Boston College Basketball: The Importance of the “Home-Run Hire”


Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

For all intents and purposes, Steve Donahue is finished at Boston College. He got his four-year term, and there is no logical rationale to keep him after the performance we have seen. “His” players have bombed big-time, he has never won here aside from the first year with Al Skinner’s team, and we do not collectively have the patience of Cornell to wait another few years to see if he can feel his way out of the ACC basement. He doesn’t deserve the extra time, either. Donahue’s a lame duck and we all know it. If he’s not, we’re in trouble.

Now is the appropriate time to turn the focus to a replacement. There will be months and months of speculation with names floating around. Hopefully, unlike the football search, we’ll actually get correct names.

Boston College basketball is in sorry shape. Aside from a small but dedicated group of students and alumni like myself and others who suffer for the maroon and gold, attendance at games has dwindled and few seem to still care what happens. Fan apathy was always a problem, but now, so many who had high hopes for Donahue in general and this season in particular have completely disconnected. The problem is deeper than a lack of wins, but that’s a discussion for another time.

When it comes to basketball, we’re at a low point. People should want to come to the games regardless, but a very bad team is a hard sell. The idea is not just to win, but to generate excitement around the program. Conte Forum on game night should be the place to be on campus, but it’s not.

This is where a “home-run hire” like Bruce Pearl or Ben Howland comes in. Boston College might not go this route, because historically it never really has, but it should. They might not want to pay one of these guys, or another big name not listed, but it would be in their best interest. Whether or not a big name would come to this school is a separate matter; despite our troubles, this is still an ACC school in a big sports town, so it does hold some attractiveness.

You’d think Boston College would know all this, but the fear of the fans right now is that the school will can Donahue and replace him with another low or mid-major project who they’ll hope will eventually turn in a decent performance. For one thing, we just did that, and it didn’t work — this program right now requires a proven winner with proven major-conference recruiting skills. Key word: proven. Donahue turned out to exhibit the skills of neither, and they are therefore non-negotiable in the next hire. To go the same route again this time would be madness.

Also, some low-level coach nobody has ever heard of is not going to energize the fan base, get the casual fans involved, get recruits to take notice, or get the college basketball world to care about what happens here. Only a “home-run hire” will do that, if at all.

Going for the big name would demonstrate that Boston College is serious about winning, serious about building a program, and serious about the basketball culture at the school. Even if we don’t land the big name, the effort would be appreciated by a few.

If the school were to hire Pearl, Howland, or similar, we’d be saying “Wow, that’s a great hire for Boston College,” “[name] could put BC basketball back on the map,” and “with [name] as coach, BC might actually be legit.” If some MAAC coach or similar, maybe we’d say “that’s an okay hire,” “can [name] recruit in the ACC?,” and “it will be interesting to see how [name] handles running a major program.” Big difference, and the latter is what we said four years ago, with depressing results.

There is no guarantee of success for any coach, but this is not the time to take another chance on an unknown quantity. Boston College basketball needs an instant jolt of energy and excitement, not to mention some credibility in the college basketball sphere, which will absolutely not happen with a no-name.

Again, Boston College has been loath to go in this direction, but in this case, replacing an unproven coach with another unproven coach would be preposterous. With the program floating upside-down on top of the fishbowl, this is no time to settle for less. My alma mater should never settle. “We are what we are” is for losers — Boston College can be a lot better than it presently is, and the program owes it to itself to take a shot.