Chicago coaches like local tourney
CHICAGO -- DePaul coach Oliver Purnell not only liked the idea of an annual Chicagoland basketball invitational, but he also went as far as suggesting a name for it on Tuesday.
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Alongside the coaches of Chicago State, Loyola, Northwestern and UIC at a press conference in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Purnell offered up "The Chicago 5" as a potential invite name, playing off the college alliance of the "Philadelphia Big 5."
"I'm the new guy, so I can say anything," Purnell joked. "Just throwing it out as an idea, it's an interesting idea [to hold an invitational.] I'm sure there are logistics that have to be worked out or can or cannot be worked out, but I'd be interested in it."
UIC coach Howard Moore has only been on the job since August, but he has already started looking into uniting the Chicago-area teams for such an event. Moore believed the best format would be a one-day invitational much like the one that was created this year between Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue in Indiana. Philadelphia runs an ongoing tournament between its five area schools with each team playing each other once during the season.
"There's a strong possibility [that it could happen]," Moore said. "We got to work out the [logistics] because we don't want to play [fellow Horizon League member] Loyola maybe four times in a year. It makes sense if we do it as a classic and not necessarily have a champion. If we play Northwestern or DePaul and everyone flips each other, it would work out fine."
Loyola coach Jim Whitesell also backed the invitational style. Whitesell felt a gathering of the area teams could give college basketball a boost in Chicago.
"Overall, I think it would be a good thing to do," Whitesell said. "It would be a good thing for our basketball environment. Getting back to a college basketball town would be great. I'm a big Bulls' fan myself, but this would certainly give a college basketball influence in the environment."
Having grown up in Chicago, Moore knows where college basketball stands in comparison to the pro sports in town, and the obstacles in improving that.
"There's so much going on in Chicago," Moore said. "It's not just Bulls. There's so much going on. There's so many distractions around town. It's a good thing, but you have to find your niche. Once you have your component of fan base, it works out for you."
Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy, another native Chicagoan, was also on the board with the idea.
"I think Chicago is a basketball town; it's a sports town," Dildy said. "If we get the big five, it would be great for the universities; it would be great for the city; it would be great for the fans. I think it's well over due. I think it's now going to happen. I think in the near, near future it's going to happen."
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody did have his reservations about an all-Chicago invitational. He was skeptical that there would be enough fan interest in such an event and if there was a format with the five teams that would make sense.
"I don't know how you do it," Carmody said. "I don't know if it means as much as it did years ago. Now there's so many conference rivalries. Years ago the rivalries were between area teams. I don't know if it can be revived how people think it can be. It sounds good, but I don't know if it can get done in a meaningful way.
"What I would rather see is to take us and DePaul and make it a Chicago against another city or state. Illinois versus Missouri and bring St. Louis and Missouri in."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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