Thursday, November 3, 2011

Morning Coffee with Steve Donahue: Part III

This concludes our series with Coach Donahue.  To be honest, this third part is probably my favorite in the series, even if it is the least substantive.  I would say that his answers to the questions about recruiting shed the most light on what Donahue is all about, namely hard work and fitting in with BC. 

I really want to publicly thank the coach again for sitting down with us for so long.  Honestly, there's no telling how long he would have let me sit there in his office if I didn't cut myself off.  It's just becoming more and more apparent that Donahue was a home run hire here...

Continued from...

Part I

Part II

Can you tell us a little about some of the culture changes that you've tried to implement since you've come in as head coach? 

I think I give our guys a lot of credit with that.  It's hard for me to judge what the culture was here before I got here so I don't really want to say anything about something I don't know about.  What's important to realize about our basketball players going forward is that people realize that we are very grateful that we represent Boston College in every aspect.  So we're going to try to reach out, whether it's community service projects, which we're very proud that we won the St. Ignatius Cup, and we're going to do those things.  We're also going to try to make sure that the students know that we care and that we want them involved in our program and that we want our student athletes integrated in with the student body as much as we can. 

I just want to continue to have that role as a program.  As someone, as I said, who's really grateful for the opportunity, we're going to try to do everything we can to represent each other out there.  We're going to try to do things unselfishly, on and off the court.  So, that's how we build the program. 

What about recruiting?  It seems like you're taking a lot of players from California.  Is that something you see as a long-term strategy in terms of building a California pipeline? 

Well I think that the strength of BC is that you can recruit nationally, probably more than a lot of schools can in the Big East.  For instance, I think that the ACC plays out nationally a little better.  I think that being a top 30 school in the country, being in a great city like Boston is something.  I think the familiarity I have in California with 20 years in the Ivies -building networks of people- that's basically how this class came about.  We were familiar with these kids.  They were on our radar academically and we were watching them.  And we were way behind for that class because we got there so late.  We usually have to recruit kids starting in their sophomore and juniors years, but we didn't have that opportunity necessarily.  So we had to figure out...and we needed a big to build this.  So we made sure of the things I told you about, trying to get the skill, the toughness, and the character.  And it may not be someone that people feel is good enough for this level at this point, but when we evaluate them, we figure out 'by the time he get's here, by the time he's in a year or two, he'll be a really good player who fits what we do well.  I think he can compete in the ACC.' 

I think that's where the California piece came in.  It was just a big state.  They do a terrific job out there.  There's a lot of programs you can get to know, and I think that's where it came from.  I don't necessarily feel that we're going to constantly go to California.  I'd love to go everywhere where there's players and I think that part of strategy is to try to go and get kids that maybe people don't realize where they're at, whether that's a local kid or one in Germany, or someone who we feel fits what we do.  Maybe they're not seen as much on the national scene. 

So do you not pay attention to the recruiting stars and evaluations of guys like ESPN and Rivals?  Do you solely go out and make your own evaluations or do you tend to use recruiting websites also?

To be honest, I probably haven't looked at any of those things in five or ten years.  My assistants do it for me, especially for younger kids, but they would never come in here and say 'hey, this kid's ranked number 22.  We gotta recruit him,' because I don't care.  I try to do it through relationships that we build over the years.  I think we evaluate and we work very hard at evaluating.  The only way you get good at evaluating is to evaluate a large pool of kids.  I think we had to do that at Penn and Cornell and it's benefited me here as opposed to if we went about saying 'now we're in the ACC so let's go get the rankings and let's look at the top 50 and see who we can get.'  With that, you may be relying strictly on those rankings instead of saying 'why don't I go see as many kids as I can and compare them and try to see what reality is.'  This way maybe I can go get a kid that fits what we do and is as good as that kid but may be 20 pounds less, or may not get off his feet as quickly, but, this kid, if we put 20 pounds on him, and with his skill set, and the character that we know about, maybe he does end up being as good. 

That being said, I think it's important that we do the area around here and know every kid and we've done that from 9th grade on.  I think we've done a very good job evaluating every kid, high ranked or not, trying to make sure that we're doing our best to get those kids on our campus; really evaluating them, getting them to know each other, build relationships.  So, our goal is 'hey everyone know's this kid is a top 10 player, he fits BC, he's in our area, we did our homework, and we developed a relationship with him.  So it's not like I ignore those rankings, it's just that I don't look at them.  It doesn't do anything for me. 

One of the things we tend to talk about on the blog is the fact that BC sometimes seems a little outside of the Boston area.  In that, it doesn't seem to draw a lot of fan support from people in and around Boston who have no other connection to BC.  What is one thing that BC can do to try and change that?

Well, I think the thing you have to realize is that this isn't unique to BC in terms of what you're talking about.  I grew up in Philadelphia, and Villanova is obviously the biggest school there, but like Boston, not as many obviously, but there's hundreds of colleges that have other affiliations, and visible ones like St. Joe's and Temple.  And those people will not root for Villanova just for that fact.  Well that goes on here too, just like in every other major city.  So, it's a hard thing to try to change people that just don't want to. 

I think that the important thing that we need to do is that we continually improve our product as best we can in terms of the entertainment value at the arena.  We make it a tremendous entertainment experience for all ages, and we do our job in terms of playing a style of play that will resonate with all Boston sports fans.  Get away from saying 'hey, we're just representing Boston College' and get to 'we want all of you to come and watch here.'  I'm also confident that if we continue to build this, and we win basketball games, and we play a certain style, that they will be very excited.  I think we'll present it in a way that people will want to get on board.  But you have to be very careful about how you go about it because people have other allegiances just because of rivalries between schools and how they feel.  I just want people to realize that we're doing everything we can to help them into our arena to come support us. 

What about Donahue's Disciples? 

(laughs)  Well...where to start...These guys came to us last year and said 'we'd like to improve the fan support' and we loved it.  They asked if they could have my support and I said 'I'll do whatever you want.'  I didn't know that they were going to come up with that name and do all that.  But the part is that I'm comfortable with it because I don't want the focus on me, I'm not someone who does that.  But at the same time, I don't want to disappoint the students.  If they think that's the way to do it and they want to have fun, I'm all aboard.  We'll go out and do everything we can to get students excited about it.  It's funny.  It makes sense.  If it get's kids fired up, then I'm all aboard. 

Did you see Reggies Veggies last year also? 

I did.  I had those guys in the office, I love what they did.

Just to start wrapping it up...Who here at BC, that you've gotten to know, do you admire the most?

Well, I think I'm very fortunate to have a terrific boss in Gene Defilippo.  He's obviously the guy I got to know the best.  I was amazed at his passion and his love for Boston College.  I think he's [ best guess is "served"] here from the day I met him.  I'm amazed at his passion for Boston College.  He really made it feel like it was right to be here, and he's done everything he can to make us feel welcome.  He's helped us moving forward. 

And obviously, probably like a lot of Boston College fans, I've admired Jerry York.  I'm just amazed at how...and I'm fortunate to have worked for a guy very similar to him...I think Fran Dunphy was very similar to that there's no ego.  It's all about the kids, and yet you can compete at the highest level and still be a very good person.  He obviously enjoys what he's doing.  It's genuine that he has respect for everybody and it's impressive to see someone who's that good at what he does and still be as humble as he is.  It's been fun.

If the guys on the team could make fun of you for one thing what would it be?

(laughs)...There's a lot of things.  You kidding me???  And they do, I'm sure.  I'm sure they're sick of my whistle.  I'm sure that's something they make fun of me for all the time.  They're probably tired of it already.  Oh, I don't know, that's something you should probably ask them.  I'm sure there's a lot of stuff...I'm sure I'm entertaining to mimic, at practice, they probably think I lose my mind at times, so, I'm sure they have a lot of things.

Alright, thanks coach.


  1. So I decided about a month ago that I've bought in 100% to this guy and his plan. I think we're heading for great things.

  2. ATR-

    Excellent interview. I was particularly impressed by Coach Donahue's observations about BC's defense (or lack thereof) last year. Our lack of defensive fundamentals has been maddening and cost us a number of games throughout the Skinner era. Cleaning up the defensive end may buy us time to mature on the offensive side.


  3. I'm sold on the Don as well. This should be a tough year as the kids learn but I'm excited to see them as sophomores, juniors and then seniors.

    DC-BC 95

  4. ATR,

    Proud of BC for bringing in Coach D and proud that you guys have been added to the BC blogosphere. Keep up the great work.

  5. The Captain has the right attitude and focus to be very successful at the Heights. Give him a couple of more years and BC could be a perennial ACC contender.


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