CHICAGO – The corner office overlooking the intersection of Sheffield and Belden has fresh new hardwood floors and matching furniture. A framed ceremonial jersey hangs on a wall across from windows, letting the sunlight in on a brochure-worthy September morning in town. There are also unpacked boxes lining the south wall filled with an assortment of team gear. On one of them sits an unworn pair of red Nike shoes. A set of golf balls with the welcome letter on it rests on a ledge. Every detail explains that this is the room inhabited by a new basketball coach hired to revive a program. It’s like DePaul ordered the Fresh Start collection from the catalog.
Nobody knows where Tony Stubblefield gets it from here. The 51-year-old’s very first full-time head coaching appearance requires him to fix an operation that has spawned an NCAA tournament appearance and four winning seasons this century. A track record on all fronts is virtually non-existent. The result? DePaul at least seems to be trying. And not just because it renovated a few square feet of the Sullivan Center. Stubblefield has participated in successful charges twice, first in Cincinnati and then in Oregon. He’s an ambitious worker and hustler and, more importantly, not a retread or someone who is simply seeking asylum from a situation that has gone sideways elsewhere. He’s the kind of bet this place should have made a couple of hours ago.
And he seems to have a solid perspective on what he’s got into. Stubblefield says he was pleasantly surprised at how many people still crave the relevance of Blue Demons and more like it was in the good old days. In the next breath, he also acknowledges that those good old days are not an instant and relevant help, that beating the same worn-out drum doesn’t matter when it comes to finding the talent to win in 2021 and beyond .