Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Donahue talks close games, defensive anchors, the Virginia game and Boston College Athletics SID Dick Kelley.
Q. You have played 16 games that were decided by five points or less or in overtime. You're 8‑8 in those games. Can you talk about why you play so many close games more than anybody in the ACC?
COACH DONAHUE: I would say in my 10 years at Cornell and my three years here, I don't know if I played this many combined. My last three years at Cornell, we had maybe one or two close ones each year. Even here at BC.
I look at it, maybe I'm spinning this in a positive. I just think with this young a team, to go out every night and really compete, it just shows you where we're headed with the right guys because we probably don't have enough to win all those 16. We went 8‑8. There's a couple of one‑point losses there that changes your whole season.
But in the same sense there's probably a side of me that says coming in if we had 16 close ones, I'm going to be happy because we didn't lay an egg, we didn't get down by 20 and forget about it. All those things are positive for us, in particular on the road.
Florida State, basically a one‑possession game, basically as was Wake Forest, basically as was Maryland. Those are three good road games we played that we have a chance to win in the last minute.
I look at the positive. But it's been an incredible season for me to go through and our guys, just the nature of competing in those many close games and figuring out ways to win, obviously the disappointment of losing at times.
Q. I've been asking coaches about defensive players. I know that's one of the things that comes usually from maturity. Are you starting to develop anybody that you see as a defensive anchor for this team?
COACH DONAHUE: Yeah, arguably we're the least defensive team in the league. I don't want to say the worst team because we're trying to get better at it. Obviously it's a sign of youth and experience when defense calls. When you look at good defensive guys in this league, it's veteran guys.
In our group, I think Joe Rahon has developed a mentality. He came in here as a good defender, and he's getting better. I thought he guarded Joe Hairston both games we played them as good as anybody in this league. Joe is a strong kid. He's 6'2". He has the right mentality. He's not too up. He's not too down. He values defense. I think he's become a good defender.
The other kid that's really evolved into a very good defender for us, I think you'll notice him as a junior and senior, is Eddie Odio. His ability to guard so many positions, if we go for a switch on a pick and pop, he's down, athletic, blocking shots and ordering shots that I just didn't anticipate him doing at this point in this his career.
The play of the game I thought yesterday was, down three, Joe Harris, who to me is the best player in this league this year, he goes in the lane, and Eddie blocks it, it's two points down the other end that quickly. To have someone out there that can do that is a difference maker for us.
There's a lot of veteran guys in this league. Names that come off, I think Joe Harris is a very good defender, Mitchell, Evans, Michael Snaer is a very good defender. I think Plumlee for Duke is very good defender. Older guys that to me are consistently there, understand the game, they're the guys to me that are the hardest to go against.
Q. Going back to the game yesterday, you call a timeout after Harris misses a second free throw. What were your options in order? It didn't look like that was your first option.
COACH DONAHUE: It wasn't. Virginia does such a great job on so many different things you run. You got to be very careful of what you do.
I didn't want to go straight ball screen is what I didn't want to do. We had some action on the strong side elbow that we'd go through Ryan Anderson, who to me is one of our better passers. We gave what we call a run‑at, a dribble handoff option. They defended both of them very well. Then Ryan gets it to Patrick.
As I said, in the postgame, I may have called timeout last year with Patrick driving it. This year we talked constantly how well Virginia loads up on the ball, and we have to skip the ball against them. There's no way to drive it and think you're getting to the rim.
I think that was in Patrick's mind. He drove it, he comes to a great jump shot, he comes to what we call an alley drive skip. Joe Rahon was there. He was in a good spot. They were playing Virginia defense. They were loaded up, did a good job. I just think Joe did a better job of being shot‑ready with great concentration to make a hard shot.
Q. You thought you would get the three would be your likely look there?
COACH DONAHUE: A lot of people say that, like when you're down two or you're down three with 40 seconds left, what are you getting? I don't know in college basketball if you got the ability to pick and choose, especially against a team like Virginia. Virginia is not going to let you get off a good shot near the basket. They're just that good at it.
You got to anticipate. To me, the standstill three from a kid who can make it, and open standstill three, is a better, higher‑percentage shot than going to the rim. It's just the way we're built. We always do that.
No matter what our option is, we're going to try to make people guard us. If they do, we're going to try to kick it out and get a standstill three. I think that's more of what took over there, is that mentality.
Q. Yesterday you said after the game this game was for Dick Kelley. I know the assistant coaches and some of the players made sure they came over to see him, were pretty emotional. Can you talk about that a little bit. You have a Senior Night coming up, but this was like Dick Kelley's night.
COACH DONAHUE: It was. To be honest with you, it's a lot more meaningful to me than any Senior Night, and that's with all respect to seniors. That's someone that has given his life to this institution, and I'm late to the party.
Personally what he's meant to me was an opportunity when I came to bring someone like myself who was completely new, not knowing what that place was about, and have someone that was so positive and encouraging to me, just an incredible, motivating guy to our kids, without any strings attached. We're going to make these kids better human beings, I'm going to be a part of their life, I'm going to try everything I can, not be their buddy, but a mentor and a critical eye that they're going to need that isn't a coach, that isn't someone that has another method of trying to get them to play better. This is a guy that just really loves the guys in his program and always has.
To me, for us to go out, play the way we did, you can't control if you win or lose, but you can control how hard you play, show how much you care about a guy like Dick Kelley. I think our guys genuinely love Dick. I think that's what showed yesterday in the game.
As I said, I was emotional just because of what he's going through. We're very similar in age. When I first got here, we worked out together. To watch what's happened is very hard to see, but it's also an incredible inspiration to all our guys in how he's handled it. It's been amazing.
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