Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The whistling has gone silent.
Yesterday afternoon, after nearly a week of unrest within the Boston College basketball fanbase with regards to media reports and the lack of an official announcement, Boston College athletic director Brad Bates went public. The Eagles fired head coach Steve Donahue after four years.
They weren’t just four years: they were bad ones, particularly the last three. In fact, those last three were historically bad, with Boston College twice breaking the program record for most losses in a single season, falling to an all-time low this year with 24 of them. The junior class Donahue assembled is on pace to be the least successful Eagles recruiting class of all-time, already with 63 losses to their names and with a mind-bowling total of 80 very much in range. No Boston College basketball team has ever lost that much over the course of three or four years, respectively. The sad part is, that is strictly objective fact, not hyperbole.
It would have been completely indefensible for the school to retain Steve Donahue given his body of work. From year two onward, Donahue had a team populated almost entirely of his own players. He had a chance to make a mark on the program and build it the way he wanted. Few coaches at this level are able do that so quickly, but Donahue had a near-instant opportunity to show what a Steve Donahue Boston College team would look like. Simply put, it failed spectacularly.
The excuses from Donahue and/or others wore thin. First, it was that he needed “fifty games” to get the team to jell. Next, it was that the schedule he crafted this year was too difficult and thus robbed his team of confidence. Finally, it was that Dennis Clifford would have made this team night-and-day improved, but these results had to be expected without him. All of them are bogus. There is no reason a Boston College team should be this bad for a sustained period. Outsiders to the program, spare us the snarky remarks: the Eagles have had their fair share of good seasons over the last 25 years and have very rarely experienced failure like this as a program.
Donahue’s recruiting was also highly suspect. Four years ago when Donahue was hired, this website noted the concerns about his ability to recruit at this level but stood up for the coach as an intelligent man who would find a way to succeed at it. He did not, and there are several reasons why.
To start, there was addition by subtraction in allegedly running Brady Heslip out of the program. He could have helped, but that goes without saying.
Second, it was misidentifying talent: Boston College passed on Providence’s star player Bryce Cotton but offered players like Gabe Moton, who eventually moved on to Division-3 Brandeis.
Third, it was poor attention paid to roster construction. Boston College recruited a lot of “shooters” (streaky ones at that) but few bigs, forcing themselves to rely mainly on the abilities of Clifford while not having any other defensive talent on the team whatsoever. The imbalance and one-dimensionality of the Eagles became obvious over the years.
Finally, Donahue assembled a weak assistant coaching staff. Joe Jones was the only legitimate one, and when he, a former Villanova assistant, left for Boston University, Boston College’s bench looked like an Ivy League who’s-who, completely without high-major coaching experience. Other than their time on the Heights, none of them had come anywhere near a major-conference program and thus lacked the insight as to what would work here. Evidently, so did the head coach.
Considering how badly the Donahue era went, there was only one decision to be made, and Brad Bates made it. For a guy who has on occasion taken some heat from the fans, including here immediately after the (looking good) Addazio hire, he has gotten it right so far since coming here. Bates acted in the best interest of the program and that is all the fans require of him.
Steve Donahue is a classy, polite man who was a fine representative of Boston College as a decent human being. There is no doubt that he will get another job, and hopefully succeed. Boston College, however, was not the right place for him to be. Another year of this would not have solved anything, and may have made things worse. Based upon previous results, there is no reason to believe that Donahue would have turned things around with this class as they have shown precious little improvement as a team, if any, since he brought them here.
The bleeding had to stop. Bates stopped it. Now, Boston College’s attention turns to a replacement. With the program in the state it is in now, this is a hire the school cannot afford to screw up.