Chicagoland Basketball Kickoff Luncheon

Yesterday afternoon I had the honor and privilege of attending the Chicagoland Basketball Kickoff Luncheon. DePaul University hosted the event at  Maggiano’s Little Italy in Downtown Chicago.

Even though this was a DePaul sponsored event, Northwestern, Loyola, Illinois-Chicago, and Chicago State were also in attendance. Coaches, players, administrators, and special guests from each school were present at this star studded event.

Before lunch was served, some coaches elected to speak to the media before hand. One of those coaches was DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell.

The Blue Demons return 10 players from last years squad along with six new freshman. Once again DePaul has depth at the guard position, but this year they also invested in the front court.

When the Demons take the court for the 2012-2013 season they will have seven players that measure 6’6″ or taller. This was something that was lacking over the last few seasons.

Coach Purnell is confident about this years team, and he expects to see improvement on the court. Here is what he said in his pre-event press conference:

After the press pool, Coach Purnell spoke with me exclusively:

Next up on press row was Chicago State Cougars head coach Tracy Dildy. Historically the Cougars have not been a great basketball program.

Since they began play in 1966, the Cougars have compiled a record of 516-777. Coach Dildy has compiled a record of 10-52 in his two seasons as CSU head coach.

The Cougars have always been at the bottom of the Chicago college basketball barrel. They have never participated in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.

In the mid 90’s,CSU came close to making the post season on two occasions when former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges was their head coach.

Aside from that, CSU has always been a doormat for teams like DePaul, UIC, and Loyola. Coach Dildy is looking to forever change the landscape of Cougars basketball.

Here is what he said before the luncheon began:

Right before lunch was served, other coaches spoke to the media set including DePaul Women’s head coach Doug Bruno, as well as the women’s coaches from Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, Chicago State, and Northwestern.

The host for Friday afternoon’s festivities was WGN Radio and Comcast Sportsnet personality David Kaplan. Here was his introduction as the event started:

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Each coach would speak in a panel setting, beginning with Loyola head coach Porter Moser and Chicago State’s Tracy Dildy. Earlier this week, I spoke with extensively with Coach Moser at the Horizon League’s media day:

On Friday, Coach Moser would bring his message to a bigger audience. Coach Dildy would talk about the changes that are taking effect at Chicago State:

Next up on the panel was Northwestern’s top assistant Fred Hill. Northwestern is entering it’s 14th season under Bill Carmody, Coach Carmody was on a recruiting trip which is why Coach Hill was in his place.

Last year the Wildcats barely missed the NCAA Tournament, they made a mini-run in the NIT before being eliminated. Coach Hill told the luncheon guests that “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” is primed to make a serious run in 2013.

He would be joined by UIC’s Howard Moore. I also spoke with him at the Horizon League media day: Just like Loyola, he would take advantage the larger media platform that was presented:

And finally, Oliver Purnell would close out the event with his speech. Coach Purnell spoke about his optimism for his team this year, his recruiting efforts, the improvement of his players, and the expansion of the Big East Conference:

After the event was over, DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin was kind enough to speak with us exclusively:

This year will be a defining moment for college basketball in the Windy City. It’ll be interesting to see how DePaul, Loyola, and UIC improve from last year.

Chicago State will have a huge microscope on them, Can coach Dildy lead his team out of the dark? But I do think that Northwestern will make another post-season appearance.

The only question for them is, can they get into the NCAA Tournament?

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