And then he decided he wanted something different. Not something less, or more. Something different.
DeChellis was still hurt by every loss this year, and there were many of them. The Midshipmen carry the longest losing streak in Division I into next season, at 22 games. One of the team's three wins came against the Altoona branch of Penn State, a Division III school that finished 3-22. DeChellis' best player, J.J. Avila, left the school in the middle of the season.
DeChellis can now recruit players that better fit his system -- the staff got a very late start last year, taking over in late May -- but has to tweak the techniques he's used at other schools. Instead of calling a high school or AAU coach and asking about the team's best players, assistants must ask about the players most able to get into the Naval Academy. Instead of recruiting fertile basketball areas, DeChellis and his assistants must turn their search to areas where kids grow up thinking about the military as a career. In parts of Texas, California and Virginia, students whose parents are in the service are less likely to hesitate because of the four years of duty required after college.
"At Penn State, we had to recruit a lot of kids," Navy assistant Dan Earl said. "So you start with maybe 100. At Penn State, maybe 75 have interest and you narrow it down. But with the academy, you have 50 who might be interested. But only 25 of those even have a chance of getting in. And then only 10 really understand the commitment it's going to take, and you're still in a battle for those kids."
DeChellis must juggle the packed schedules of his students. One day in January, senior guard Ted Connolly showed up a bit late and with his hair wet. The future Navy Seal -- he'll enter Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school after graduation -- had been swimming in the Severn as part of his training. The Midshipmen bus to most of their games, and then go back to campus right after. Many players have tutoring at 5 a.m.
With the time he spends with them, DeChellis simply tries to school the players in the game he loves. It will teach them lessons that may apply later in life, he hopes, but at the academy there's no reason to talk about sports being the way to forge better people. That pretense, and many others, is gone.
On the day DeChellis stood in the middle of his players -- many of them young and struggling as much with the exacting standards required when making their bed, let alone being in the right spot on defense -- he seemed to be contemplating how to handle another loss. Was it time for fire and brimstone? Time for the tough-guy act? Time to challenge his players' pride?
No. For DeChellis, it was time to teach the game of basketball.
What he said probably sounded no different than the things Calipari told his players in certain practices this season.
But for DeChellis, those moments were the focus of his day. Nothing was more important.