When he was hired away from Dayton to be the new basketball coach at Clemson University not much fanfare was made of it. He was noted only for being the first African-American HC at Clemson's long suffering basketball program. It was with so little of a deal , the fans at most schools in the ACC weren't even sure who he was at the start of the 2004 season.
He came with good credentials , having served as the HC at Old Dominion and Toledo. He won at both of those smaller schools, eclipsing the 20 win plateau at each. He was seen as a defensive minded coach who would bring respectability to the Tigers ....if not success. I would venture to guess that most ACC and even Tiger fans , if they were asked to tell the truth would say that they weren't expecting too much from this relative unknown.
He was hired by Mike Krzyzewski to assist coaching the U.S. basketball team and he did , and they won gold. Coach K recognizes the value of the defensive side in international play , and he should as Coach Purnell beat his favored Duke team last year with just such a defensive scheme.
Now we are seeing the payoff . He has won 20+ games three out of his four years as head at Clemson. Landed the Tigers in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1998 last season. His recruiting has ramped up , and he is beginning to grab the caliber player that the traditional basketball powers would normally hoard. Clemson has started 15-0 in 2008-2009 and are already 1-0 in conference play beating a ranked Miami team on the road.
Give Oliver Purnell the respect that he deserves , and the Clemson AD gratitude for having the foresight to scoop up this obviously talented hoopsman. Clemson basketball futures look good , so buy your season tickets now because this trend will continue.