From Clinton to DePaul: Tony Stubblefield named Blue Demons' head men's basketball coach

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Beau Troutman, Clinton Herald, Iowa
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Apr. 8—CHICAGO — Tony Stubblefield grew up watching WGN Channel 9 from his home in Clinton.

Now, people will be watching him on WGN.

Stubblefield, a Clinton native who played basketball at Clinton Community College, was named DePaul's head men's basketball coach on Tuesday.

"Well, growing up in Clinton, Iowa, watching DePaul on WGN, I never guessed that this would be an opportunity for me," Stubblefield said at his introductory press conference Wednesday at Wintrust Arena. "Obviously I'm blessed and fortunate to be in this situation, but I do feel I've worked very tirelessly over the course of the last 28 years to prepare me for this situation."

Stubblefield has spent the last 11 years as an assistant on Dana Altman's staff at Oregon, and was promoted to associate head coach before last season. Stubblefield helped Oregon to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his time with the Ducks, including a Final Four run in 2017.

Stubblefield was a reserve on former coach Don Gruenwald's Clinton High School team that advanced to the state tournament, where he scored four points in a 55-49 first-round loss to Cedar Falls. He left Clinton following his junior year and moved to the Denver area. There, Stubblefield was the runner-up for state Player of the Year honors at Broomfield High School his senior season in 1987-88. Stubblefield scored 16.5 points a game at Broomfield — the third-highest season average in Broomfield history.

Stubblefield returned to Clinton for his sophomore year of college, then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he was team captain as a senior.

"It was very hard for me," Stubblefield said of leaving the Gateway Area. "When people ask me where I'm from, I'm from Clinton, Iowa ... I loved being around basketball. I loved going to the Ericksen Center to play when I was a kid."

After graduating in 1993, Stubblefield served as a student-assistant for Nebraska-Omaha for two years, then served in assistant coaching positions at Texas-San Antonio (1995-96), Texas Arlington (1996-00), New Mexico State (2000-05) and Cincinnati (2006-10) before taking the job at Oregon.

Stubblefield served as interim head coach at New Mexico State during the 2004-05 season due to head coach Lou Henson's illness.

Now, Stubblefield takes over for coach Dave Leitao, who was fired last month, six years into his second stint with the school. Leitao was 127-146 over nine years at DePaul. The Blue Demons haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004.

DePaul athletic director DeWayne Peevy said it was apparent early on in the school's coaching search that Stubblefield was the right man for the job. DePaul interviewed more than 30 candidates before making the hire.

"Relationships, recruiting and vision were everything with this hire," Peevy said. "We knew we had to find the right person for where our program is right now. Tony quickly demonstrated his eagerness to begin rebuilding this program to national prominence. That, coupled with over 28 years of Division I college coaching experience, extensive college basketball relationships, an elite history of recruiting and his alignment with our vision for the future, made him quickly rise to the top of our candidate list."

Stubblefield is an accomplished recruiter and has been responsible for helping to acquire several top-flight talents at his various coaching jobs: Lance Stephenson, Troy Brown Jr., Louis King and Bol Bol, just to name a few.

DePaul finished 5-14 this past season. Stubblefield is ready to help rebuild a once-proud program back to its former glory. One of his first tasks is something he does well — recruiting.

"We obviously have got to start recruiting and recruit very hard," Stubblefield said. "With the transfer portal being as it is with transfers being able to be eligible immediately, I definitely think we're going to look that route. We're going to look the high school route. So I'm not going to eliminate any options at this time.

"I'm just looking forward to putting the best roster that we can put together to be very competitive in the Big East next year. So again, we'll do it with high school guys, we'll do it with transfers, we'll look everywhere we have to look to find the best players to put the most competitive team on that floor next year."