Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo has dealt with it all during his 13 year tenure at The Heights. The sudden departure of longtime football coach, Tom O’Brien, to rival N.C. State, the dismissal of top-recruit and current NBA player Sean Williams, the decision to leave the Big East for the larger media market in the ACC, the firing of O’Brien’s replacement Jeff Jagodzinski, and the media attention towards star linebacker Mark Herzlich and his battle to overcome a cancerous disease, just to name a few. However, most recently, Defilippo had to make yet another tough decision when he chose to part ways with longtime BC basketball coach, Al Skinner. “Big Al” had been a rock-solid icon for a basketball program that had been completely rebuilt under his reign, along with being BC’s all-time winningest coach; Skinner led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament six of the last seven years and had a keen eye for evaluating and recruiting underrated talent.
Defilippo’s next challenge was to find a replacement. He wanted a coach who was going to be an icon and a leader (as was Skinner), but more importantly he wanted Skinner’s replacement to have a proven, up-tempo coaching style. “Big Al’s” teams had always been comprised of under-rated talent specifically targeted to play in a flex-style offense, and while the flex repeatedly proved difficult for teams to defend, it often drew crowds to sleep with its lackadaisical, leisurely pace. An up-tempo team would not only bring in more fans, but potentially draw more athletic recruits.
After interviewing a handful of candidates, Gene had found his man in former Cornell head coach Steve Donahue. After spending a decade in the Ivy League, coach Donahue was eager to accept his new challenge. “It was extremely difficult to leave Cornell,” Donahue said. “I loved being the head basketball coach at Cornell University. For 10 years, my family and I developed great relationships. I had an unbelievable experience with tremendous student-athletes. I had a great administration. I knew it would take an unbelievable opportunity to leave.” Boston College had presented that opportunity. Donahue, who signed a six year deal, certainly brings a new style to The Heights. “We play fast, not necessarily the most athletic fast in terms of that but we averaged the most (shots) in our league and were in the top 25,” he said. “I would love to average 75 to 80 (shots). Simply put, I believe in playing before the defense is set. If we have a great shot before the defense is set, we’re going to attack it.”
With the season still months away Donahue has to wait to start attacking ACC defense’s, however, he has certainly raised eyebrows attacking on the recruiting trail. As part of the coaching change, a number of former BC players decided to transfer including Rakim Sanders (Fairfield), Evan Ravenel (Ohio State), and former Skinner recruits Brady Heslip (Baylor) and Kevin Noreen (West Virginia). To replace such talent, Donahue and his staff have been working hard signing 6’10 center Dennis Clifford (Milton, MA) and 6’7 forward Eddie Odio (Miami, FL), while also getting some incoming transfers of their own, adding Travis Taylor (Monmouth) and Matt Humphrey (Oregon). Taylor, a 6’7 wing, could replace the scoring ability of Sanders. Monmouth’s star player averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last season.
Written by: Charlie McCann