NEW DAY, OLD DAVE

Can DePaul AD Peevy ac­com­plish goals with Leitao?

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - STEVE GREEN­BERG sgreen­berg@suntimes.com | @SLGreen­berg

De­Wayne Peevy had never seen Chicago in the sum­mer­time be­fore his early-Au­gust visit to in­ter­view for the job of ath­letic di­rec­tor at DePaul. Even in the clutches of a pan­demic, the city worked its magic. The lake shone blue. The sky­line sparkled. The neigh­bor­hood streets ra­di­ated vi­brancy.

“From the first time I walked through Lin­coln Park with my fam­ily,” said Peevy, who be­gins his new gig Sept. 1, “we knew this was the place for us.”

But Peevy, 47, has never ex­pe­ri­enced DePaul men’s bas­ket­ball in the win­ter­time, ei­ther, and that’s a whole dif­fer­ent pic­ture. It has been as bleak and fore­bod­ing as nine last-place fin­ishes in the last 11 Big East sea­sons — and no NCAA Tour­na­ment ap­pear­ances since 2004 — sounds.

There are rea­sons no coach has com­piled a win­ning record at the school since Joey Meyer’s run came to a gasp­ing halt in 1997. One surely must be the na­ture of a place where for­mer AD Jean Lenti Pon­setto and coach Dave Leitao could last so long with­out pro­duc­ing on

court suc­cess in the ath­letic de­part­ment’s bell­cow sport.

“I can’t at­test to what’s been ac­cepted here be­fore — ob­vi­ously, I’m walk­ing in the door — but I do think a win­ning, cham­pi­onship-level cul­ture is part of the process,” Peevy said.

This isn’t Ken­tucky, where Peevy has spent the last 12 years and, as deputy AD, over­saw the Wild­cats’ men’s bas­ket­ball mon­ster. And Leitao isn’t John Cali­pari, who has taken teams at three schools to Fi­nal Fours — Ken­tucky four times — and won it all in 2012 with a team led by Chicago su­per­star An­thony Davis.

But Leitao is Peevy’s bas­ket­ball coach, for now. The com­ing sea­son — if there is one — will be his ninth at DePaul and his sixth since Pon­setto re­hired him in 2015. He is 64-98 over­all and a hard-to-fathom 19-71 in league play since com­ing back.

Peevy calls the NCAA Tour­na­ment “not the ceil­ing where we’re try­ing to get to, but the floor, some­thing that we’re count­ing on ev­ery year.” He comes in talk­ing big dreams and ban­ners.

“I’m here to try to win a na­tional cham­pi­onship,” he said. “If ev­ery­body’s not on board with dream­ing those kinds of dreams, then you might not be cut out for DePaul ath­let­ics.”

Yet the early steps to­ward a re­turn to hoops rel­e­vance could be more than a lit­tle awk­ward. Leitao’s very pres­ence sig­ni­fies to some an ac­cep­tance of medi­ocrity — of ram­pant los­ing — at DePaul. Will he re­ally have a chance to be the coach Peevy stakes his own rep­u­ta­tion on?

At Ken­tucky, Peevy had a front-row seat as Billy Gil­lispie was fired and Cali­pari blew into town and av­er­aged 34 wins in Years 1-3. In foot­ball, Peevy watched Mark Stoops re­place Joker Phillips and build a pro­gram strong enough that, as Peevy puts it, a coach doesn’t “get a statue” for merely reach­ing any old bowl game.

DePaul’s new AD knows what real suc­cess looks like.

“But that’s not some­thing you have to change coaches to [have],” Peevy said. “That’s part of my job to bring a dif­fer­ent level, [to have] a con­ver­sa­tion right away with coach Leitao . . . . How do we ac­com­plish goals right now? What can we do right now to build the DePaul brand to a point where it’s more at­trac­tive to young peo­ple.”

Are young peo­ple go­ing to be at­tracted to a coach who might be one-and-done with his new boss? That’s one hard ques­tion DePaul bas­ket­ball is up against at this very mo­ment. Noth­ing about this will be easy.

Just sayin’

In a sane world, DePaul, Illi­nois, North­west­ern, Loy­ola and UIC would play one an­other ev­ery sea­son. You want to add other city and state schools to the list, go ahead. We’re just dream­ing here any­way. De­Wayne Peevy digs the idea. “Maybe one of the charges that I take on early is to try to cre­ate a unique event, es­pe­cially from Chicago’s stand­point, and we bring all the schools to one place, and we play each other and just bring ev­ery­body to­gether and have a unique event to cel­e­brate col­lege bas­ket­ball in Chicago,” he said.

Can the man get an “amen”?

♦ Look, it’s not com­pli­cated: All the Bulls have to do with the No. 4 pick in the up­com­ing draft is find their Dono­van Mitchell.

Easy peasy, right?

If I’m bas­ket­ball ops hon­cho Ar­turas Kar­niso­vas, one ques­tion is on re­peat in my head as I look at each prospect: Can this guy be the best player on the floor in a play­off game? Utah’s Mitchell has been that in the NBA bub­ble, and it has been com­pelling and spec­tac­u­lar.

For­get about fit. The Bulls need some­one you get the ball to when the pres­sure’s high and then get the hell out of his way. They have Zach LaVine, who’s as close to Mitchell as I am to fit­ting into one of Kar­niso­vas’ suits. And Mitchell was se­lected 13th in 2017, so the but-this-is-a-weak-draft ex­cuse doesn’t cut it.

♦ What, you thought I was go­ing to name the player the Bulls should take at No. 4? Please, they’re not pay­ing me enough.

♦ At last, lefty Jose Quin­tana is pitch­ing for the Cubs again.

“I know it’s taken me a lit­tle time, but now I feel ready to do my job,” he said. “What­ever role I get, I’m just happy to be there.”

Trans­la­tion:

“Come near me with that Pal­mo­live, and I’ll end you.”

♦ It’s great news that the White Sox have brought in­fielder Yolmer Sanchez back into the or­ga­ni­za­tion. I don’t know if he’ll be of any use to the big-league club on the field in Septem­ber, but can the Sox spare a ros­ter spot just so Sanchez can run out of the dugout and dump a few gal­lons of Ga­torade onto his head when some­body else has a walk-off hit?

GETTY IM­AGES

The DePaul men’s bas­ket­ball team hasn’t made an NCAA Tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance since 2004. De­Wayne Peevy

SUN-TIMES

No coach has com­piled a win­ning record at DePaul since Joey Meyer’s run ended in 1997.

Dono­van Mitchell

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