Friday, April 04, 2014
Hiring is not easy. Anyone who has a perfect record in hiring hasn’t made that many hires or holds his/her employees to a low standard. Plenty of great Athletic Directors have made bad hires. None of us knows what Jim Christian will do at BC. Given his track record, he’ll probably be decent. Jim Christian’s record and future is Brad Bates’ problem. Our problem as BC fans and members of the BC community, is different. Our problem is Brad Bates. Given how he has gone about this process and what we’ve seen on other fronts, I have real doubts about Bates’ ability to get other big things done.
Brad Bates knew in January that a basketball decision -- and likely change -- was coming. I know he solicited input from alums and BOT members. Bates might not be quick to show his hand or share all his thoughts, but during these conversations it was implied and agreed that barring a miracle finish, Donahue was gone. Now if Bates had a change of heart or didn’t have buy-in from all the decision makers, then he needed to start working the politics of the decision then. You start building consensus:
-- “what do we want to be as a basketball program?”,
-- “what is our budget?”, and
-- “what are we looking for in a coach?”
Those are basic questions but have a million different answers. It is Bates’ job to find that consensus and win over the impacted parties. Then as the season closes, you quickly make your announcement on Donahue, have a solid list of interested candidates lined up, and go through the hiring process in a clear manner and you hope the coach you hire turns out to be great. As we know, that’s not what happened.
Donahue and his staff were given the impression they were coming back and then they weren’t! Agents reached out to BC throughout the winter and then deeper into the process and never given much insight into what BC was doing or what we wanted or what we were paying. Board members were all over the place with opinions, desires to make a big hire and those who had their personal favorites. Some candidate were deemed worth the price. Others not. Supposedly some Board members reached out to high-profile candidates directly! Bates paid Eddie Fogler to advise the process and just muddled it that much more. Players were told to be patient and led to believe that a big name was on the way. All the while BC preached patience. And yet the whole search wore on and on and it started to become clear the process got away from its owner. In the end we ended up with a coach whom Bates and Fogler knew yet left the fans, boosters, media, ACC, basketball community, recruits, players and even some within BC saying “who?” and “why?”
The Addazio process burned some bridges when it went down. Fortunately his personality and winning season converted some of the doubters. But this process reopened some of those wounds and made them worse. Some big donors will give to BC because they always do. Others will now have second thoughts. You don’t give big money to a guy you don’t trust or who nods like he’s listening and then does the exact opposite. But a big part of this job is having a vision, shaping that vision and selling it to the BC community. The two coaching searches and the long delayed Master Plan, leave all sorts of questions about Bates' ability to navigate and sell. And if he thinks Jim Christian is what BC basketball is all about, then maybe Bates’ vision of BC isn’t what it should be.
Marquette, Wake Forest and Washington State fans are all looking at each other wondering if they are better off than they were before the coaching change. The only schools that seem happy are Auburn and Virginia Tech. Those schools and their ADs moved decisively and didn’t fumble around with regards to money or direction. And many of the mid major guys elected to sit this coaching cycle out, betting on better jobs to come. Howland’s delay in returning to coaching seems more about him asking for too much money. So maybe even with a better process, the results would have been similar. But BC deserved a better strategy since we’ve known it was coming once Donahue’s final year fell apart.
This is not an easy job. Some of the politics and intrusions are the aftermath and overreaction to how things used to be run with Gene. But it is on Bates to step up and manage his constituents better. I don’t mind Bates attempting to do things his own way or on his own time as long as the end result makes sense and everyone is united. I fear this process just drove things further apart.
Basketball won’t be an issue Bates has to address for two or three years. Football looks okay for another two years. But that doesn't mean that Bates doesn't have future landmines to navigate. We have to push for major fundraising and construction projects. We have to address the baseball facilities and the baseball coaching issues. Also, Jerry York is not going to coach forever. Can Bates learn from his mistakes? Can he take better control of his Board? Let’s hope so, because if he doesn't BC is going to have to ask ourselves: “what sort of Athletic Program do we want?”, “how much do we want to spend on Sports?” and “who is the person to lead that effort?”