Remember when we said we'd be ranking the bad along with the good? Ladies and gentlemen - your 2014 year in Boston College basketball.
Every March, you fill out your bracket for basketball. There's always that region that's positively horrendous. Those regions are fun because they destroy your bracket, and they result in your buddy's girlfriend winning the whole damn pot, even if you pick the right team through to the Final Four. That's kind of what it's like being a BC basketball fan these days. On with the bracket:
1) Win It For DK vs. 8) Olivier Hanlan Named Wooden Award Preseason Top 50.
In his junior year, Hanlan's become the one household name on the Eagles team. A three-star recruit from prep school in New Hampshire, he's become Boston College's most reliable offensive weapon over the past couple of years. Averaging 18 points last year, he landed on the national radar by being the one constant foundation of the basketball program.
We're putting that up against the win for DK, probably the only thing in the entire bracket that can stand on its own without any explanation needed. We'll discuss it more later. This game is over by halftime. Winner: Win It For DK
2) Donahue Fired vs. 7) BC 69, Providence 60
Again, this probably isn't that close, but let's discuss it anyway. Jim Christian had wins over UNH, New Mexico, and Marist to this point, but there really wasn't much to make you believe the program turned the corner. That's when they hosted Providence in the 109th meeting between two historic, Catholic school rivals. BC defeated the Friars, last year's Big East Conference champion, 69-60, in front of a good crowd. Conte Forum wasn't packed, but the fans gave BC a clear home court advantage. In front of that crowd, BC displayed an intensity they haven't displayed in years. Olivier Hanlan jawed with PC head coach Ed Cooley, and his passion helped egg BC onto arguably its most marquee victory to date.
Unfortunately, it gets a rough first round matchup with one of the most voluminous stories of 2014. Anytime a coach is fired, it's a news story. When it happens in one of the major programs at a power conference school, it makes you pucker your sphincter just a little bit more. Ultimately, Steve Donahue was a great guy, a great man, but he bit off more than he could chew. He wasn't ready for the ACC, and the Ivy League coaching mentality didn't hack it. BC fell off in a big way, and for the second time in his tenure at The Heights, Brad Bates relieved a head coach of his duties. The impact of that is something that cast a shadow over the rest of the year and left an impact the likes of which we won't know for the next couple of years, even if we knew he was gone before the season ended. Winner: Donahue Fired
3) Christian Hired vs. 6) Anderson Transfers to Arizona
Ryan Anderson's transfer was practically a given. The Boston Globe reported on Anderson as one of a number of Eagles questioning their status amid rumors of a coaching change. After Brad Bates relieved Steve Donahue of his coaching responsibilities, it was rumored that Anderson asked to transfer but stood down after the athletic department asked him to wait until the coaching situation resolved itself. Any time there's a transfer request, it's slightly surreal.
This goes up against another completely surreal procedure: the hiring process of Jim Christian. As the process droned on, we watched a process we weren't quite sure of, and we weren't really sure who was coming to BC. We knew people wanted Shaka Smart, Bruce Pearl, and Jay Wright. We ended up with Jim Christian. Nobody knows if someone like Danny Manning was in the running or what took place, but we know what we ended up with. And what seemed like an underwhelming hire is becoming a little bit like Addazio Pt. 2—a guy willing to roll up his sleeves with passion for the game both on the court and on the recruiting trail.
Anderson hurt for the immediate, but I'd be more concerned if he transferred and there was no coaching change. Hiring Jim Christian was THE storyline of 2014, and the only way it doesn't win this bracket is if it runs into a similarly long-lasting topic of conversation. Winner: BC Goes Christian
4) Harvard 73, BC 58 vs. 5) Reggie Jackson Goes Off For Oklahoma City
The end of Steve Donahue began on the first day of 2014. On January 1, 2014, Harvard dominated BC and picked up a 73-58 victory. It loudly announced the Crimson as Boston's college basketball team with the team in the ACC left to pick up the pieces. If there were any questions about firing Donahue, they ended that day. Losing to Harvard is one thing, losing consistently to Harvard is another, but being handled like they were the ACC team and we were the Ivy League team was one step over the line. Not even beating Syracuse could save Donahue after this one.
As for Reggie, that was a breakout performance for the first round pick against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was high on legacy because we remembered when BC basketball was relevant, but it was very low on impact since it was an Oklahoma City vs. Memphis playoff series. Winner: Harvard Beats BC...bad
1) Win It For DK vs. Harvard 73, BC 58
Losing to Harvard on the first of the year had some huge impacts on the program because it all but sealed Steve Donahue's fate. The legacy of losing to Harvard (again) is one of those things we'll feel for a couple of years to come, especially since we can't look back on this era of BC basketball without saying, "Hey remember when Harvard killed BC?" So it's a formidable second round selection out of the basketball bracket.
But it goes up against one of those wins for the ages that will last forever. Amid the worst season in recent Boston College basketball history, we watched one of our favorite "BC people," Dick Kelley, pass away from his battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Everyone associated with Boston College athletics has a Dick Kelley story, and losing him felt like how the Celtics lost Red Auerbach before their TERRIBLE 2006-2007 season.
Sports are pretty amazing, though, and the thought of beating the undefeated, #1 team in the nation on their court after that event is what makes it wonderful. Steve Donahue coached the sidelines with confidence even though he was clearly a dead man walking. BC outplayed, outhustled, and beat Syracuse. They went to overtime and refused to be denied. The win didn't change the season, it didn't save anyone's job, and it didn't alter the course of the program. But for one shining night, sports took over and showed us it can be what we need when we need it. Winner: Win It For DK
2) Donahue fired vs. 3) Christian hired
Interesting juxtaposition here—which one do you think made more of an impact on 2014? If it resides with removing Donahue, then the key move of the past year was stopping him because he was such a subpar coach. If it's hiring Christian, then it's the step further.
Firing Donahue is one thing; hiring Christian is another. Firing Donahue implies the program will right itself. Hiring Christian implies the program wouldn't right itself without him coming on board. Depending on your view of who makes the bigger impact ultimately influences how you would answer it.
In terms of the bracket, consider this one of those games where UConn and Syracuse play six overtimes and nobody really deserves to lose the game. They have equal impact on the way the year went, but I think Christian's legacy and lasting image will be determined by 2015, 2016, and, if he makes it that far, 2017. Donahue's impact is measured by less than 10 wins and removal from the head coaching position in 2014. So after several overtimes, multiple foulouts, and a hail mary half court shot by Christian, Donahue wins it by 1. Winner: Donahue fired.
1) Win it for DK vs. 2) Donahue Fired
At first glance, the sentimental value for all of us immediately trends towards the win for DK. It's one of those powerhouse moments that we'll talk about forever, one of those moments that will come up in conversation. It's the purest form of victory, and it's one of those images and stories we'll carry with us as Eagles forever.
But is it enough to win 2014? In reading that last paragraph, it seems like a no-brainer, but it's maybe not as clear as it seems. Here's why: as emotional and as memorable as that win is, did it do anything to change the course of 2014? Go back and change the result of that game. If BC loses to Syracuse, nothing about 2014 changes. But if Steve Donahue isn't fired, the entire course of the summer and fall completely alters.
For that reason, we need to reanalyze their impact on the course of the year. I really think the win over Syracuse stands alone as one those moments with infinite legacy; we'll talk about that forever. But when we talk about the game, we usually use a statement along the lines of this:
"Syracuse was the team headed for the tournament. Boston College wasn't going anywhere. Maybe it didn't change the course of their season, but for that moment, Boston College stood on the court and decided they weren't going to be denied."
Losing that game, in fact, altered the course of the Syracuse season. Syracuse only won two games the rest of the year, over Maryland and Florida State, fell to second in the ACC, and lost their first ACC Tournament game against NC State. They wound up as a #3 seed, losing their second game to Dayton and never advancing to the Regional Semifinals. So that game would have a huge impact on the Syracuse 2014.
After winning that game, BC still finished 8-24 and didn't make the NCAA Tournament.
I say that not to take away from how we feel about it (regardless how much of a Debbie Downer I am right now). I don't want to reduce the legacy of it. Looking at this objectively, though, and removing the sentimental value, removing Steve Donahue had more of an impact on the year than one game in a lost season.
So to be honest, this decision isn't as easy as it might come across at first glance. It's not as obvious as it is at first glance. That said, the legacy of the Syracuse win is one of those things that resounds through the halls of Conte Forum and stands as an ultimate tribute to a man who gave his life to BC. I think that carries it to victory, but this one took a lot harder thought than it looked at first glance. See you in the Final Four, DK. Winner: Win It For DK