helm of the Northern Iowa program. He’s been to the NCAA Tournament three times and has amassed a record of 196-104. He is the all-time winningest coach in Northern Iowa history.

Northern Iowa’s defensive field goal percentage for this season ranks 18th in the nation at 39.1%. The Panthers have been ranked as high as 10th in the Associated Press poll this season.

DePaul set a record for the most 3-pointers made in a season this year. They would likely break that record under Jacobson. His Northern Iowa team ranks in the top 14 in three point shooting percentage at 39.7%.

One question though is whether Jacobson would be interested in the bright lights and the big city of Chicago. Jacobson is a protégé of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott and may not want to go up against his former mentor in the Big East conference.

Bryce Drew – Valparaiso

Similar to Jacobson in some ways, Bryce Drew also has his Valpo Crusaders in the NCAA Tournament this year after winning the Horizon League tournament.

Valparaiso is 94-41 under Drew’s leadership. He’s been to the postseason in all four of his years at Valpo. The Crusaders have gone to the NCAA Tournament twice, the NIT once, and the CIT once.

Drew has won the Horizon League regular season title three times and the conference tournament twice.

His team also ranks in the top 18 in the nation for field goal percent defense.

One big plus is that Drew isn’t far from Chicago in Northwest Indiana. He played one season for the Chicago Bulls. He has recruited the Chicago area quite a bit, both as a head coach and as an assistant coach, and has familiarity with local high school and AAU coaches.

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