The harsh reality of college basketball is that it is still a numbers game.
Style points don’t count.
Boston College fired Steve Donahue on Tuesday afternoon. It was not a surprise. Four season at the Heights produced a 54-76 record, including an 8-24 tumble this season–the most losses in BC history.
Having said all of that, Steve Donahue didn’t do a bad job. In fact, in terms of coaching, you could say he did a good job, squeezing every bit of talent out of a roster that basicially was able to play 35 minutes of a 40 minute game against anyone it faced–whether it was Duke or North Carolina or Syracuse, as well as Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, who have made and are contemplating making coaching changes.
The problem was those other five minutes–whether they came at the start of the game, in the middle or in the final minutes.
BC couldn’t close the deal simply because BC wasn’t good enough. Donahue’s failure was in not procuring enough ACC level talent to succeed.
Donahue’s pedigree was in the Ivy League. He spent 10 seasons at Cornell, finishing with three consecutive NCAA tournament bids, including a Sweet 16 trip in his final season.
He parlayed that success into a job at BC. But it took time. At Cornell, Donahue went through 7 losing seasons before he turned the little Red into the Big Red, which swept to the top of the Ivy League standings.
Donahue handled the good and the bad with a style and grace and intelligence that every coach should have as part of his playbook.
He is a good coach. He is a good man. There were more tears and few, if any, smiles in the BC offices on Tuesday when athletic director Brad Bates announced that Donahue would not be back for a fifth season.
No one will know, if had Donahue been giving more time, whether the flip from losing to winning would have happened at BC.
In the Ivy league, coaches are given more leeway. In the fast paced lane of ACC basketball that is not a luxury which can be given.
Virginia Tech make a change after two years. Wake could be making a move in the next few weeks.
Losses, plus lack of fans in the seats is a fatal combination which few coaches can overcome.
Donahue simply didn’t have enough equity to do that.
Donahue will have a couple of years of paychecks to refocus his career. He could wind up back in the Ivy League. He could wind up at a mid major school that needs fine tuning for its program.
He would not be bad hire, because he is a good coach.
It didn’t work out at BC and life will go on.
Bates’ list of replacements should be a short one. You can make a case for a number of coaches, but no one fits the BC mold better right now than Harvard’s Tommy Amaker.
It would be the right move, at the right time, with the right person to get BC back into the flow of being a factor in the ACC, which it was during the reign of Al Skinner.
For the BC fans who didn’t like Skinner for a variety of reasons, whether it was his style of play or his perceived work ethic, how does 7 NCAA appearances in 10 seasons, how does a 20-0 start in BC’s final season in the Big East, how does a 28 win season in his first season in the ACC sound?
Other than Amaker, Skinner sounds like a perfect candidate to coach the Eagles.
That won’t happen–although BC officials might be surprised at the answer they receive if they asked Skinner about it.
Hopefully, Bates will make the right decision and hire Amaker.
And hopefully, Steve Donahue will be doing what he does very well–coach basketball.
At BC, he just didn’t do it well enough, quickly enough.
© 2014, Mark. All rights reserved.