O'Donnell: Are Mark Aguirre and DePaul next in line to quake Our Town?

CHICAGO - THE CAPTIVE SPORTS CITY - has been anything but dull lately.

From Craig Counsell to Connor Bedard with Cole Kmet in between, there are more signs of organizational pulses on the threshold of restart than a cardiac-intense episode of NBC's old "ER."

Is the DePaul men's basketball program now moving toward that March of Salvation?

First, the abyss: In dreadful manner, struggling third-year coach Tony Stubblefield and his ragged Blue Demons were handed their launch Tuesday night by visiting Purdue Fort Wayne 82-74.

WHILE THERE WERE NO CALLS to seal the Indiana Toll Road, as opening-night disasters on the Near South Side go, that's only a few clicks below the great McCormick Place fire of January 1967 (when the instruments of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were onstage and lost in the inferno).

But the intrigue is on the DePaul sideline. That's because last month athletic director DeWayne Peevy hired Mark Aguirre as a special assistant.

Aguirre is one of the greatest players in history of the university. If a reasonable line of the most influential in the annals of the DePaul men was presented, it would include: Ray Meyer, George Mikan, Dave Corzine, athletic director Gene Sullivan (as a timely major media promoter from 1975-78), Aguirre and Terry Cummings.

AS A FRESHMAN, AGUIRRE LED the Demons to the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird Final Four of 1979. The following season, he was National Player of the Year. His stellar 14-year NBA career included two championships with old West Side chum Isiah Thomas and Detroit's "Bad Boys" (1989-90).

Aguirre - now age 63 - has let it be known for years that he would one day relish leading his alma mater back to the tenor of its glory days.

After his retirement from the NBA, he did assistant turns with Isiah's Pacers (2002-03) and the Knicks (2003-08). In 2010 he lobbied for the open DePaul job but was told that since he lacked a college degree he didn't qualify.

TO HIS CREDIT, Aguirre remedied that shortfall in 2013 when he enrolled in DePaul's School for New Learning. It took more than two years, but he achieved his goal.

He's now around Stubblefield's sagging program like a Blue Legend of Happy Days Past. He sits with donors, looks good in fine threads and - like so many DePaul foxholers - awaits another dreary Big East winter.

Peevy is no dummy about image and the integration of positive legacy. His background is in media relations. Prior to his 2020 hiring at DePaul, he did 12 years at John Calipari's Kentucky. The bluegrassers cherish their self-image and love to highlight their basketball genetics.

AGUIRRE WOULD NEED a precisely chosen staff to quickly master the NCAA's NIL-and-transfer portal era. With rapid-response pals like Magic and Isiah, the presumption would be that he could get into a whole lot of five-star living rooms.

DePaul has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2004, the longest drought among any power-basketball conference program. In theory, the Blue Demons give the Big East Chicago as a TV market. However questionable that claim, Big East TV money is a huge booster for DePaul athletics.

STUBBLEFIELD IS A WELL-INTENTIONED COACH who will be handsomely compensated to manage a long, lonely winter.

If Aguirre says that he has "no interest" in the head job at DePaul, he's just bull-jiving.

That's because he's not wafting around Wintrust Arena merely to meet-and-greet during beatdowns by Purdue Fort Wayne.

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HIGH-STRIKE LARRY RIVELLI - North Barrington's answer to Frankie Avalon Jr. - nailed the crescendo of a career year when his Nobals ($26) won the $1M Breeders Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Saturday.

Jockey Gerardo Corrales rolled the dice on moving the 4-year-old inside midway through the dash. He then got a dream hole that could have handled Rivelli's new Brink's Hummer, which is reported to still be on order.

Viewers had to be determined to watch the race. NBC Sports cut away as scheduled after the BC Classic, leaving the jack rabbit effort of Nobals on only Peacock and FanDuel TV.

RIVELLI REPORTED THAT assorted associates walked out of Santa Anita with "around 750 grand" after betting the BC card.

He's not done for 2023: On Monday, Nov. 20, his Uncashed and Back To Ohio will run in separate stakes at Youngstown's Mahoning Valley racino.

Like so much Rivelli has touched this year, both should be golden.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

DePauls Mark Aguirre, left, looks for an open man as hes pressured by LSUs Ethan Martin during first period action, Sunday, Jan. 20, 1980, Chicago, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles E. Knoblock)
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