Thursday, May 21, 2020

Using an Executive Search firm is not a big deal

BC engaged Collegiate Sports Associates' founder Todd Turner to run the Executive Search for our new Athletic Director. This sparked some indignation from some BC fans. Most were upset at the notion that the firm that employs Brad Bates is involved, but others view the whole exercise as a waste of money. I think the whole kerfuffle is silly.

1. COVID-19 makes a search that much harder and an Executive Search firm fills in some gaps. These firms can do a lot of the due diligence on candidates that BC doesn't have the time or resources to perform under current circumstances. Because of travel challenges and budget issues, BC can't do a private jet tour meeting all the potential folks interested in the job. The candidate pool will have to be funneled down via calls/zooms and past relationships. That's what CSA/Turner will do.

2. All the big College Sports Search firms are conflicted in one way or another. For better or worse, College Sports is a small, fraternal business. You don't want to work with a company that employs Brad Bates? Fine, the next in line is one that employs Gene DeFilippo. Or maybe we should use the one that UCLA just used to hire away our AD! Or the one that gave us an AD who left after three years. There is no ideal. But Turner has lots of ACC connections and Bates can add background to the BC position that not many can.

3. This is different from the football search. Jarmond proudly replaced Addazio without using a search firm. It was a shroud move. However, it was a different circumstance from this search. Jarmond had a long time to research candidates before the season even began. Plus he was looking from a much more narrow pool of eligible candidates. Father Leahy and the Board shouldn't be expected to know all the mid-level ADs around the country or people from the sports or business world who might be a good fit. There are hundreds of potential candidates. Jarmond only had to research a few dozen and even then probably had four or five that he really liked.

4. The money is not wasteful. I don't know the specifics of the Turner deal, but assume at a minimum that BC will be paying over six figures for their services. It is likely much higher than that. But given the Athletic Department money at stake, this is not a waste. The new AD will have to make the call on millions of dollars of spending (and likely spending cuts). He or she will be critical to the University's future marketing and growth plan. The money spent on the search can be justified, especially if it is done in a professional manner.

5. BC makes the final decision, not the search firm. There is a perception that Brad Bates used a search firm for the Jim Christian search and that the firm basically picked BC's coach. You can debate if that is a fair recollection, but I don't think it would ever apply to anything Father Leahy signs off on. Whoever Turner identifies as the ideal candidate, it won't just be rubber stamped by Leahy. That's just not the way he has worked with our last AD searches. So don't worry about the firms influence. This will be Leahy and the Board's call.

Hiring in general is a bit of a crap shoot. If the search firm improves your odds that much more, it is worth it. BC fans should not focus on the firm. They should focus on who we hire.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The early names floated as Jarmond replacements

Martin Jarmond is now officially gone, so the BC side of the question is “who is next?”

BC is expected to name Vaughn Williams the interim. Williams was a long-time assistant AD under GDF and returned under Jarmond. He will probably be a candidate for the job full-time, but I would be surprised if any internal candidate got the job.

Based on speculation and gossip, I think Father Leahy and the Board still understand the importance of the role. While Jarmond’s time at BC was short, he validated their decision to focus on fundraising and being the face of the Athletic Department. In the midst of a Athletic Department Fund Raising Campaign and the most economically uncertain time in the last 50 years of college sports, I think they will still remain focused on someone who can be the face of the program and get people to open their wallets. These are some of the names already being floated. A few things to remember:

  1. Jarmond was not one of the early names leaked last time, so it is very possible our future Athletic Director is unknown to all of us. 
  2. BC has a history of over-correcting on a hire based on the previous hire's flaws. Gene was a bit dictatorial and had rubbed key people the wrong way, so they go with Brad Bates, who was not a big personality and was deferential. Bates was bland and a drag on fundraising, so they bring in a high-energy sales guy like Jarmond. The knock on Jarmond is that he wasn’t here for the long run, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see them hire someone who wants to be at BC a long time.

Vicky Chun, AD at Yale
Pros: Very experienced Athletic Director and fundraiser at private schools.
Cons: No experience at Power 5 programs.
Bottom Line: The Jarmond process showed that BC wanted to look beyond the traditional candidate pool. Don’t be surprised if they do it again by looking beyond the “boys club.”

Matt Hasselbeck, ESPN
Pros: Passionate about the job and the institution. Has the ability to be the face of the program yet is more than just a "rah rah" guy. He can switch hats to evaluate coaches and deal with the financials.
Cons: Zero experience.
Bottom Line: Matt’s supposed strong interest is intriguing. The timing is also intriguing as he was asked to help Jarmond during the Hafley process because Jarmond had rubbed a few influential people the wrong way. I don’t know why Hasselbeck would walk away from ESPN, but this is supposedly the one opportunity that would do it. I always liked him, but think the politics of this process will kill his candidacy.

Mark Jackson, AD at Villanova
Pros: From Boston, so this would/could be a final stop. Has been a big fundraiser and understands the importance of basketball. Also worked for Raiders, Patriots and USC, so he knows football.
Cons: You could claim he was in the right place at the right time for Villanova. USC, which knew him well, passed on him when they had their opening.
Bottom Line: He checks nearly every box you would want in a BC Athletic Director, but the obvious choice never seems to survive this process.

Graham Neff, Deputy AD at Clemson
Pros: CFO and business head of the biggest cash cow in the ACC. Deep ACC ties. Understands the financial implications ahead as well as anyone.
Cons: No history fundraising at a private school. Never made a coaching hire.
Bottom Line: He will probably be a P5 AD within five years and does keep BC firmly tied to the ACC decision makers, but he is still very young and has no ties to BC or any school like BC.

Zac Selmon, Sr Associate AD at Oklahoma
Pros: Like Jarmond, he is a young fundraiser from a football power. Has deep ties to the ACC (played at Wake, worked at UNC).
Cons: Has never made a coaching hire.
Bottom Line: His profile and career trajectory is close enough to Jarmond's that you can understand BC’s interest. But as I wrote, we tend to over-correct on hires, so I would be surprised if we hired Jarmond 2.0.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thank you, Martin Jarmond

Per multiple reports Martin Jarmond is leaving BC to be the next Athletic Director of UCLA. I wish him nothing but the best of luck. While his time at BC was relatively short, he installed an enthusiasm and optimism missing for nearly a decade. He didn't reshape the department but did make some critical decisions, most notably firing Addazio and hiring Hafley.

There are plenty of people who feel he is leaving too soon or are disappointed he didn't do more. My response is that it is hard to do a lot in three years in a big bureaucratic position where embracing the status quo is needed so often just to get through a respective season. BC is a political place and he managed the politics better than Brad Bates and better than the latter half of the DeFilippo era. As for leaving, how can anyone be surprised? When you hire a young, ambitious person, he or she is going to want to move onto the next challenge.

BC is in a better place than it was and finding his replacement won't be hard. Ever to excel and good luck to Martin.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Why I am not worried about Don Brown's raid of Massachusetts recruiting

When Don Brown left BC for Michigan, I considered it a loss. After suffering through the growing pains as we transitioned from Spaz's zone heavy conservative D, to Brown's aggressive blitzing scheme, we finally had an elite unit. Brown also did a great job of identifying defensive backs who would thrive in his system. The Defense hasn't been the same since he left. I thought he would have success at Michigan (and he has, for the most part) and expected him to thrive with higher profile recruits in his system. Yet due to comfort or trusting his own eyes and network, he has continued to heavily recruiting New England and Massachusetts. This year he is really going hard after Massachusetts kids and has flipped some BC verbals and is targeting other potential BC kids. While this should be worrisome, I am not really concerned. There are a couple of different issues, but in the end I think it is a mistake for Michigan and maybe BC is dodging a bullet.

The factors (BC-centered first)

1. I trust Hafley's recruiting and talent evaluations. Hafley had offers to these local kids, so he and his staff thought enough of them that they should be part of the program. Losing a recruiting battle sucks, but it is to be a bit expected when Hafley is a new head coach. He doesn't have the local connections or trust Brown has yet. It will take time, but Hafley has shown that he can find talent anywhere. He has done it at every stop. Even if his first two classes are light on local recruits, I am sure that in the end, he will fill the roster with players as good as the ones committing to Michigan now.

2. The development timeline and environment are very different at the two schools. BC probably plays up the "diamond in the rough" recruiting narrative too much, but it is based on some truths. We have a history of finding late bloomers, tweeners and guys with chips on their shoulders who blossom at the Heights. That is often because given the lower expectations around the program and around the recruiting ratings, we can take the time to develop these players. If they can play as freshmen, great. But we also don't wash them out if they can't like many of the top factories. That probably hurts BC's depth, but once a player has been around the block at BC, you often see a huge leap in performance and Football IQ. I don't have the same familiarity with Michigan's development process, but it seems like it is much more sink or swim. While a low-level three star might surprise in Day 1 at a big program like Michigan, more likely he will be lost or a step behind. Given their needs and the desire to knock off Ohio State, Michigan is probably best to get as many full developed stars as possible and let the best of the best play from Day 1.

3. I don't think Massachusetts talent justifies Michigan's investment. I have been hoping for a Massachusetts boom in football talent for two decades now. I thought the Patriots' success would create a whole new crop of football loving kids in our backyard. It hasn't. The grassroots level still pale in comparison to what you find in Ohio, New Jersey and even Michigan. There are not enough kids, not enough dedicated time to football, not enough good lower level coaching and not enough competition to make these youths better. Are there still good football players locally? Yes. But not enough to fill BC's class, and certainly not enough to fill 20% of Michigan's annual recruiting class. Just take a look at the number of players from the Bay State who have gone to Power 5 schools since 2013 (when Brown came in with Addazio).

2020 -- 11 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (3 to Michigan, 2 to BC)
2019 -- 5 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (1 to Michigan, 1 to BC)
2018 -- 7 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (0 to Michigan, 4 to BC)
2017 -- 9 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (0 to Michigan, 4 to BC)
2016 -- 7 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (1 to Michigan, 3 to BC)
2015 -- 13 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (0 to Michigan, 7 to BC)
2014 -- 10 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (0 to Michigan 8 to BC)
2013 -- 7 Massachusetts commitments to P5 programs (1 to Michigan, 2 to BC)

Addazio, for all his faults, had a good eye for talent and loved New England kids. If there had been more local talent, he would have recruited it. And how many kids in the last decade have truly slipped under the radar? It is not like Mass kids are filling up and staring at lower level FBS programs. When considering the negligible success that many of the Mass P5 kids that "got away" from BC, I think we know that there is not some sort of untapped goldmine locally.

4. Who is not recruiting these kids. BC offers local talent in its backyard. That makes sense. Don Brown leads a push by Michigan for these same kids. As we outlined, I would expect him to aim higher, but still makes sense. Ryan Day (and Al Washington) and Steve Addazio know these schools, know these coaches and probably know many of these players. They are not bothering recruiting them. That should tell Michigan all it needs to know.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Waiting for the "right time" is usually a bad idea

Jim Christian is not being fired by BC.

A year ago, BC and Martin Jarmond had every reason in the world to make a change with Men's Basketball. But they waited. The idea was to get the house in order (financially, facilities, and really take time making a thoughtful hire). Then this year -- despite some fun moments -- predictably proved to be another disappointment and another wasted year. They wasted the players' time, the fans' time and even Jim Christian's time. (Coaching is tough under the best of circumstances. Coaching is really tough when there isn't buy-in from the bosses, players and fans.)

Now, when BC was on the verge of finally making a move, the whole world got flipped on its head. BC has huge questions with no answers with regards to their 2020-21 school year, their budget shortfalls this year (housing refunds), the hit the endowment took, and the potential huge loss of revenues next year from media partners if Football is not played. Adding a basketball coaching search to that mix was not financially or perhaps even logistically possible. So they kicked the metaphorical can...again.

Basketball clearly isn't that important. Yet BC Men will be play again. And when they do, Jim Christian will be coaching. That season will have little fan support. It will be tough to recruit and whatever media attention BC gets will constantly be about Jim Christian's future. It will be a lame duck season and once again, a waste of time.

Now if Jon Beilein was really interested would BC have made a move? Probably, but he wasn't. BC's facilities and current spot on the basketball landscape were the biggest obstacles.

My frustration is consistent. When you know you have the wrong guy, you need to make a change. The move should have been made last year. And even with all the current economic uncertainty, I would argue a less expensive hire now (Coen, Becker) would be better than another year of Jim Christian.

The only solace in this all is that the other major conference schools who were on the verge of change -- Minnesota, Texas, Wake Forest, etc -- also have put hiring and firing on pause. We won't miss out on "the guy," whoever that might have been.

I hope BC plays all sports next year. I hope Christian gets a great season out of his young talent. I hope things get back to normal and things like a silly basketball coaching search can feel important again. I also hope the next BC coach is the right guy, because Jim Christian is not.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Jim Christian is not THE problem, but he is A problem

With another blowout loss, the TV crew working the Notre Dame game shifted the conversation to Jim Christian's future at BC. Predictably they mentioned that Christian is a nice guy and respected by all. That's a good thing. They hammered BC's facilities and unwillingness to play the arms race in college sports. That is a fair criticism and needs to be addressed. But regardless of BC Basketball's many issues and challenges, six seasons has shown that Jim Christian is not the guy to fix them nor overcome them.

I don't take firing a coach lightly. I understand he has a family and a staff that will all be impacted by this. However, this is one of the challenges of their chosen profession and they are all well compensated for the risk they assume. The ones who are not compensated are they players. I don't know if they are not that talented, checked out or what, but they didn't look like a well-coached team for most of this year. Effort issues. Defensive issues. Not making good decisions. All of that has little to do with basketball facilities or admissions offices. I understand injuries and age are factors with the roster, but the most consistent thing about the JC era is not maximizing talent. Was there any year where you felt he got the most out of his roster (maybe his first season?).

I had an argument with a BC person last year and said that even if he had Top 4 facilities and budget in the ACC, I don't think Christian would get Top 4 results. I still believe that.

Every coaching change has risk. We might lose talent. We might not find the right coach and waste another couple years. I don't know. But I know what we are doing is not working and it is time to make a coaching change. We've seen what a new Women's Basketball coach can do. Why not roll the dice on the Men's side?

Monday, March 09, 2020

Why the same old names are unlikely hires

I don't know if BC will fire Jim Christian. I think they should, but the point of these coaching profiles is "where does BC go from here?" and "who is the right guy for the program?" Part 4: Last year's candidates.

Last year when it looked like Jim Christian might be fired, you saw multiple names floated, but three that seemed rather relevant and obvious were Northeastern coach Bill Coen, St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt and former Ohio State coach Thad Matta. As speculation kicks in on the BC job again, all three are being floated again. This is in part because the ties to BC (Coen and Schmidt) or Jarmond (Matta) are so obvious. However, I don't think any of these guys will be on Jarmond's short list. If he wanted to hire them, he could have done so a year ago.

Because of their ties to BC, Martin Jarmond heard "Schmidt" and "Coen" a lot last year. They've been long-time head coaches, so they have an established track record. BC and Jarmond would know what they are getting and know what the potential obstacles would be (mainly recruiting at an ACC level). And more importantly, money and availability wouldn't have been an issue with either last year. But Jarmond didn't pull the trigger. Partially to get other things in place at BC and also -- whether fair or not --  the perception that neither was a difference maker. Last year at this time both were near the top of their respective conferences. While still having winning seasons this year, both teams have taken a slight step back, which only reinforces that they are pretty good coaches, but not great.

Matta is a bit more complicated. Like the other two, he was there for the taking last year. But it didn't happen. Who knows if there was serious interest then...or now? As I said last year, Matta had the Georgia job until he slept on it and decided he didn't want to come back. If you read up on him, he says he is happier than ever, but his health remains a concern. Jarmond worked with Matta for a long time, so he probably has a good feel for what the coach can or cannot do at this stage of his career. My guess is that more time away from the action and grind of the game doesn't make BC more appealing to Matta nor for Jarmond to bet his basketball program on a guy whose heart might not be in it.