I will start this article with a few statements/caveats:
1. By all accounts, Boston College women's basketball coach Erik Johnson is a world-class human being—based not only on reports in the media, but also upon what I've heard about him from people close to the situation. When it comes to the goals of student-athletes' off-court and academic development, one would be hard pressed to find anyone better. He's also proven that he can coach, having been an assistant under Cathy Inglese during her successful run at BC and having led the Denver program to mild success, including a WNIT appearance, in his first head coaching gig.
2. I am a fan of the job Brad Bates has done so far as Boston College Athletic Director, and believe a solid majority of his decisions have been very good ones.
3. I know nothing about women's college basketball recruiting, and so I would not be able to tell you if Johnson has a whole bunch of talent in the pipeline expected to lead BC up the ACC ladder and in to the NCAA tournament picture in the near future. So feel free to educate me.
With all of that said, I was befuddled by the news that Boston College extended the contract of coach Johnson to stay at the helm of the BC women's basketball program through 2019, after three seasons in which BC finished 12-19, 12-19, and 13-17.
I am not advocating for the coach's removal. After inheriting a program that sank all the way down to a 7-win cellar dwellar in Sylvia Crawley's final year, Johnson took over a program that was going to require a long rebuild and some serious work to climb up the ranks of the extremely competitive ACC. Much like with the men's team, BC faces the obstacle of having to compete against schools in more fertile recruiting ground and with more of a basketball pedigree. The academics card can't necessarily win out either, because there's no shortage of elite academic institutions that produce strong women's basketball programs. So it's not realistic to expect the program to return any time soon to the success it had under Cathy Inglese (thanks, Gene!).
The program even made some noticeable strides this season. After a slow start with some bad nonconference losses, BC rallied to outperform expectations in the ACC, including a respectable 4-4 stretch to end the regular season, and big wins over both Duke and NC State.
But there seems to be no need to offer a contract extension here. Johnson's original deal was a 5-year contract that had him signed through 2017, so it's not like Johnson was going in to his lame duck year.
What's the motivation behind extending the deal? Is there a fear that Johnson might be poached by a bigger program? If not, is Bates absolutely, positively confident that Johnson's results will improve in the next couple of years, preventing BC from having to buy out another contract? Realistically, if BC does not at least contend for a spot in the NIT in the next 2 seasons, it would be hard to not consider a different path—unless the school is at the point of having no expectations of success for the women's hoops program.
Some fans will draw comparisons to the Addazio extension, which drew a mixture of praise and criticism from various segments of the fanbase, but I think the comparisons are off base. Addazio instantly turned BC into a postseason team, and got so much more out of the scraps on his first roster than his predecessor did, that it was very clear the team was trending upward. Also, in the big money, high stakes world of D1 football, the prospect of a coach being poached is a lot more likely, and so locking in a promising coach is more important and necessary. I'm not sure the same threat exists here with Coach Johnson.
And to round things off, Addazio was Bates' guy, and it makes sense that Bates would be well invested in him. Erik Johnson was a GDF hire. But Bates owns the rebuild of this program now.
All that said, I freely admit to not knowing what I'm talking about when it comes to women's hoops since I only casually follow the program. If any of you know better than me, please let me know why you think this was a good or necessary move. Until that time, I'll be here scratching my head.