As the search for the next Boston College men's basketball coach drags out, many fans are starting to have that familiar feeling of doubt creep in.
... What if Boston College swings and misses on more than a few proven winners?
... What if Marquette and Wake Forest swoop in and nab BC's top targets?
... What if BC is unwilling to pay for a proven coach and hires the next head coach on the cheap?
With the Eagles competing in one of if not the top conference in the nation; one that boasts Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Tony Bennett, Jamie Dixon, Mark Gottfried, Jim Larranaga, Leonard Hamilton, Brad Brownell, Brian Gregory, Mike Brey and now Buzz Williams, ish just got pretty real in the ACC. I mean, when the worst coach in the conference is Brian Gregory, Boston College can ill-afford to get this hire wrong.
Those same feelings of doubt rendered their ugly head in the last BC coaching search. Bates ignored the advice of boosters, hiring Temple head coach Steve Addazio to serve as the Eagles football head coach. Fans pointed to the fact that Addazio wasn't linked to any other major conference openings or to his 4-7 season at Temple as proof of BC's underwhelming hire. Nevermind the fact that fans instead clamored for the hot coordinator coming off a National Championship Game appearance when Addazio served as a coordinator with a program that actually won a National Championship. Two in fact, and had head coaching experience to boot. Or the fact that Temple arguably won two more games than it was expected to in their first year back in the Big East competing with a roster full of MAC talent.
While the jury is still out on whether Addazio can sustain the same level of success as two of his three predecessors, he proved many of those doubters wrong after year 1, turning a 2-10 outfit into a 7-6 one -- engineering one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in program history -- and producing the school's first Heisman trophy finalist since Flutie.
This year's men's basketball coaching search is not last year's football head coaching search, so we should probably stop drawing parallels between the two. Consider:
Competition. Bates was competing with more than a dozen major conference programs when he replaced Frank Spaziani with Steve Addazio, including Auburn, Arkansas, Cal, Colorado, Kentucky, N.C. State, Oregon, Purdue, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Wisconsin. Many of those programs have deep pockets and are in stronger football conferences than the ACC. This year's basketball coaching search has an entirely different feel.
Boston College and Wake Forest are arguably the top two openings of any consequence left out there. Marquette has a rich hoops tradition and may very well out-spend both BC and Wake, but the future of new Big East is very murky right now. The conference simply can't offer the same level of competition, access and TV exposure as the ACC. A coach like VCU's Shaka Smart may make the move from VCU to Marquette, but I see that more as an individual career decision rather than a referendum on the relative strength of the Big East vis a vis the ACC. That, of course, assumes that Smart is offered a head coaching position in the ACC this offseason. Not every coach looking to make a move is offered every position and is left to decide which program is best. That's ... not how this works.
The competition looks nothing like the one BC experienced when they hired Addazio. It's the best possible time for a major conference program to be in the market for a new head coach.
Candidates. Though the administration has been very tight lipped on the search, there are more than a few strong coaching candidates out there for the taking. A lot of coaches will be looking to make moves this offseason despite the scant supply of major conference program openings.
Just because you aren't hearing any big names floated for the position doesn't mean that Bates isn't doing his due diligence vetting accomplished coaches. The guys names you are hearing floated for the position -- Tommy Amaker, Jim Calhoun, Walter McCarty -- might not even get an interview. There's a reason those names are being floated and it's likely not of the athletics department's doing.
Pay. The other concern surrounds pay. Many fans fear that BC will refuse to get in a bidding war for the services of particular coaches. Going back to the point about competition, which programs would BC get into a theoretical bidding war with (other than a current head coach's school)? There are far more quality candidates than quality openings this offseason. It's decidedly a seller's market.
Addazio was also compensated pretty fairly. The head coach inked a 6-year deal reportedly worth around $1.75 million a year. That's roughly in line with the rest of the conference and seems to be based in part on his head coaching experience. If BC finds a coach whose past job experience commands $2 million / year, the school can and will pay. At the same time, they aren't going to overpay for a candidate either. They aren't necessarily going to throw tons of money at a relatively inexperienced head coach just because they can. Getting the contract right is just as important as getting the hire right.
While BC's men's basketball coaching search looks nothing like the football one that resulted in the Addazio hire, I do think you can take away some key points that will factor into Bates' hiring process. Chief among them,
a) Bates will play things extremely close to the vest. We're obviously seeing this play out over the past week.
b) the names you are hearing from the media are speculative based on info coming from outside Boston College, and
c) all things equal, Bates values past college head coaching experience over no experience.