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Sources: Rod Strickland set to join DePaul coaching staff

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Updated: April 17, 2013 10:59PM

Former DePaul star Rod Strickland, an assistant coach under John Calipari at Memphis and Kentucky, is set to return to his alma mater.

Amid changes to coach Oliver Purnell’s staff, Strickland, 46, was in the final interview stage Wednesday before joining the staff, sources confirmed. At least one vacancy exists, to replace Brian Ellerbe, who came with Purnell three years ago and has been dismissed.

Former DePaul great Mark Aguirre also may take on a role with the coaching staff. He has stayed close to the program in recent years and was featured in DePaul’s main advertising for the basketball team last season.

Purnell was not available to comment, but sources confirmed Strickland, a DePaul Hall of Fame member and former All-American who went on to a 17-year NBA career, had been in talks with Purnell and was meeting with university officials to complete the process.

Strickland has worked under Calipari since 2005, first as director of basketball operations at Memphis and then moving with him as a special assistant in 2009 to Kentucky, which won the national championship last year with a class that included Chicago prep star Anthony Davis.

Strickland was part of Calipari’s staff in 2008 when Memphis reached the Final Four with former Simeon star Derrick Rose.

He is a known figure to local Public League and AAU coaches, a factor that could enhance DePaul’s recruiting profile. Incoming freshman Billy Garrett Jr. of Morgan Park, the son of DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett, is the only Public League player recruited in the last three years.

DePaul added another Chicago-area player Wednesday, signing R.J. Curington, a 6-5 shooting guard from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Curington grew up in nearby Dyer, Ind. His team finished a perfect 44-0 in his junior year and was ranked No. 1 nationally. This year it finished 33-6 and was ranked No. 22.

Curington will join Garrett and junior college forwards Forrest Robinson and Greg Sequele in next year’s class.

The only local players on the current roster are sophomores Jamee Crockett (Crete-Monee) and Evanston native Charles McKinney.

Recruiting is likely to become even more competitive locally with Northwestern’s hiring of Chris Collins, the longtime assistant to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and the son of former Bulls and current Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins. The younger Collins helped recruit a number of local stars to Duke, and NU is set to invest in building the men’s basketball program to match the football team’s profile.

DePaul is coming off its fifth straight losing season and has dropped 20 or more games in three of the last four years.

The program moves next season into the reconfigured Big East, whose members will include five teams that reached the NCAA tournament this past season. DePaul’s last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 2004 and its last trip to the National Invitation Tournament in 2007, the last season the program had a winning record (20-14).

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