Boston College Basketball: On Replacing Assistant Coaches



The rumor du jour around Boston College Eagles basketball — which may very well be confirmed today — is that the school wants to bring back head coach Steve Donahue for another year. Why, no clue, but anyway, that return is contingent upon him changing his assistant coaching staff.

In late 2011, Gene DeFilippo always knew he was going to retain Frank Spaziani. In any event, the school threw a bone to the peanut gallery by making the coach change his staff. Of course, at that point, everyone knew that the coach’s job was in serious danger. Spaziani and company got those changes, which ultimately fixed nothing as the team got even worse.

In 2014, Boston College expects us to believe that changing a few assistants (and the return of Dennis “Dikembe Mutombo” Clifford and a cupcake non-conference schedule) will fix everything and Donahue will finally win here. The situations then and now appear to be similar: head coach in turmoil, program sinking like a brick, fan support all but gone.

You have to ask yourself: what good assistant coach is going to want to come to Boston College under those circumstances? Toss in the possibility that everyone will be gone a year later in the (likely) event that the team bombs again and that does not look like an attractive position.

Here’s a better question: Why is Boston College apparently so intent on preserving Steve Donahue’s tenure? Al Skinner, to whom I honestly believe I owe an apology for “losing his touch” four years ago, got canned after two bad seasons in three years. Bad, at that point, equaled a game or two under .500 for the year. Skinner was six games over .500 in his last three seasons here, including a tourney appearance, which was enough to get rid of him. Steve Donahue is 30 games under .500 in the past three seasons, and yet the school wants to try to work things out. The winningest coach in Eagles history got fired for way less than what Donahue has done.

Really, it could be one of several things:

  • They think he’s doing a good job, which would be the most asinine thing I have encountered in ten years being a supporter of this program. At least with Spaz, we knew Gene kept him as a puppet. Given that Donahue is amassing losses at literally an historic rate, this is incomprehensible. What is BC clinging to, exactly?
  • They’re cheap, but that is a bit odd in that they’re willing to pay for new assistants, but not a new head coach.
  • They believe the excuses, which is entirely possible and very discouraging. So Boston College softens up the non-conference schedule; how are they going to soften up the ACC schedule? Furthermore, didn’t the tough schedule prove conclusively that the Eagles couldn’t beat most decent teams, therefore we’d be toast in March, anyway? Finally, I like Dennis Clifford, but in media and Boston College circles he has become almost a mythological figure. The truth is he’s often injured and is not the second coming of Craig Smith. It’s not my fault Donahue didn’t recruit additional serviceable bigs.

It is also possible that Donahue will try to placate the fans by bringing back an Eagle favorite (think older former players), but it would be a transparent gimmick. Chances are, as it has been in the past, this strategy by Boston College will not work if they attempt it. Frankly, after three years of almost no progress whatsoever, it is not very likely that a new assistant will suddenly fix everything they’ve been doing wrong. The damage looks done and the best thing we can do is get a fresh start to rebuild the right way.

There is no logical basis to retain Donahue, seeing as how things are in much worse shape today than four years ago, but logic does not seem to apply in this situation.