Oliver Purnell, who captained the 1975 NCAA Division II National Championship team, earned All-American honors as a player and then served as the Monarchs assistant coach for ten seasons.
A native of Berlin, Maryland, Purnell began his career on the freshman team in 1971-72 and led the junior varsity to a 17-3 record. An all-around player, Purnell went on to play three years of varsity basketball and was a three-year starter.
Purnell capped off his career when ODU captured the NCAA Division II title game against New Orleans. That year, Purnell was selected by Converse as an honorable mention Division II All-American.
Purnell averaged 14.4 points a game his senior year and 13.8 as a junior. He scored 25 points against Randolph-Macon in the NCAA South Atlantic Regional Championship game in 1975. As a junior, he averaged 6.7 assists per game and tallied 181 for the season. He was accorded the team MVP honors his senior year.
A 6-1 guard, Purnell completed his collegiate career with 1,090 points, 18th on ODU's all-time scoring list. He also dished out 474 career assists, which placed him sixth on the school's all-time list. He shares ODU's single game steal record with eight against Washington and Lee in 1975. At the completion of his senior season, Purnell was a sixth round draft choice of the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.
He joined the ODU coaching staff in July 1975 as a graduate assistant, later being elevated to a full-time assistant coach on Paul Webb's staff. He remained at ODU until 1985 when he became the assistant coach at the University of Maryland. He was the head coach at Old Dominion from 1991-1994, leading the Monarchs to the CAA Championship in 1992. His 1993 and 1994 teams each won 21 games. He became head coach at the University of Dayton in 1994. After nine successful years at Dayton, Purnell was named head coach at Clemson on April 6, 2003. He served as an assistant coach on the USA basketball team which earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece.
In 2008, as head coach of Clemson University, Purnell led the Tigers to the ACC Finals and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. He took the Tigers to the NCAA's again in 2009. He was inducted in to the Stephen Decatur High School Hall of Fame on Sept. 19, 2008. Oliver was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in April of 1988. On April 7th, 2010 he was named head coach at DePaul University.
An all-around athlete, Purnell also played baseball for ODU. He received his bachelor's degree in health and physical education, and his masters' degree from ODU in administration.