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At Boston College, speculation is now over with Steve Donahue

March 20, 2014 Columns No Comments

A few years ago, it would be just about impossible to imagine that Boston College would be searching for a new head coach for the second time in four years. Save for a blip on the radar screen, the program was in a period of success the likes of which has never been seen at The Heights. But here we are.

What many had speculated for a couple of months became official on Tuesday, as the school parted ways with Steve Donahue. There was some promise during his tenure, but the past season was a disaster that no one saw coming. Fresh off two seasons where wins were hard to come by but growth wasn’t after they basically started over in his second year, the Eagles went 8-24 this season, including a 4-14 mark in ACC play. Donahue over-scheduled, and the Eagles never recovered from a slow start that included several tough losses.

With a junior-laden team that had gone through growing pains together for two seasons, with a nice run late last season, the thought was that this team could be an NCAA Tournament team. At the very least, being on the bubble would be expected. The non-conference slate was dotted with road and neutral site games, and this team was not ready for it. By the time ACC play rolled around, the confidence was shot, and more close losses followed.

Donahue is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and the same can be said for all on his staff. He and his staff put in plenty of hard work. You can tell this season wore on him as the losses mounted. The Eagles seemed to plateau with this group, as if they got near their ceiling last season. That’s not to say they can’t bounce back next season, but now there will be an adjustment with a new coach, so it’s far from a given.

The biggest criticism of Donahue and his staff is that they simply didn’t recruit enough talent. Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson are certainly ACC-caliber players, and Garland Owens appears to be on that level as well. With others, it’s debatable. While they made some efforts to recruit the talent in the area, the general feeling is that they could have done better. New England is loaded with prep schools, but many of the players at each are not from here, and by the time they get to a school here have already been recruited by other schools. So while the bottom line shows they haven’t exactly loaded up on players from the region, the story isn’t as simple as that.

Where BC goes from here is interesting to think about. You will hear Tommy Amaker mentioned plenty, but whether or not he wants the job is an open question. He can win every year at Harvard, which at this stage of his career is appealing as he’s been at high-major schools and hasn’t had the sustained success he’s had at Harvard. In addition, at BC he would coach against his alma mater and mentor in Mike Krzyzewski. From that perspective, BC would appear to have an uphill battle if he is their top target.

For a while, many were clamoring for BC to go for alum Bruce Pearl, despite his show-cause that expires in August. That seemed like a long shot all along, and now we know it won’t happen as Pearl is the new head coach at Auburn.

One name that could be an interesting one is St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt. He’s an alum and from Attleboro, Mass., so it’s very possible he will be interested. He has won at a school where getting talent is tough, as the Bonnies don’t have a lot of natural advantages in terms of recruiting base and with their academic requirements.

The next head coach will immediately have to hit the recruiting trail, because next season’s team will be very senior-heavy. The new staff will need to get a big haul of players for the fall of 2015, and will effectively be starting over in year two much like Donahue was. Of course, this assumes that the coaching change doesn’t result in any player attrition, and whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

Donahue will end up at another school before long and will coach and represent the school with great class just like he did at The Heights. In the meantime, Boston College is looking for their next coach, a position that few would have predicted several years ago.

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