Stitt: "I would have liked to have known"

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson point guard Demontez Stitt said former head coach Oliver Purnell called him from the Final Four on Friday afternoon and the conversation covered everything from next season to how Purnell was watching Butler play in the Final Four, a team the Tigers beat earlier in the season.

One thing they didn’t discuss, however, was the chance that Purnell would be a head coach somewhere else early in the next week.

And Stitt says that hurts, having to hear that someone he thought of as a father would leave and not break the news to the players first, instead letting his former charges hear about it through the internet and text messages.

“I talked to my grandma about that, how he was like a father, like a dad,” a subdued Stitt said Tuesday afternoon. “We had talks about leadership and being a leader, and he was trying to prepare me for my last year. We talked about what we needed to do as a team, and it seemed like he was coming back. It seemed like everything was fine.

“I haven’t heard from him since. And that kind of hurts. This is my last year, I am going to be a senior, and it’s kind of hard to think I have to do that with another coach. So yeah, I am a little bit disappointed. I don’t know when or where I will talk to him, and I don’t know if he is going to be at the banquet on Sunday, but when the situation arises, it will be tough. I would have liked to have known ahead of time. I wish he would have said something, and I didn’t have to hear about it on the internet.”

Rising junior Tanner Smith said that when he first he heard about it, at 2 a.m. in the morning, he was dubious because of the unreliability of the internet, but when interim coach Ron Bradley told the team the news at breakfast, the team’s reaction was one of anxiety rather than surprise.

“It’s tough to believe everything you hear,” Smith said. “Then this morning, Coach Bradley came in and told us everything. I wouldn’t say we were surprised, but anxious. We weren’t ready for that, obviously, but this is a resilient team and we’ll be ready for a new challenge. Hopefully the process is fast.”

Smith said that once the team had absorbed the news and began to practice, he felt more of a team unity than he had in the past.

“Those are big shoes for someone to come in and fill,” Smith said. “But as a team we are just really excited and ready to get it going again. Everybody seems fine, closer. So there could be a silver lining in a dark cloud. I don’t think anybody will be leaving, and maybe this is a chance for us to take that next step.”

Guard Andre Young agreed with Smith, and said he feels like this is something that will bring the team closer together, but right now confusion reigns as they struggle to come to grips with Purnell leaving.

“We're all sticking by each other right now,” Young said. “I think I speak for everybody when I say that we're confused. This all came kind of fast. We're surprised. We had a little workout today and everybody seemed to be fine, but we’re still trying to come to grips with this. I'm pretty sure the process was real fast for coach Purnell.

“I'm sure coach Purnell is real busy right now with press conferences. It wasn't a surprise to me that we didn't hear from him. I think this group will stay together. The chemistry on this team is great. We're looking forward to next year. I think everybody is excited about what we're capable of next year."

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