Commentary: Steve Donahue was Never the Right Fit for BC


March 19, 2014 by conteconfidential

It’s certainly been a wild week for Boston College sports. While I originally planned to discuss the hockey team’s loss to Notre Dame in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, something even bigger happened in the BC sports world.

Athletic Director Brad Bates fired Steven Donahue, head coach of the Boston College men’s basketball team yesterday, despite previous reports that BC would be retaining the coach.

I could definitely spend time on the total lack of communication from athletics, the varying reports from “alleged sources,” the rant in the Boston Globe, or even on the press conference that Bates gave yesterday. I could, but I won’t.  All of that is covered ad nauseum by the many different BC websites. Instead, I propose we briefly talk about where Donahue went wrong and how BC basketball can pick up the pieces.

First things first, though, this article is in no way, shape or form a criticism of Donahue’s personality or character. Though I have not met the former coach, I have been told that he is one of the nicest, most humble and genuine people you will ever meet, and I believe it. Though the results weren’t where we wanted them to be, I would still extend a warm thank you to Donahue for all of his hard work and dedication to the program. Not to mention, we beat Syracuse, so that’s a plus.


(photo from the sports feast website)

Many writers have already shared on what Donahue has done wrong, namely his over-reliance on Dennis Clifford, lack of focus on defense, streaking shooters and his total disregard for the importance of a proper center in the ACC. I agree with absolutely all of those, but I believe they are more interrelated than people think.

In fact, I would go one step further and say that Donahue, while a skilled Ivy League coach, was simply not qualified to coach in the ACC.  That’s where Donahue went wrong: he approached coaching in the ACC the same way he coached at Cornell. No disrespect to the Ivy League, but in this conference, that is unacceptable.

I believe this mindset permeated all facetas of Donahue’s coaching but manifested itself most in his recruiting. In failing to recruit a serviceable big man at center, Donahue set himself and his system up for failure. The obvious counterpoint to that is “Dennis Clifford,” who was injured for virtually the entire season. People have argued that the lack of depth at this position, and others, cost the team. But if the Eagles were that reliant on one player – as many seem to think that they were – that is a separate problem entirely.

Furthermore, he invested in streaky shooters that relied too heavily on threes and perimeter shooting, which became problematic when the shooters went cold. Besides Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan, the caliber of players on this team does not adequately reflect that of the conference. To put it simply, Donahue recruited Ivy Leaguers instead of ACCers.

Another problem that doomed the man was the streakiness of the team. How on earth can BC beat Syracuse, and lose a nail bitter to Duke, but get blown out by Purdue, USC or Auburn? As far as I’m concerned, this persistent inconsistency is not on the players, it’s on the coach. It seemed as though that over the past four years, BC learned nothing from its various “moral victories,” and other stumbles, and again, that’s on the coach.

So where did Donahue go wrong? When he was hired. It is clear that while he is a tremendous person and a solid basketball coach, but he was not the correct fit for BC, or for the ACC. He had four years to craft and create a team, basically from scratch, to his liking. We are seeing the unfortunate results of that experiment. It’s hard to argue with results.

The wins were simply not there, and the system was clearly not working for BC. It was time to move on.

By John Grosso


One thought on “Commentary: Steve Donahue was Never the Right Fit for BC

  1. […] Commentary: Steve Donahue was Never the Right Fit for BC (Conte Confidential) […]

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