Usually, replacing the winningest coach in a program’s history is a thankless task. Yet somehow, Steve Donahue came out of the 2010-11 season smelling like roses. Taking over for longtime head coach and flex offense enthusiast Al Skinner, Donahue led Boston College to a 21-13 season and 9-7 conference record, a significant improvement over the 2009-10 season. Donahue was lucky to inherit a veteran team, stocked full of seniors and a first round NBA draft caliber talent in Reggie Jackson. Still, while that season was an improvement over the previous one, it too ended in disappointment: a second-round ACC Tournament exit against Clemson and a March spent watching other teams play basketball.
As for the summer turnover, well, it was near-complete. The downside of a team of mostly seniors is that seniors have this habit of graduating. The starting lineup was completely wiped out and the bench was decimated. Calling this year a rebuilding year is an understatement. Donahue is bringing in nine freshmen and two transfers to totally re-fashion a team that barely has anything in common with last year’s team. As for the newcomers? Well, the recruiting services didn’t think too highly of them. Despite bringing in so many players, Rivals rates BC’s 2011 crop as only the 9th best in the ACC. However, Donahue thinks that this is deceiving, considering the recruiting services focus more on raw athletic talent. Donahue got his kind of guys: Guys who can shoot, pass, and dribble even if they aren’t as naturally physically gifted as some of their peers. Years recruiting at Cornell means that Donahue has the potential to be a more wily recruiter than you might expect: Luring a player to a program without the ability to offer athletic scholarships has a tendency to hone recruiting skills. Similarly, the scholarship restriction in the Ivies drove Donahue further abroad, giving him a chance to extensively network and now he has a chance to snag players that might not even be on the radar of other ACC schools. Much has been made out of the heavy California contingent in BC’s freshmen class, but Donahue’s explanation as why he recruits so heavily from the Golden State is cogent and well-thought out. Using Euroleague style ball as his model, it seems clear that the coach is assembling a team that will thrive on open perimeter shots generated by fast and frequent ball movement.