We're all disappointed, he said. We can only turn the page and move on.
Coming off a 2008-09 season in which they won the NIT championship, the Nittany Lions failed to maintain the momentum last winter. Penn State finished 11-20 overall and 3-15 in the Big Ten, good for its fourth last-place finish in the league under DeChellis.
The season featured a 12-game losing streak to open Big Ten play, no wins against ranked opponents and only four wins against teams with winning records. The Lions were 1-8 at home in league play and drew more than 10,000 fans for only two Big Ten opponents -- Michigan State and Minnesota.
This despite returning All-Big Ten guard Talor Battle and a host of other experienced players from the NIT title outfit.
DeChellis said post-season player meetings revealed a common criticism of this year's team.
Last year, they felt like they were a closer-knit group off the floor, DeChellis said. This year, they felt like maybe they weren't as close, they didn't do things with each other [as often as] maybe they wanted to. As a coach, you can only control so much. Their comment to me is that they have to take that on themselves.
Asked if he felt that he was passing the blame to the players with that statement, DeChellis said, I'm not going to pass the buck to the players. That's what they talked to me about.
Later, he added, I point the finger squarely at myself. We weren't successful, so it starts with me. He explained that PSU struggled to close out any number of tight games during the season, and that to improve in that key area he must evaluate everything from the team's strength program to the development of player confidence.
I have to look at things from top to bottom, nuts to bolts, DeChellis said.
Adding to the sense of urgency is the recent string of player defections.
Last Friday, two Lions told DeChellis they plan to transfer. Sophomore shooting guard Chris Babb started 23 games and was the team's third-leading scorer at 9.3 ppg. Freshman forward Bill Edwards logged 16 minutes and 4.2 points per game off the bench.
Meanwhile, center Andrew Ott decided to wrap up his career because he is graduating.
DeChellis declined to get into specifics of his personal conversations with Babb and Edwards. But he did say their departures, along with Ott's decision, adds some pressure on the recruiting trail. PSU now has three grants to give in the spring signing period where it previously had none.
The period begins April 14.
We're trying to get the best players to get where we need to get to, he said, adding that PSU had irons in the fire with the current crop of high school seniors and junior college players in anticipation of possible roster turnover.
Penn State athletic director Tim Curley recently gave DeChellis a vote of confidence in he Harrisburg Patriot-News, and the coach said he was appreciative of that. But he refused to address speculation that PSU must make the NCAA Tournament next year for his own job security.
DeChellis' contract runs through the 2013-14 season. In his seven seasons as head coach, PSU has yet to make the NCAA Tournament.
I don't make those decisions, he said regarding his job security. I control what I control. I worry about what I can control. I don't focus on things that are out of our realm.
DeChellis believes the NCAA Tournament could be in Penn State's realm as early as next year, though. Despite the departures, Battle is back, as are senior-to-be frontcourt players Jeff Brooks, David Jackson and Andrew Jones. He said the big guys struggled early in 2009-10 but seemed to improve late in the year, when PSU closed by winning three of six regular-season games.
We have a lot of points returning and a lot of rebounds returning, DeChellis said. We have a good core back. I think we can be pretty good next year.
Our goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament and challenge for a top spot in the Big Ten, DeChellis said. That doesn't change.
All DeChellis would say about his 2010-11 schedule is that it will include a game at Virginia Tech, a home game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and a possible game against an SEC team.
DeChellis said he does not expect any changes to his staff.
Redshirt freshman forward Billy Oliver, who missed most of the 2009-10 season due to headaches that came on when he played, has been working out and headache-free for 10 days now.