Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Being honest about Steve Donahue


It is hard to hate Steve Donahue. It is hard to even dislike him. Polite and engaging to the casual fan and media. A proponent of a hyper-efficient offense to please the sports analytics crowd. A tireless worker who has his hand in all aspects of the program, that keeps his bosses and other Administration folks impressed. Armed with a deep and experienced roster and a elite guard entering his fourth season at the Heights, it was all supposed to come together now. But it didn’t. That’s why there is no joy in calling for his job. I decided to post this prior to the ACC Tournament, because this isn't totally about Donahue. It is also about what I want in a coach. College fans might have been the first to launch “firecoach.com”, but what does a blogger do when your ideal coach doesn’t work out? You move on and admit that all the things you wanted in a coach are unimportant.

Can you imagine any other ACC coach helping freshmen move into their dorms? And not their own bluechip recruits, but regular skinny, scared freshman. But there Steve Donahue was last fall, helping new BC students hang posters, grabbing the other end of that box with dad and telling mom the right spot for the family picture. And this wasn’t some move of a desperate coach trying to win over a few fans. Donahue was accessible and welcoming from Day 1. This is what we are all supposed to want, right? That’s why colleges are so quick to hire one of their own. They want someone who loves the school and community as much as they do. Yet as nice a gesture as it was, no one really cares beyond the few people that got the unexpected VIP service from Donahue. The empty student section is proof that your typical BC freshmen doesn’t have some blind loyalty to Donahue.

Analytics are everywhere in sports, but not many coaches still rattle them off during a casual interview. Donahue championed a 3-point shot dependent, highly efficient motion offense at Cornell. At BC -- with ACC caliber players -- it would take things to a new level. And it did in his first year…with Al Skinner’s players and future pro Reggie Jackson. As his own players came into the system the offense has remained one of the better ones in college basketball, however, the defense has been terrible. Using Kenpom’s Adjusted Defensive metrics, BC has the 300th defense in college basketball. You don’t need to been a Sloan Conference panelist to know that is bad.

Over analyzing things also painted Donahue into a corner with this season’s schedule. The numbers looked perfect. BC would play a RPI friendly and challenging schedule and earn points with the selection committee. No bubble for his veteran team. In hindsight, It looks like Wile E. Coyote must have crunched the schedule data. Instead of earning respect with the ADs and their selection metrics, BC got thumped early and often. They lost on the road. They lost at home. They lost to traditional powers and rising MAC teams. Whether the losing shattered their confidence or tuned them out on their coach (or they just weren’t that good to begin with), the players never recovered from the out of conference slate. The only carryover to ACC play was continued losing and bad defense. Upsetting Syracuse generated some positive attention but also reminded many how screwed up this season has been. Why hadn’t the group that beat the Orange been able to beat or even compete with so many lesser teams?

All of Donahue’s positives might earn him another year if things were just a little better. If there was hope that he could shape a defense to compliment his excellent offense. If just one elite recruit committed for next year, giving BC that missing piece to overcome the ACC’s best teams. If the team had just played better in the final month of the season, showing improvement or even just some resilience. But the Eagles sit at 8-23 and barring the miracle to end all miracles, the ACC Tournament will be over quickly. Improving his staff or finding an incredible last minute recruit won't do it either. Four years shows that this won't work at BC.

We say we want a smart, charming, humble, hardworking coach, but that’s a lie. Fans want a winner. That’s it. All the aspects of a coach’s personality are secondary. It’s only after he starts winning that his approach and personality become things we care about. And fans will embrace (or rationalize) anything as long as the wins come. Donahue is a great guy who tries real hard. Yet no one is rationalizing his losing...or at least rationalizing him staying,

There are lots of ways Brad Bates can go with Donahue’s replacement. He probably won’t find someone as perfect on paper. Hopefully he finds someone who will win on the court.

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23 Comments:

At 7:46 AM, Blogger WI_Eagle said...

This is The End, my BC friend.

This is The End, our only friend (this season), The End.

Of all (Donahue's) elaborate plans, The End.

Of all the empty stands, The End.

No (job) safety or surprise, The End.

We'll never hear his loud whistle...again.

Can you picture what will be, a team that plays some D.

Desperately in need...of some...new coaching plan.

In a...desperate (Chestnut Hill) land.

This is The End, our only friend, The End.

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger TheFive said...

Globe this morning is reporting that Hanlan might leave early (for an NBA Draft in which he would not be drafted), and that Anderson and Rahon are considering transferring. So it appears that Donahue's nice guy persona failed interpersonally with his very own team.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

Great post, Bill.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger hsk said...

BC Admin/ Athletics has a decision to make. Either we "play the game" and become relevant again in all sports, or we go in the other direction, ACC only in football (if the ACC would even entertain such a thing), hockey remains in Hockey East, and all other sports go into the Patriot League. We are not keeping up with the changing landscape of college sports. If Donoahue isn't let go within 30 minutes of that final "whistle," I think we get our answer.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger @timstwrt said...

Five years ago we were at the end of the best decade in the history of BC basketball, now people are looking at the Patriot League? Things are bleak, but they ain't that bleak.

Bill, I think you might be giving Donahue a little too much credit in some respects. Stuff like moving the freshmen in is nice, but is also kind of fake hustle. I don't think that winning is the only metric, but a lot of the good feelings and school spirit flow from winning. Donahue seems like a decent guy, but the best way for a basketball coach to be a contributor on campus is to be a basketball coach...to lead a team that composes itself honorably, contributes on campus, and, yes, wins basketball games.

Probably 80% of my comments here mention how Skinner got screwed, but the way that he was treated by the school says something about BC that coaches, players and recruits hear. So maybe we deserve some huge asshole like Ben Howland.

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Hoib said...

Hsk

Great post. Couldn't agree w/ u more



ATL

I love u man, but this Donahue sob story is more than I can take. He isn’t being taken before a firing squad. He will continue to be paid millions of precious dollars from our athletic dept. for years to come. He will be paid that money, which could be used so much better elsewhere, for single handedly running our basketball program into the ground. Why would the students want to go to the games? They are supposed to be fun, all they have known for their tenure is agony, unlike those of us who go way back w/ the program. If they enjoy the weave they can see a better one by watching the Globetrotters. As to this notion “As his own players came into the system the offense has remained one of the better ones in college”. I think this just proves the saying “ there are lies, dam lies, and statistics”, sorry Mod 34b. The offense might look good statistically, but when it matters most, late in games it leaves allot to be desired. Look at the last 2 games in which we played for example. We played very well against teams that are much better than us, till a couple of minutes were left in the game. Then we disappear. Against us late u just need to play tight man to man, particularly outside the 3 line and u have us dead to rights. Jim B. didn’t do this, out of loyalty to his system and paid the price. I so hope that Wi Eagle is right!

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger Bravesbill said...

Five--I wouldn't be too concerned with Hanlan looking at the draft. If he doesn't sign with an agent, he can always come back (which is a good likelihood when he realizes he won't be drafted high, if at all). I'm not even concerned with Rahon leaving. He was a total bust this year. However, Anderson leaving would be a killer. He's the only guy on the team who can snag the occasional rebound and actually shows some grit.

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Knucklehead said...

You have to pay if you want to play.

1)Another "no-name" coach is not going to turn the program around in 1-2 years. Sorry. Conte Forum is a morgue for basketball.

2) A good coach is going to cost money. BC is not willing to pay. They certainly SHOULD NOT pay the next basketball coach more than what Steve Addazio is making. However, that is what it will take to get a good coach.

3)Culture problem. The players are not enthusiastic or committed. The fans are no where to be found. The coach is doing what he was hired to do but it hasn't worked yet. Boston College basketball has created an atmosphere that is in athema to the current basketball culture. Our program under Donahue is seemingly includes passive, classy, student athletes.

4)There is a simple way to fix the problem. Recruit PLAYERS who are SERIOUS about BASKETBALL. Lower standards for 1-2 players a year and then stuff the 7-13 spots with prep school SAT hogs(Duke approach).

If the administration needs a model then look at Syracuse(we cannot get the exact same players obviously). Boeheim buries the troubled really good players on the bench freshman year to teach them humility, get through freshman year academically and then lets them loose.

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Napolean Bonaparte said...

Yes - we want a winner
Yes - we want a competent recruiter
No - we don't need to win at all costs
No - we don't want a flaming asshole
Yes - Donahue seems like a well spoken sane individual
Yes - Its unfortunate that it did not work out.
No - I don't feel sorry in the slightest for Donahue. He has been paid well over a million dollars a year in salary and benefits for 5 yrs. We should all be so lucky to fail like that. When Joe Jones left - he elected to put his career (and our program) in the hands of a bunch of inexperienced kids. His choice, his bad judgment, his undoing.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight - adieu, adieu, to you and you and you.

 
At 7:56 PM, Blogger mod34b said...

"It is hard to hate Steve Donahue. It is hard to even dislike him"

What? Why on Earth would you hate Donahue or dislike him. Why is that even mentioned. It is not personal in the least

D is not getting the job done for BC. It does not appear he can get job done going forward. Time to get a new coach. Nothing personal about it.

Hoib. Stats are mathematical calculations. Stats do not misled people, people misusing stats mislead people.

Stat that matters: enough Ws the get fans in seat, games on TV and recruits signing up
Donahues lacks the Ws to fulfill the basic job requirements .

 
At 8:55 PM, Blogger JBQ said...

As Flo of the insurance commercials would say of this posting, "pretty good, pretty good". Donohue is the perfect p.r. coach and very sincere. However, he just doesn't have that Al McGuire intangible. At the end of the 1977 season, Al from Brooklyn cried with his players. He is dead and gone but his Warrior mentality remains. Donohue just doesn't have that intangible. It is important that BC find it. Ever to Excel.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Bravesbill said...

Jesus, how many big free throws has Hanlan missed this year? He has transformed into a very unclutch player.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Game - Set - Match

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Big Jack Krack said...

As the late Paul Harvey would say - "Stay tuned for news."

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Hoib said...

Braves

I don't remember any clutch moments last year either, but then he was just a fresh. His pal Anderson always seems to disappear late as well. I think O is in for a rude awakening if he applies for the draft. At least we're out of our misery.

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger JBQ said...

The disaster is over. The Titanic has sunk. GT won in overtime. The wheels should now be in motion. Bates needs to burn the midnight oil.

 
At 10:59 PM, Blogger JERZeagle said...

should legitimately just hire one of the Hurley's and build this thing the right way.

sharpshooting offensively efficient team: 6-19 from three. what. a. joke.

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger JD BC90 said...

Don't know the guy. Don't hate the guy. But if Donahue isn't let go by noon tomorrow I will be pretty pissed.

Hope Howland or Pearl is in place by Selection Sunday. Something to hope for next year.

And if Hanlan, Anderson and other BC upper classmen leave before graduating this late in their student experience then good riddance.

Same crew with a coach that gets them in shape, pushes defense and runs a normal offense will win 20 + games next year. If you all leave, new crew with a new legit d 1 coach will figure out a way to win more than 8.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger CT said...

What an embarrassment.

This team would compete for, but may not win, the Patriot League. I watched the AU v BU game. No different in talent.

Did antone notice that when they got down 61-49 with 3mins left, they abandoned the weave and got AGGRESSIVE?

The lack of talent is bewildering. Hanlan as a starter, yes, Heckmann as a bench guy, yes. That is it.

This has nothing to do with scheme, unless Donohue thinks his system isn't based on talent. In which case, that's arrogant. Seriously, this is at best a mid tier place Ivy.

EMBARRASING.

Caudill would star only in the Plex. Rahon, too.

I feel bad even having to type this.

Let us move on. Time for serious bball.

I hope everyone moves on. Good luck.

 
At 8:29 AM, Blogger Hoib said...

JD BC 90


John Wooden couldn't win 20 w/ this bunch.

 
At 9:56 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I'm with 34b. Absurd premise.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Napolean Bonaparte said...

Hey JDBC 90 - its 12 noon and nothing is up yet. Brad and the BC HR folks are no doubt wracking their collective brains over this issue. "What do we do? - oh my God - what do we do? This is a brain teaser - this is so hard. There was so much good student development."

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger JD BC90 said...

tick tick tick.
If BC is letting SD go (which I think almost has to be the case), or even if it is not, then announce the plan asap. That's the fairest, smartest and most professional thing to do. Serves no one to let it drag on. Decision should have already been made.

How about end of the day ?

 

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