Steve Donahue was fired as basketball coach at Boston College on Tuesday after four seasons without an NCAA tournament berth and two with the most losses in school history.
Donahue was let go with one year left on the five-year contract he signed to succeed Al Skinner, who led the Eagles to the NCAA tournament seven times in his 13 seasons.
“Steve got a vote of confidence at some point during the season,” BC athletic director Brad Bates said at a news conference. “Unfortunately, that confidence wavered in subsequent weeks with the team’s performance.”
The Eagles were 8-24 two years after going 9-22.
Donahue’s biggest win came when the Eagles beat top-ranked and previously unbeaten Syracuse on the road, 62-59 in overtime on Feb. 19. But they were just 1-5 after that, finishing the season with a 73-70 overtime loss to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Bates said he looked “at the body of work over the course of a season” rather than assess the program after certain games. “Either way this decision went, it would disappoint constituents from Boston College.”
Now he plans a thorough search for a new coach.
There’s “no rush to make the hire,” Bates said. “This is a long-term decision and you can’t hurry into some spontaneous decision. So we need to move as quickly as possible, but we need to be very deliberate in terms of the timing of the process.”
The Eagles’ strength was on offense but they struggled on defense and in rebounding, especially with 7-foot Dennis Clifford limited to two games by arthritic knees.
Bates said he talked with Donahue almost every day since the season ended with the loss to Georgia Tech last Wednesday.
“That’s part of the evaluation of what leads us here today,” Bates said. “What is he thinking? What is he trying to achieve? So that was all part of our discussion.”
Donahue, 51, took over at BC after leading Cornell to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2010, that team’s third straight appearance in the tournament.
BC went 15-16 the previous season and Donahue turned that around the next season, leading the Eagles to a 21-13 record and the National Invitation Tournament, where they lost in the second round. He didn’t have another winning season, going 9-22, 16-17 and 8-24.
The Eagles were 54-76 in Donahue’s four seasons.
They fell from 8-5 last season to 4-9 this season in non-conference games despite the return of all five starters as Donahue played a tougher schedule outside the ACC, hoping to improve the Eagles’ chances of reaching the NCAA tournament.
They didn’t come close.
They started at 1-4, losing to Providence, Massachusetts, Toledo and Connecticut. All are in the NCAA tournament except Toledo, which made the NIT. In their last two games before their conference schedule, the Eagles lost on the road to Purdue and USC, which both finished last in their conferences.
Now BC could lose Olivier Hanlan, its leading scorer each of the past two seasons, who could make himself eligible for the NBA draft.
“Whenever you have a change in leadership, you worry about attrition,” Bates said.