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Expendable leadership

Dan Goldin, meet Grady Little.

Even though you are neighbors, professionally speaking, you don't know each other and you probably never will. Heck, you could both be ex-Bostonians by next weekend.

Nevertheless, you are linked. You are linked by both being victims of the same hair-trigger atmosphere of impatience that now pervades Boston.

Goldin is to take over as president of Boston University on Saturday. Only it very well may not happen.

Some trustees, reportedly offended by Goldin's brash manner and lack of deference to former BU president/chancellor John R. Silber, would like to rescind the offer to Goldin.

The matter has gotten as far as a scheduled vote later this week, and Goldin's support is now being summed up with words like "crumbling."

Unless you took up residence in a cave a couple of months ago, Little requires no introduction. Since the debacle in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, his tenure has been on professional death watch.

Now that the Marlins have knocked off the Yankees, many seem to believe Little's two-year tour as skipper of the Red Sox could end at any time.

Now, it is virtually unthinkable for a college president to be fired before his hiring has taken effect.

It is not unthinkable for a manager to be fired under any circumstances, but it's unusual for one to be canned after a season any reasonable observer would call surprisingly successful.

The rules, however, are changing quickly. The idea now is to cut your losses. So what if Goldin has a $600,000-a-year deal, one that could cost millions to undo? He is clearly uncomfortable with the specter of Silber's constant presence, and Silber isn't going anywhere.

To be fair, Silber seems willing, at 77, to hand over the reins. But he regards BU as an institution he built and drove to prominence, and he plans to continue to be a part of it. If Dan Goldin doesn't like that, apparently he's expendable.

In a slightly more sane environment, Goldin would take office, and perhaps things would eventually cool off.

Maybe the past and future of Boston University would discover that they can coexist. Goldin, after all, couldn't have survived as administrator of NASA, a frequent political punching bag, without honing some diplomatic skills.

But if he has support among the trustees, they didn't seem to be jumping to his defense this weekend.

In a calmer time, Little might have survived to fight the next war as well. Two second-place finishes, two seasons of winning more than 90 games, all that meant nothing when the Sox couldn't hang on to beat the dreaded Yankees.

Admittedly, Little did not help his cause with that strange interview he gave late last week, the one in which he publicly relished the prospect of haunting Fenway Park.

But maybe calm is overrated. After all, why put off the inevitable? As Jon Westling could have told Goldin (or can tell whoever follows Goldin), the allegiance of the trustees belongs, ultimately, to Silber.

And if Grady Little's toast, why drag your feet? I mean, can you imagine what Opening Day would be like?

There's just one problem, though, with this new aggressiveness.

Boston's newly discovered trigger finger. There's no guarantee that the next manager will be a better manager.

And, since no college president worth his salt will want Silber sitting on his shoulder, BU could likewise find that trading up isn't as easy as it sounds.

But those are issues for later, right?

First things first: Dan Goldin will be lucky to get to Saturday as BU president. And Halloween is right around the corner; Grady Little can start his new career almost immediately.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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