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Donahue has rebuilding project at BC
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.
Steve Donahue has no easy task.
Forget about all the skepticism about Donahue's basically skipping a level, going from the Ivy to the ACC and how difficult the transition will be competing against the Big Boys on Tobacco Road.
As BC's coach for 13 seasons, Al Skinner won more than he lost in the rugged ACC.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
How about having to follow Al Skinner in Chestnut Hill?
Over the past three years, Boston College has taken a hit (the Eagles were eight games under .500 in ACC play) – and it’s no coincidence the drop-off came shortly after longtime assistants Bill Coen (Northeastern) and Ed Cooley (Fairfield) departed for head coaching gigs.
But Skinner, despite being labeled as “lazy” by some due to his lackluster recruiting approach and cushy hours (I now prefer to use the term “efficient”), was one of just four coaches to have at least a .500 mark in ACC play.
The others have all won national titles: Coach K, Roy Williams and Gary Williams.
The other difference: They have three of the elite jobs in the country.
It’s not that Boston College isn’t a good spot for a coach, but let’s face it: Few truly care about college sports in these parts, the facilities are subpar and hoops ranks third on campus behind hockey and football.
"I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t be very good,” Donahue said. "This is a great city, and this program has tradition. There are so many positives.”
"The administration has been terrific,” he added. "It’s clear how committed they are to winning.”
But it’ll take some time to get Boston College back on the national radar.
Skinner and his staff didn’t exactly leave the cupboard full after last season’s 15-16 campaign in which the Eagles finished eighth in the league with a 6-10 record.
Donahue inherits a team that has a trio of ACC-caliber players: seniors Joe Trapani and Corey Raji and junior guard Reggie Jackson.
But the Eagles are woefully thin, and the rest of the team is a question mark. Starting point guard Biko Paris, of whom Donahue spoke glowingly, hasn’t shown he can be a starting floor leader for an ACC contender. Big men Josh Southern and Courtney Dunn are more suited to the mid-major level. Dallas Elmore is still an unknown quantity.
Donahue said goodbye to Cornell after leading it to the Sweet 16.
So, it’s going to be a process for Donahue.
"It’s a daunting task this year because of the lack of depth,” Donahue acknowledged.
Don’t be surprised if the Eagles finish in or near the cellar of the ACC this season.
Donahue has said he will prioritize trying to get the local talent to remain home – something the previous staff was unable to accomplish. However, Donahue also made it clear he won’t go hard after those players if they don’t fit into his philosophy.
"They have to be the right kids for us,” Donahue said.
Donahue has already out-produced his predecessor in getting out in the community, whether that be meeting with the AAU coaches or doing speaking engagements.
It just wasn’t Skinner’s deal.
He just wanted to coach – and he did it well with getting guys to buy into his even-keel approach and tight flex system.
For a four-year stretch from 2003 to 2007 that spanned the school’s final two seasons in the Big East and its first two in the ACC, Boston College was 98-35 with a quartet of NCAA tournament appearances.
But Coen and Cooley brought in future NBA guys like Jared Dudley and Craig Smith – two California kids who were lightly regarded coming out of high school.
Donahue has already hit the West Coast hard and has a trio of players committed in the Class of 2011 from California: big man Kyle Caudill, skilled forward Ryan Anderson and guard Lonnie Jackson.
None is a household name.
Then again, neither were Dudley and Smith when they arrived on campus.
"The type of kid that fits Boston College fits our style,” Donahue said. "Guys who have a high IQ and know how to play the game.”
Guys like Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote and Louis Dale – who helped Donahue get to the ACC after three consecutive NCAA tournaments and a Sweet 16 appearance this past March.
Donahue’s style is to push the ball and use the three-pointer, but he understands it’ll be difficult to make wholesale changes to a group of players who have played the same way for their entire careers.
"A lot of these guys have played 100 games under the previous staff,” Donahue said. "So we aren’t going to ask too much of them.”
That should be the same with Donahue. At least for a while.
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