Wednesday, June 16, 2021

New uniforms embrace classic look

It only took years of fans begging and a switch to a new provider for BC to finally come out with a new look that embraces some of BC's classic styles. While not a throwback like last year's Flutie era jerseys, this season's uniforms will be simple: gold pants (no stripe), maroon and white jerseys (no stripes), use of the old classic BC logo, numbers with simple traditional font. The helmet is all gold and seemingly shinier. I prefer the stripe on the helmet, but understand that the solid helmet is classic BC.

I am glad to see the all white road uniforms out of the rotation. While I didn't mind the mix and max of maroon pants and gold pants in various combos, traditionally BC wore gold pants all the time. I am fine with that now. 

While this "what's old is new again" mentality won't last forever, I hope BC always keeps this sort of base uniform in the rotation. Recruits and players like variety, so I am fine with seasons that have special jerseys or unique long as we can keep coming back to something like this.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

What is not being said about the new BC Basketball facility

BC finally made it official and announced their new basketball practice facility. The Hoag Pavilion will be dedicated exclusively to men's and women's basketball and use some of Conte's current footprint and expand beyond Conte a bit. It is good news but not entirely surprising since the plans have been circulated for nearly two years as the project engaged donors looking for significant gifts. While it is exciting to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the new building ("six courts!" "their own weightroom!) there are a few things that won't get mentioned in the press release nor will friendly college hoops writers touch.

1. The fundraising exceeded goal and project grew as Kraft got involved.

COVID could have killed this project. Father Leahy could have killed this project. Pat Kraft could have killed this project. The past year was an institution stepping into the unknown. Could you still raise significant money? Would sports revenues be slashed so deep, that a new capital project would be unfeasible? Is basketball an important enough program to warrant the investment? The answers to those questions were all good for BC fans. Fortunately not only did Kraft push forward with what started under Jarmond, he expanded the project and the fundraising. Because he is not as public and because he took over during a unique year, Pat Kraft is still a bit unknown to most of the BC community. Yet he showed he can connect with the right donors and showed that he understands the sports landscape. And he also showed he can adapt to BC's own internal politics. Those are all good signs for the future of BC Basketball and BC Athletics.

2. The impact of the facility on winning basketball is probably a bit overstated.

College sports is an endless arms race. BC needed the upgrade. It serves as a nice selling tool and gives our athletes in both programs the chance to get better. But buildings alone don't equal winning. The lack of a dedicated basketball facility has been used as a crutch by our basketball coaches for a decade. As you see players jumping programs left and right and watch as the best talent bypasses college all together, a nice new gym and workout space is probably not at the top of mind for most players. Playing time, preparing for the next level, connecting with the coaching staff, developing your game, exposure and winning are the primary factors as they decide where to play. This helps but what Earl Grant does as a coach will be ten times more important. He needs to develop talent and then outcoach the other side. A shiny new gym is just a small piece of that puzzle. 

3. The plan for Conte will be the next be announcement.

BC takes its time to make things official. The plan, approvals and money all need to be in place. The next big item is the renovation to the rest of Conte. Some of it will be cosmetic and some will be to make a better fan experience for basketball and hockey. Because those sorts of renovations will impact the gameday experience for BC Basketball, they will almost be as important as the practice facility.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The impact of the New Balance deal and where's Football?

The long-rumored Boston College-New Balance deal was finally announced Tuesday. It is unique in many ways, most of which is good for BC. There are a few big question marks. 

The Good

1. The Boston connection is going to lend itself to New Balance being more than a shoe and apparel partner. BC will have access to facilities, student internships and be involved in product development. 

2. While New Balance might not have the cachet of some other brands with kids, they provide very solid and popular products in non-revenue sports. Given that our athletes' feet are critical in this process, most just got a better shoe than what they were wearing with Under Armour.

3. Pat Kraft found a partner in a shrinking market. With Under Armour getting out of the college game, that really just left Addidas and Nike as the only players in town. And with Under Armour out, Addidas and Nike had one less bidder to drive up prices. Kraft got creative and got more money for our non-football sports than we would have had Nike or Addidas taken over the whole thing. Given budget pressures and how other schools dealt with the Under Armour fall out, this was a win.

The Unknown

1. If you followed the FBI bribery scandal with college basketball, you know that the shoe companies were heavily involved in the money and player payments (Under Armour too). Regardless of how you feel about this and whether UA and BC were dirty (there is no evidence to say they were), buying players was part of the shoe deal at many, many programs. With New Balance being a relatively new entrant into this world, we have no idea how they will operate and what sort of impact it will have on BC recruiting. I will remain optimistic that the changing landscape of college basketball and the still looming threat of the FBI will mean BC and New Balance will take the right approach. I also hope that New Balance will get more involved at the AAU level so that the New Balance brand won't be such an issue for recruits. In the early stages of this deal, I don't see BC as a player for elite recruits, so the odds of the shoe deal making or breaking a recruit is unlikely.

And then there was Football

Football is not part of the New Balance deal. The separate football deal will be announced in the coming weeks. (It has long been rumored to be Addidas.) Football is doing its own thing because that is what makes most sense for New Balance and BC. New Balance is not heavy into football and not making the push there like they are in basketball. Operationally it will be easier to deal with a supplier that already has a football support structure. Plus breaking off Football separately is a chance to make a few extra dollars, since football is that much more lucrative. While shoes do impact basketball recruiting, it less important for football. Revenue from a football deal is also important to the coaching compensation.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Making sense of the Earl Grant hire


The general reaction to BC hiring Earl Grant was "who?" and "why?". There was a similar reaction among the fans and media when we hired Jim Christian seven years ago. I hated the Christian hire for Day 1. I am onboard with Earl Grant. And if his hire reminds me of any BC coach, it is Al Skinner.

Skinner was close to Grant's age when he took the BC job. He also had a similar track record as a head coach at a mid-major. Neither were hot names on the coaching market at the time. Skinner succeeded. Let's hope Grant does as well. Skinner advised during this process and has provided Grant assistance and an evaluation of the BC job. That alone is probably worth more than our last two coaches got in the hiring process. 

Grant is not a Skinner clone though. He is more personable and will be more of a salesman than Al ever was. He also is a D first coach, where sometimes it seemed like an afterthought to Skinner teams. 

The make or break will be staffing. Skinner had great staffs (including five guys that went on to be head coaches). Donahue and Christian did not. Grant has a budget to get good people. If he just brings his Charleston crew, I will become a bit more skeptical of him.

Grant is known as a good recruiter. That should help. Many of our common complaints about BC recruiting are being solved (facilities, admissions, etc).  If he brought NBA talent to Clemson and Charleston, he should be able to do it at an improving BC.

Much is being made of his lack of ties to the region. From a recruiting standpoint, that doesn't bother me. Talent is all over and most of our stars have been from outside the region. The lack of ties to BC or the region becomes a bigger concern for me in adapting to our community and culture. All colleges (even the non-Catholic) become a bit parochial in their approach to things. When you are someone new to the school it can often be daunting. You have to decide which battles you are going to fight every time someone says "that's not how we do things here." But having coached against BC and having a relationship with Skinner leads me to believe that Grant understands BC more than we might expect and has a plan for how he will adapt to BC and where he needs to make changes.

Who he is not?

Grant is not Dennis Gates or Mark Schmidt or Porter Moser or Tommy Amaker or Howard Eisley or any of the other names floated for the job. That is by design at BC. Gene used to talk and speculate with any and everyone. Fans, media and bloggers liked it, but BC did not. Each subsequent coaching search since has been more and more tight lipped and more and more speculative. That leads to fan frustration and disappointment when a random name is hired. But who cares really? Winning the press conference is nice, but that goodwill fades if you don't win once the games start. 

The biggest problem with BC's timing is that there wasn't a perfect, give the guy a blank check candidate for us. John Beilein had zero interest last year and even he has some baggage with regards to his age and how he left the NBA. What other name would have been worth going for broke with? I like Ed Cooley a lot but was he the answer?

The future

Kraft could have gambled a bit more. He could have hired a hot name or an assistant. I am glad he didn't because my expectations and goals at this point of BC Basketball are pretty low. I just want to get back to respectable and competitive annually in the conference (.500). Grant is no sure thing, but I think he is a good mix of potential and competency that will get us back to where we were before these last 11 seasons. I wish him luck and think he will be fine. And if we are lucky he will be a great hire and a great fit.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

The challenge with Dennis Gates


There's no perfect candidate for Boston college. The ideal candidate would be young yet experienced as a head coach, have ties to BC and/or the ACC, be someone who can recruit, run a staff, manage a game, develop players once they get on campus, sell the program, be charming with the media, have time for social media, and serve as another face of Boston college. Oh, and it would helpful if he were black and Catholic too. If this man existed BC would give him all the money in the world. But since he doesn't exist, Pat Kraft is left to figure out what categories are the deal breakers in his search.

From what I've been told, head coaching experience is a must. That hurts popular names like Howard Eisley, but I understand the position. We have had eleven seasons of futility. This is not the right time to have a rookie coach learn on the job. We need a sure thing, or at a minimum, someone who can keep us competitive annually in the ACC.

One name, who has become popular of late, checks many of the boxes on the wish list: Cleveland State Head Coach Dennis Gates. He is young. He is doing well in his second year as a head coach. He proved himself as an ACC level recruiter while an assistant at Florida State. However, Gates has two major issues. The first is making the jump from the Horizon League straight to the ACC. As we’ve seen with our most recent hires from the MAC and Ivy, coming into the ACC can be a hard adjustment. Gates’ time at FSU mitigates that a bit, but it would be a big leap of faith to assume he could come right into the ACC and win after two COVID interrupted seasons in the Horizon.

The biggest issue with Gates is not the Horizon League. It is his marriage to BC assistant AD Jocelyn Gates. Gates is the No. 2 person in the department with a variety of areas of responsibility, including HR. Hiring her husband for our second biggest revenue sport would present a ton of messy conflicts. BC has a very specific nepotism policy: From the BC EEO portion of the Employee Handbook Employment of Relatives Employment of relatives is permitted, except in circumstances where an appointment would place related people in supervisory and subordinate roles within the same office or department, or in a situation where influence could be exerted, directly or indirectly, on future decisions concerning the status of employment, promotion, or compensation.” 

If Dennis Gates were hired, Jocelyn would presumably have to leave the Athletic Department, or BC would have to create a series of specialized protocols to deal with the numerous conflicts to arise. Is Pat Kraft really going to use his goodwill on his first hire on a complicated situation involving his No. 2? I don’t think so. It would be a HR nightmare and would also send a strange message to the fans and those in the industry. The guy had an opportunity to make a program-changing hire and a “nation-wide search” and ended up with the husband of the woman whose office is down the hall. Who knows? Maybe Dennis Gates is the next great college basketball coach and BC is letting him pass by because of perception. But I think Kraft wants this hire to improve the basketball team but also send the right message and energy to the fans and the college basketball world. It won’t be a hire when the first question will be “how is this going to work?”

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Porter Moser: another guy everyone mentions


As soon as BC hired Pat Kraft, speculation kicked in that this meant BC would eventually hire Porter Moser to replace Jim Christian. The gossip made sense. Christian entered the year a lame duck and Moser seemed like a perfect candidate...who also had a history with Pat Kraft. (Kraft worked at Loyola-Chicago prior to Temple.)

There is a lot to like about Moser. However, I do have some concerns. There are parts of his profile that remind me of Steve Donahue. While that might not be fair, I will explain the comparison.

First, the good stuff:

Moser took Loyola-Chicago to the Final Four. Even if it was just lightning in a bottle, that accomplishment will always be impressive. If you include his CBI win, it speaks to an ability to coach his team through unique matchups and a good grasp for strategy and Xs & Os. He would come to BC with a long record as a head coach. While not perfect (Illinois St. fired him after three out of four losing seasons), he has been competitive at every stop and built a really good program at Loyola. He played at Creighton and coached at Loyola, so he understands the Jesuit community and would seemingly be comfortable at BC.

My concern:

Like Donahue, Moser has won with a very specific blueprint that works great at Loyola but would have to undergo major adjustments at BC. He currently recruits heavy in the Midwest and has had most of his success with tweeners and under the radar guys from Illinois and Indiana. (His current roster has three southerners, two international and the rest from the Midwest.) That is great for him and clearly a great model for Loyola-Chicago. However, BC is a different pitch. While we have also thrived with under the radar types, we need guys with a bit higher ceilings and we usually have to recruit nationwide. If Moser comes to BC, he can't make the same mistake Donahue made of thinking he can out scheme the ACC talent with a roster constructed like his old ones. 

If Moser ends up being the hire, it would say a lot about the faith Kraft has in him. That would be a nice endorsement. I hope they have the type of relationship -- and Kraft understands BC enough to help his former colleague adjust his midmajor, midwest model to Boston and the ACC.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The challenge with any first time head coaches


Michigan assistant and Boston College alum Howard Eisley is another recurring name in this BC coaching search. Eisley has a lot going for him. He is a key assistant at an elite program. He had a long NBA career and then transitioned into NBA assistant roles. He is a proud BC guy looking for his shot. Oh, and it also helps that he has a son who is an elite prospect. But I don't think BC should hire Eisley or any first time head coach this time around.

I am sure Pat Kraft will talk to some guys who have never bee head coaches. Names floated include Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, Gonzaga's Tommy Lloyd (who I advocated for in the past) and Villanova's Kyle Neptune. All have great resumes and promising upsides. The issue is we don't know their downsides.

BC is in a better position than it has been with regards to basketball hires. We have more money. We have facilities upgrades close to becoming official. We are in the elite conference yet there is potential to break into the top half of that conference. We don't need to take a risk on an unknown. Pat Kraft can go out and show BC is serious about basketball and get a proven winner. 

There is always the risk that the proven winner might not win at BC and that one of these assistants we pass up goes onto great things. I am okay with that potential trade off. I want BC to get back to respectable and fun basketball. Let's go find as close to a sure thing as we can.