Purnell En Route to Clemson, Will Be Introduced Sunday

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Oliver Purnell, who led the University of Dayton to a No. 4 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament, will be introduced Sunday as Clemson's new men's basketball coach.

Purnell, in an interview with ESPN radio late Saturday afternoon, confirmed he was on his way to the airport in New Orleans to catch a flight to Clemson. He was expected on campus in the early evening Saturday.

"We're hoping to finalize things," Purnell said during the interview. "I've got to get on campus, meet with the president and all of those things. We're still finalizing things, but things look like they're headed in the right direction. I hope they (are)."

Purnell has spent the past nine years at Dayton, an Atlantic 10 school, and has won at least 20 games in each of the past four seasons. His ties to the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area are expected to significantly improve Clemson's recruiting base.

Earlier Saturday, Dayton athletic director Ted Kissell confirmed Purnell's decision to accept Clemson's offer, and said the coach's parting with the Flyers' program was on good terms.

"Obviously, they decided he's the guy," Kissell told the Associated Press. "He's a friend of mine, and I wish him well. We both feel proud of what we accomplished."

Purnell, 49, guided Dayton to a 24-6 record and the Atlantic 10 Championship this year, according to Saturday's AP report. The Flyers lost to Tulsa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but were ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP poll. Purnell came to Dayton in 1994 from Old Dominion, inheriting a program that had won just 17 games in the previous four seasons.

He guided the Flyers to a 155-116 record, leading the Flyers to two appearances in the NCAA tournament and three appearances in the NIT. They won at least 20 games in the last four seasons and five out of the last six.

The apparent signing of Purnell came after Tim Floyd turned down Clemson's offer to become head coach on at least two occasions. Though athletic director Terry Don Phillips made it obvious the former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach was his No. 1 choice, he made it a point to interview several other candidates throughout the process.

If Purnell was given the same offer as Floyd - in the neighborhood of $800,000 per year - that would be a significant increase over his Dayton salary, reported at approximately $500,000.

Purnell's hiring also will make history at Clemson. He will become the first African-American head coach of any major sport in the school's history.

"I think it's very important for a school like Clemson, a community like Clemson, to have an African-American in a high-profile position," Purnell said. "I think it can promote unity, and can be a symbol of diversity, acceptance and change. I think that can be very valuable to any community.

"I think it's something that needs to happen, and I hope the people of Clemson and that area feel the same way."

Purnell replaces Larry Shyatt, who resigned nearly three weeks ago after five seasons and a 70-84 record.

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