Each game is a battle. Each win is regarded a victory in terms of not only a won-loss record, but in terms of progress.
For Boston College basketball coach Steve Donahue, just starting his 3rd season in attempting to turn the Eagles back into a factor in the soon to be shark infested waters of the Atlantic Coast Conference, progress comes in slow increments, many of them not even seen on the scoreboard.
The scoreboard at Conte Forum on Sunday afternoon said BC, 61, New Hampshire 59–in overtime.
This was hardly a stop the presses moment. New Hampshire is a middle of the road America East team that lost by a dozen point to Bryant University, which gave the Eagles a common bond. They also lost to Bryant this season.
Which should tell you what level that BC is at right now. They aren’t a very good ACC team.
In fact as veteran Associated Press stringer Ken Powtak, who has seen the best and worst of BC basketball over the last several years, asked, “Where would BC finish in the America East (New Hampshire) Northeast Conference (Bryant) or the Ivy League (Harvard)?
Probably not even Donahue, who spent 10 years building Cornell from an Ivy League doormat into an NCAA Sweet 16 team, would argue the point if the answer was: not at the top.
Donahue knows there will be as many false steps as steps forward. The Eagles came into Sunday’s game with losses to Bryant and Harvard still in their memory banks, but posted wins against Penn State and Auburn, which gives them an edge in the ACC-SEC-Big Ten challenge, but a deficit in the ACC-Ivy- America East showdown.
Donahue says the progress made has been slow and painful at times. “We’re really 13 months into this and I started with only one scholarship player,” said Donahue, acknowledging that his first season was played primarily with former coach Al Skinner’s players, which helped BC climb over .500 and garner an NIT bid. “”We are still a program in transition. We’re not there yet. But we are going to get better.”
Donahue says he is much further along than he was in his third season at Cornell. “My goal at Cornell was to get competitive,”” said Donahue. “But we’re at a much higher level now.”
What is similar for Donahue is the grind of making it work. “Early on, I lost my head at Cornell,” said Donahue. “I’m not going to do that here. I know where we’ve got to be. We’re not there yet. We have to get better players and continue to develop.”
Donahue knows there will be frustration at the pace of progress. “” I don’t expect alums and fans to completely understand,” he said. “That’s not their job. I want them to know we are going to get this going, they’ll see. They will look back. and say he was on the right track. We’re ‘re very close to being competitive in this league. We don’t have enough pieces right now, but we do have the pieces that are going to make us a very good ACC team next year. I am confident of that.”
One of the pieces Donahue has is guard Alex Dragicevich, a transfer from Notre Dame who is sitting out this season, who Donahue says would be the Eagles best player if he were eligible this season
Donahue says sometimes progress is not obvious. ” I cant judge my progress on the scoreboard,” he said.
Sometimes he must send other messages, such as giving forward some bench time because of what Donahue felt was a lack of effort on the defensive end.
“I sent a message to Ryan last game,” said Donahue. “He got it.”
Yes, he did, scoring 23 points and pulling down 19 rebounds in Sunday’s win over New Hampshire as well as being very much a factor down the stretch.
The progress, says Donahue might indeed be hard to see, which means another long winter at the bottom of the ACC pack this season.
Right now they are 5-5 with their next challenge coming against the Big East I Providence College, coached by former BC assistant Ed Cooley.
After that comes a Patriot League (Holy Cross)( and Ivy League (Dartmouth) showdown.
And then the Eagles will be into their ACC schedule beginning with NC State on January 5.
Donahue says it won’t be pretty, even if some wins come. But his message is clear: Hang in there, the fight goes on and progress is being made.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.