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?”