Navy hires Penn State's Ed DeChellis as men's basketball coach

Mids tab 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year as Lange's replacement

May 23, 2011|By Chris Branch, The Baltimore Sun

Hoping its new men's basketball coach will take the program to new peaks, Navy reached into Happy Valley.

Penn State coach Ed DeChellis is leaving the Nittany Lions to coach the Midshipmen, he and Navy announced Monday. DeChellis, 52, was 222-232 in eight seasons at Penn State. His move from the Big Ten to the mid-major Patriot League would appear to be a step down.

"It's been a difficult weekend for my family," DeChellis said in a teleconference. "Penn State is a special place for me and my family, but I found another special place at the United States Naval Academy."

DeChellis, who took the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA tournament in 10 years last season, said it was something he "needed to do."

"It's not about going from the Big Ten to the Patriot League," DeChellis said. "It's about going to the Naval Academy and working with men who are going to serve our country. In a way, I feel like it's my civic duty."

DeChellis replaces Billy Lange, who left Navy on May 9 to become associate head coach at Villanova. Lange was 92-115 in seven seasons with the Midshipmen.

DeChellis inherits a team that posted an 11-20 record last season, winning only six conference games. Three seniors return; the rest of the roster is made up of sophomores.

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk called DeChellis "one of the most highly respected coaches and educators in the sport" in a statement.

"Ed will make a positive and impactful impression on Navy basketball in short order," Gladchuk said.

The move is a bit of a surprise after the Nittany Lions went 19-9 last season (9-9 Big Ten) and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Temple on a buzzer-beater.

DeChellis was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2009 after guiding Penn State to a 27-11 record and the National Invitation Tournament championship.

Penn State athletic director Tim Curley issued a statement expressing appreciation on behalf of the school and State College, Pa., for DeChellis' and his staff's time with the university.

DeChellis shot down suggestions that he left the Nittany Lions because of a perceived lack of job security.

"It wasn't about an extension," DeChellis said. "It's what I wanted to do about my life. I can't say that enough."

DeChellis will have to adapt his recruiting strategy to Navy's strict entry requirements.

"A very important part of the Academy is recruiting quality students and quality athletes," the coach said. "I'm willing to learn the formula as quickly as possible."

He also said he would consult former Navy coaches -- he mentioned Don DeVoe -- to help him better grasp the nature of the job.

DeChellis has his sights set on helping the Midshipmen, who have not reached the NCAAs since 1997, end up where he coached his last game for Penn State.

"We have to put a team together that can win the Patriot League and get back to the NCAA tournament," he said.

The original article gave the wrong year for when Navy last qualified for the NCAA tournament. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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