CLEMSON -- New Clemson men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell was the guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott on Tuesday. Oliver Purnell, who led Dayton to a 24-6 record and a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament this past season, is Clemson's 21st head basketball coach.
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Scott: You got to meet the players yesterday finally. Was anyone late for your meeting yesterday?
Purnell: We had a very general meeting about the expectations and values for the team. Right now our major goal has to be academics. At the same time, this Monday, we will start a program for individual instruction, strength and conditioning and those kinds of things. To answer your question, I am happy to report that everyone was there on time.
Scott: Does the goodbye meeting get any easy over time?
Purnell: It really doesn’t. This is a special group that I had to say goodbye to. Just by their response and comments in the media, you could tell those guys were very appreciative and really understanding. It sort of sounded those guys were the adults, and I was the child. All of those guys will be special to me and close to my heart.
Scott: Can you give us some insight or how you got the job at Clemson and some of the contract details ?
Purnell: I had a part of my contract that was designed that I stay at Dayton for a number of years. The contract was put into place so their could be some stability in the program. This particular time after staying at Dayton for nine years and turning the program around, this job really intrigued. It was really something that I thought I wanted to be involved with. The thing that I had to find out was if Clemson was interested in me. After I found that out, everything was full speed ahead.
Scott: Talk about the level of commitment that Terry Don Phillips showed to you and to future of the basketball program.
Purnell: Well, that was certainly one of the first things he talked about. He talked about his desire to have a great basketball league in a tremendous league. The thing that was important to me was where he was coming from. He had been there and done that. I have talked to numerous people and they say he is a straight shooter and what he says is what you get. Also, the background from where he has been from concerning Arkansas and Oklahoma State were very good basketball programs. So as you can see, it was not a very hard sell to me.
Scott: For people that do not know you , what is your coaching style?
Purnell: My coaching philosophy is that you build a program not a basketball team. From a solid program breeds good basketball teams. I think that building habits across the board, attending classes, and working hard in the off-season are what really matters. These things are what matters. The scheme of the team will be determined by the personnel of the team. We had a very fast team at Old Dominion with a very up tempo style. It was very similar to the Kentucky teams coached by Rick Pitino. The last couple of years at Dayton, we have been a midtempo team because we had a very good post team. It really just depends on what we have here. We are really excited about looking at this team and seeing what kind of team it will become.
Scott: Talk about your success turning around basketball programs.
Purnell: Well whatever the reason, I enjoy challenges. I think I have learned a lot from my experiences about turning around programs. I think it is really is simple. You surround yourself with great people and you have a solid message. You have to be firm with it and continue to hammer that message. You have to pull for the same goal and direction. If you can do that and mental toughness to stay with it, things will usually turn around.
Scott: Talk about being the 1st black hire head coach at Clemson.
Purnell: It is certainly not something that I focused on. I thought it was great. I am happy that it happened here at the University. This university is moving forward and this country is moving forward. I think its a great thing and obviously I think I am a good basketball coach and not a good black basketball coach.
Scott: Final question, have you got an idea on what needs are you looking at in recruiting?
Purnell: We have two scholarships available now and one for next year. Our recruiting class has been already signed. We have one senior. We have to look at the big picture and see if we can find a impact player to help us next year. We are starting late on recruiting now and I think that anyone that is a big time recruit has been recruited very hard on all the big schools. That is the position that we are in. Our focus on the next few days will be the underclassman recruiting. If we can identify a senior prospect that can help us though, we will not hesitate to pull the trigger on a recruit in the coming days. I am not that certain that it will happen though.