Saturday, July 9, 2011

News and Notes: Saturday Edition

Below, some news and notes for Saturday...
  • Harvard Crimson writer, Martin Kessler, authored a contributing piece for Dime Magazine called, "Ivy League: Best Training Ground for Hoop Coaches." Kessler writes:

Joe Jones [the former Columbia head coach who was recently hired by Boston University is] the seventh coach since 2000 to be hired by an outside program after starting his head coaching career in the Ivy League. The list consists of Georgetown’s John Thompson III, Boston College’s Steve Donahue, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson, and Northwestern’s Bill Carmody. And when the 2011-12 season tips off, Jones will join Sydney Johnson – who was recently hired by Fairfield...

Why, you may wonder, have athletic directors from more highly-esteemed basketball programs dipped into the Ivy League – a conference with small athletic budgets and no athletic scholarships – to fill its coaching vacancies?

According to Donahue, the [Ivy League's] modest operation might just be the very reason. Donahue, who was hired by Boston College after coaching at Cornell from 2000 to 2010, says that the Ivy League’s strict admissions standards, back-to-back conference games, and limited resources force coaches to hone their skills, thus making them attractive candidates.

“It’s a very difficult situation in every aspect of coaching around basketball,” says Donahue. “There is a great deal of responsibility put on you as a coach that I think, once you get years and years of that, you really develop your craft.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Ivy League coaches manifests itself on the recruiting circuit. Ivy League coaches must first deal with a limited talent pool, as only players who reach certain academic qualification can be granted admission. Second, coaches must convince players and their families to cover the schools’ hefty price tags without the aid of an athletic scholarship.

“You figure out ways to be successful,” says Donahue, who led Cornell to the Sweet 16 in 2010 with a core of players who were not heavily recruited out of high school. “I think it really helps when you go to other places and try to go in and develop a program. I think you’re more prepared than you could ever imagine.”

But recruiting isn’t the only challenge facing Ivy League coaches. They are only allowed two paid assistant coaches, one fewer than in other conferences. They must prepare for games on back-to-back nights because the Ivy League holds its conference matchups on Friday and Saturday nights. And the lack of a conference tournament makes every game a do or die in the one-bid league.

“Your week of preparation has got to be great,” says Donahue. “I think it’s the best coached league in the country, and I thought that when I was there, and I still think that. It’s not necessarily the coaching but it’s the kids you’re coaching.”

...Donahue has gotten off to a strong start at Boston College, going 21-13 in his first year.


Anonymous said...

Martin Kessler cites a combined 536-414 record as evidence that "after leaving the Ancient Eight, former Ivy League coaches have had modest success."

That raw data fails to account for the fact that these Ivy alumni are not exactly getting hired at programs with all wheels already spinning at high speed.

Kessler names John Thompson as the Ivy alum with the highest winning percentage. Even he inherited a program which had reached rock bottom under Craig Esherick, not the powerhouse that his father had built two decades earlier.

Joe Scott, for all of his surprising failure at his alma mater, was runner-up for AP national coach of the year in his final year at Air Force, where they actually have a height LIMIT on players (because of jet cockpit restrictions).

Fran Dunphy and our Steve Donahue were named as well but, taken together, I think that the Ivy alums are doing a much better job than even their "modest" W-L records would suggest.

Anonymous said...

and what about Chuck Daly, Dick Harter and Jack McCloskey who left Penn for the NBA

Anonymous said...

Yes, achievement-wise, there is little doubt that the late Chuck Daly is the most successful all-around head coach to have spent his formative years as a D-1 head coach in the Ivy League (he actually started at BC). His run of four straight league titles has only been matched by Pete Carril. Then, consider that Daly took three teams to the NBA finals and got two championships with Detroit in the late 1980's.

As for coaches whose first D-1 job was in the Ivy League and spent their whole career in the college head coaching ranks, it is hard to say that anyone has done better in the W/L and post-season achievement column than Tom Penders (lifetime record 648-438), with an Elite Eight and Two Sweet Sixteen appearances.

Anonymous said...

Donahue's team is going to flop this year because he didn't recruit adequately for the ACC and Reggie Jackson jumped ship for first round money. He'll be back at a mid-major within four years.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Donahue took a B.C. team picked by many to finish last in the ACC a year ago to the second round of the NIT.

This could be a tough year for BC, but Donahue's program is doing quite well on the recruiting front.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if "many" people picked BC to finish last in the ACC, or if that's typical BRF hyperbole.

Bilas' preview seems to suggest that BC clearly wasn't perceived as the worst team in the ACC, and finishing 8th in the 12-team ACC generally gets you an NIT bid anyways.

Of course, this is not to imply that Coach D is not doing a great job in Chestnut Hill.