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What is the difference between coaching until 2014 and heading a team through 2016? For Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, it's simple.
Money money money moooooney...MONEY!
The Tigers' head man, who has brought South Carolina's lone ACC representative back to the March discussion, soon will sign a two-year extension with Clemson. But the additional 731 days (2016 is a leap year, so I guess he's coaching Feb. 29 for free) isn't the real reason this extension was signed.
The Purple and Orange just wanted to give Purnell more green—and they are. More than $300,000 more per season, making him the fifth highest-paid coach in the conference behind Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (UNC), Dick Bennett (UVa.) and Gary Williams (Md.).
But is Purnell worth that much? Is he worth more than Al Skinner at Boston College? Maybe. Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech? Probably. Sidney Lowe at N.C. State? Well, yes.
No one can claim that Purnell has fell short of expectations at Clemson. Hell, I dare someone to come up with a reasonable argument that he hasn't exceeded what nearly any other coach in America would have accomplished at the one-time ACC bottom dweller.
But is he really deserving of the company he's been put in with his soon-to-be salary?
I say no. And here's why.
Sure. Clemson finished the 2008-09 season ranked No. 24 last season. But after their 16-0 start that saw them crack the top 10, should a merely ranked finish suffice Tiger Nation?
Wait a minute. An undefeated November, a loss-free December, nine losses in the last 16 games? Something's sounding familiar. Didn't that (essentially) happen in 2006-07? And again in 2007-08?
Yes. It did. In fact, the only loss Clemson suffered before January during those two seasons was a three-point loss to Mississippi on Dec. 22, 2007.
Clemson fans are used to it. They know it's coming. But hey, they can always dream of success after midseason, can't they? Well, sure they can. Just like Charlie Brown can hope that Lucy will actually let him kick the pigskin one day. But it ain't happenin'.
Oh. What's that? He's done more with less talent? Terrence Oglesby isn't Jason Williams? Will Solomon is no Jeff Teague?
Well, duh! But part of coaching is putting a team together you believe can compete. Just ask all the Roy Williams bashers who (at least until April) clammered on and on about how he can't win the big one with his own talent.
Besides Bennett at UVa., the other three coaches ahead of Purnell on the ACC paygrade have at least one national championship to their names (Krzyzewski has three, and Roy Williams has two). Purnell has no NCAA titles, no Final Four appearances, and no ACC Titles (regular season or tournament).
And sure, national titles aren't a reasonable goal at every school. But if a state college is dishing out more than $1.5 million for a basketball coach, it should be. And no matter what Clemson brass or fans think, Purnell won't take them there.
So go ahead and extend his contract. Hell, bump his salary a measly $50,000 or $100,000. But don't put him so close the top. He would've stayed for less.
And if he hadn't, someone just as good would have come for it.