Thursday, April 1, 2010

The case for Donahue

Unfortunately, he's been off the air for about fourteen years now and I don't think he knows much about basketball.  He sure knows how to make Raquel Welch choke on a microphone, though.

As for Steve Donahue, the less well known Donahue (and no relation to Phil), the growing feeling in the BC fan community is that he will be the next coach of the men's basketball team.  With Bruce Pearl not being much of a candidate, I am at this time in favor of this hiring, despite the concerns I have.

We all know what kind of success Donahue had this year at Cornell, taking his team to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time ever.  In the two years prior, he boasted Ivy League championships.  He was an assistant under Fran Dunphy for a decade, who is a pretty damn good coach in his own right.  He has strong ties to Philadelphia, which is a good college basketball town.  He built the Big Red program up from nothing and turned it into what is far and away the best team in his conference.  As an aside, his Big Red played three teams this year that BC did as well: Harvard (2x), St. Joe's, and UMass.  Cornell went 4-0 in those games; BC went 1-2.  Just saying.

As BCI has noted, he runs a motion offense.  I would be excited to see that at Boston College as opposed to the flex that we've had for so long.  Almost anything would be a welcome change, but I think this would play more to BC's strengths so opposed to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with the flex.  The former Al assistants that have been considered candidates for the job run modified versions of his offense, but I don't think that's change enough for me.

Now, to answer the criticisms.  First, he is an Ivy League guy and this is the ACC.  That's almost like going from AAA to the big leagues.  Is Donahue ready for the call-up?  I think so, but we won't know until he's here, if he's hired.  I don't think it will take us all that long to find out if he's out of his depth at a power conference school.  Second, along those lines, there's the recruiting.  He's not going after Ivy League guys anymore.  It's not like he doesn't know how to recruit, however, and I'm fairly certain he's not an idiot, so I'm sure he can figure out what he needs to do in order to successfully recruit in the ACC, but again, I don't think it will take us fans long to realize if he's in over his head.

Finally, there's the matter of his coaching record.  It took him the better part of five seasons before he had any real success at Cornell (in his 5th season, they finished second in the Ivy League).  This doesn't bother me all that much.  Take a look at how the Big Red were doing in the 90s before Donahue showed up: the program was a trainwreck.  Perhaps taking as long as it did for things to turn around isn't quite ideal, but Cornell routinely had losing seasons back then.  If he is to come to BC, he will leave that program in far better shape than the way he found it.

Furthermore, he would be inheriting a better team in Chestnut Hill than the one he was handed in Ithaca, and it's in a better overall situation being in the ACC.  I find it hard to believe, if not impossible, that Donahue would have a few 20-loss seasons to start out his career as our head coach.  You can't really compare building a program from scratch at a mid-major to rejuvenating a power-conference program that has recently been competitive.  Donahue would be starting his tenure here at a better starting point.

If you have concerns about Donahue making the jump, you're right to have them, and if you're not doing cartwheels over the hiring, well, you're right about that too.  The fact of the matter is, of the names we've heard mentioned as serious candidates, I think Donahue offers the Eagles both change from the previous regime and the energy and experience to kick start the program once again.  He may do a good job or he might fall flat on his face; nobody knows and we won't until he possibly gets here.  I would, however, give him that chance.

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