Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grading the ACC coaching hires

All indications are that, by the end of the day, there will officially be three new basketball coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference: Brad Brownell of Clemson, Jeff Bzdelik of Wake Forest, and our very own Steve Donahue at Boston College.  While none of these guys are "wow, OMG" hires, some are apparently better than others.

Steve Donahue, Boston College
Previous job: Head coach at Cornell (2000-2010)

What's to like: Passionate, intense coach who built Cornell basketball up from scratch.  Won three Ivy League titles and led the Big Red to the Sweet Sixteen.  20 years as a Division 1 basketball coach, including 10 years working for Fran Dunphy.  Good X's and O's coach who is used to recruiting players with high academic standards.  Put together a solid coaching staff which includes Joe Jones, a former head coach who spent six years at Villanova.  On the right side of age 50 (48 years old).

What's not to like: Has no experience at a major-conference school.

Evaluation: Steve Donahue, of the three new ACC coaches, is the best fit for his school.  He is a relatively young coach who has had NCAA Tournament success, as well as success in building a program.  He runs the motion offense, which seems well-suited to a number of players on Boston College, particularly offensive star Reggie Jackson.  With Jones likely to help a great deal in finding ACC-quality recruits, it is not hard to imagine that Boston College will get better.  Of the definite candidates for the position, athletic director Gene DeFilippo made the best-possible hire.

Grade: A-

Brad Brownell, Clemson
Previous job: Head coach at Wright State (2006-2010)

What's to like: Young coach (41) who has had success at his mid-major head coaching stops.  17 seasons as a Division 1 coach.  In 8 years at UNC-Wilmington and Wright State, he had no losing seasons.  Has made three NCAA Tournament appearances as a coach.  Three-time conference coach of the year.  Good X's and O's coach with decent recruiting ability.

What's not to like: Has no experience at a major-conference school.  No postseason victories. 

Evaluation: This is not a bad hire, either.  The Tigers could have done far worse than a young up-and-comer who has coached consistently well at the mid-major level.  Like Donahue, he has never coached in a power-conference program in any capacity, but that should not necessarily hold him back, though unlike Donahue, he was not able to win any postseason games.  I might have expected Clemson to reach a little higher, but I don't think he's a bad coach.  The assistants he hires will be key, but for now, I still give it a solid mark.

Grade: B+

Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest
Previous job: Head coach at Colorado (2007-2010)

What's to like: Coach with a long resume, including stops in both college and the NBA.  Experience in two major-conference programs.  Known as a good X's and O's coach.  Made two postseason appearances in seven years as a college head coach (both with Air Force).  Made the NIT Final Four in 2007.

What's not to like: Relatively old coach (57) who will probably not be around for the long haul.  Has an unimpressive win-loss record in Division 1.  Has not been a head coach anywhere, college or NBA, for more than three seasons.  Inherited his successful Air Force teams from his predecessors. 

Evaluation: This is probably no better than a lateral move for Wake.  Bzdelik has a long resume, but not a particularly outstanding one.  He is known to be close to the athletic director, Ron Wellman, so the public perception of the AD hooking his buddy up with a job has manifested itself, even if it's not true.  His age, lack of consistent, demonstrated success at the college level, and questions in the minds of Wake fans on how he'll do in recruiting make this an underwhelming hire.

Taking a look at this poll from Blogger So Dear, you can see that 60% of fans at present do not think he would be a good fit for the Deacs.  Of the three ACC schools who have hired coaches, this is probably the only fan base that is majority-dissatisfied with their hire.  He's not a terrible coach, but replacing a 61-31 coach who pulled down some big recruits with an older, relatively unsuccessful college coach will be a hard sell.  I'm not suggesting he will fail, but at first glance, Wake Forest could have done better.

Grade: C-

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