Nearly six months on the job as DePaul’s athletic director, DeWayne Peevy had cold feet.
No, really. That’s what happens when you’re raised in Alabama and spend the first 47 years of your life in the South before getting the kind of welcome-to-Chicago weather event that laid all of us low in February.
A whole winter’s snowfall in one week was more than Peevy, who lives in Lincoln Park and has walked to work since starting at the school on Sept. 1, was prepared for. Wet shoes, wet socks, cold feet.
‘‘I’ve never seen that much snow in a short period of time,’’ he marveled this week. ‘‘Our soccer field ended up with 24 inches of snow on it. I learned from the softball team that you’re supposed to wear boots and bring your shoes in a bag.’’
There you go. Problem solved.
Now, about that other problem. Call it the whole men’s basketball situation.
‘‘I was brought here for a reason,’’ Peevy said, ‘‘to fix it.’’
The stirring sights of Chicago in summertime helped win Peevy over when he came to the city from Lexington, Kentucky, to interview for the DePaul job. Now he has experienced the cold, harsh dead of wintertime. No, not the snow. Coach Dave Leitao’s Blue Demons.
‘‘I didn’t come here to be last,’’ Peevy said. ‘‘We’re last again.’’
Color nobody who has kept tabs on the program even casually over the years surprised.
The Blue Demons were, in their defense, hit extraordinarily hard by scheduling challenges because of COVID-19. Nevertheless, they are 4-13 overall and 2-13 in Big East play in Leitao’s ninth season overall at the school and sixth in his second stint. They are 68-111 overall since his return and a wretched 21-84 in conference. This is their 10th last-place finish in the last 12 seasons. They haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004.
To put it mildly, DePaul’s men’s program is buried in a snowbank without a shovel. Leitao, meanwhile, is signed through 2023-24 but reportedly has no buyout and has no guaranteed money coming after this season. If this were a math equation, it might look as simple as one plus one equals time for Peevy to find himself a new coach.
‘‘I’m not afraid to make changes if that’s what we need to do,’’ Peevy said.
Before that, DePaul will take its shot, starting Wednesday, in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. When the season ends, Peevy will give Leitao and his staff a couple of days to decompress. Then conversations about the future will start.
The future involves Peevy, who, as deputy AD at Kentucky, supervised the K Fund, which secured the donations that led to a new football training center and a basketball locker-room renovation. DePaul, the only Big East school without a men’s and women’s basketball practice facility, was desperate for that kind of leadership.
The future might not involve Leitao, which reminds me: How does he still have his job, anyway? It’s a question some potential donors undoubtedly ponder themselves.
‘‘The direction and support that I’m trying to get for our men’s basketball program and our athletic program as a whole, can I get that with our current situation going forward?’’ Peevy said. ‘‘It’s more of a business decision.
‘‘If that support, coupled with what we have, leads us to where I’m trying to go, then that makes the decision for me. If those things are different, if the support can’t come or I don’t think that’s going to make the difference in our current situation, then that’s when you make changes.’’
Doesn’t sound very promising for Leitao, does it?
Peevy is hoping to see some unexpected Blue Demons success in New York.
‘‘Let’s make a run,’’ he said. ‘‘Let’s just see what happens.’’
Is it possible that being in the Big East is just too much for DePaul, that the school perpetually is swinging above its weight class?
‘‘DeWayne Peevy is not a part of a department that doesn’t think they’re big enough to be in the Big East,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s not a fit for me.’’
Perhaps Leitao isn’t a fit for him, either. That’s the first giant decision Peevy must make and the only one — other than hiring a successor — by which many DePaul fans will judge him.
The Peevys are just making themselves at home in Lincoln Park. Daughter Kaitlyn is planning to transfer from Kentucky State to DePaul. Son Braden, an eighth-grader, will start at DePaul College Prep next school year.
By then, it’ll be so nice and warm outside, Peevy might be able to close his eyes and imagine for a moment he’s back at Kentucky, home to bluegrass, blue chips and blue blood — a world apart from the Blue Demons.