AP source: DePaul hires Oregon's Tony Stubblefield as coach

CHICAGO (AP) — DePaul has hired longtime Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield as head coach, hoping he can restore a struggling program, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced.

Stubblefield is the first major hire for DePaul athletic director DeWayne Peevy since he took the job in August after 12 years in Kentucky’s athletic department.

Stubblefield replaces Dave Leitao, who was fired six years into his second tenure last month.

Stubblefield spent the past 11 years on Dana Altman’s staff at Oregon and was promoted to associate head coach prior to this past season. Oregon made seven NCAA Tournaments in that span, with a Final Four appearance in 2017 and a Sweet 16 run this year.

Stubblefield helped assemble recruiting classes that included Troy Brown Jr., Louis King and Bol Bol. The Ducks lost to USC in the Sweet 16 on Sunday.

Stubblefield was also Cincinnati’s recruiting coordinator from 2006 to 2010. He spent six years at New Mexico State, serving as interim coach when Lou Henson missed the 2004-05 season due to health reasons.

Now, he will try to restore a program that once ruled winters in Chicago.

The Blue Demons went 5-14 overall in a season that started about a month late because of COVID-19 issues. They finished last in the Big East Conference for the fifth consecutive year at 2-13.

Leitao was 127-146 over nine years at DePaul. He led the Blue Demons to a 58-34 record from 2002 to 2005 and their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2004. But his second stint was nowhere near as successful.

DePaul plays in the powerful Big East, in a sparkling arena and in a city with a deep talent pool. Establishing that recruiting pipeline and keeping some of Chicago’s elite high school players home will be one of Stubblefield’s most important tasks.

“If you’re a coach that’s a candidate for this job, you better have connections to Chicago recruiting, period, whether you’re from here or you’ve signed kids from Chicago or not,” Peevy said recently. “You’re not a high-level recruiter if you’re not recruiting Chicago, in my opinion.”

DePaul finished last in the Big East for the 11th time in 13 seasons.

The Blue Demons have been upstaged in recent years by Loyola Chicago, another Catholic school not far away. The Ramblers made the Final Four in 2018 and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their gripping run.

Illinois, meanwhile, earned the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. The Illini were knocked out in the second round by eighth-seeded Loyola.

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