On College Basketball

BC spinning its webs, but won’t snag Spider

By Mark Blaudschun
April 4, 2010

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INDIANAPOLIS — Each day brings a new name. Each name starts another rumor. Each rumor creates another round of speculation.

Put them all together in the gossip center of the college basketball world known as the coaches hotel at the Final Four, and you have a breeding ground for information and misinformation regarding the vacancy at Boston College.

Throw in the power and speed of the Internet and you carry the news across the country. Toss in some hard information, instead of rumors, and the intensity increases.

The buzz about BC yesterday was that Richmond coach Chris Mooney had taken himself out of the mix by signing a contract extension with the Spiders. Mooney had interviewed at BC Thursday and felt it went well, but he also saw some things that caused him to have some questions. Primarily, it was the practice facility and the transportation situation (commercial flights in most cases, instead of charters).

Next up on the interview list will be Northeastern coach Billy Coen. Coen, like Fairfield coach Ed Cooley, is part of the Al Skinner coaching tree.

Cooley, who interviewed Wednesday, remains a close friend of Skinner. He is also his own man, successful at Fairfield in his four seasons. Whether the linkage to Skinner works against him is unknown.

Coen has done a tremendous job in reviving basketball at Northeastern — on and off the court — and has a similar profile: connected to Skinner as a longtime assistant, but established now as a head coach with his own personality and style.

An outside factor is Cornell coach Steve Donahue, whose reputation has been on an upward curve for the past few years as the Big Red have established themselves as the best team in the Ivy League.

Donahue is a good fit in almost every phase and would not be put off by a lack of amenities. The question he had to answer for BC officials is whether his success the past few years in bringing in an NCAA Sweet 16-caliber roster can apply at the ACC level.

The standard line any AD uses when looking for a new coach is that a “nationwide’’ search will begin for the best candidate. What ADs don’t want is to reach out and be rejected, because more often than not the information becomes public very quickly.

BC talked to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who grew up in Sharon, went to BC, and has maintained his connections with the school. But it was more an inquiry of interest than an interview request, and Pearl quickly said he was happy at Tennessee.

Dayton coach Brian Gregory, whose team beat North Carolina Thursday night for the NIT championship, has been mentioned, but as of yesterday there appeared to be mutual non-interest.

Former Vermont coach Tom Brennan and current Vermont coach Mike Lonergan have also expressed interest.

The bottom line is that BC is a good but not great job. It is a good job in a great city in a blue-chip league. Is it at the top of the food chart in terms of overall facilities and fan interest? Of course not. The ACC will always be a league with a power base on Tobacco Road with Duke and North Carolina at the epicenter.

But the face of college basketball and of college athletics could be very much in flux. Among the major rumblings is that the Big Ten could have expansion plans involving as many as five teams, with not only Notre Dame but as many as four ACC teams targeted, included BC.

BC officials have said the answer to any Big Ten inquiry would be, “NO, NO, NO.’’ But the Big Ten could take a bite out of New England and New York by grabbing Rutgers, Syracuse, and Connecticut, as well as Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, which would give the Big Ten network coverage from New England through the Midwest and, if Notre Dame were included, across the nation.

With four teams gone, the Big East would collapse, of course, in football, but one of the offshoots would be for the ACC to come in and take the remaining four Big East teams — South Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati — to create a 16-team megaconference. The SEC would then have to react and would move to take Texas and Texas A&M. And suddenly you would have three 16-team superconferences.

All of that is only in the chatter stage, but the chatter is out there, and it trickles down to how schools compete and how coaches recruit and how athletic directors choose coaches.

For now, the task at hand for BC is to find someone to replace Al Skinner, and unless a dark-horse candidate emerges in the next few days, it seems that it will either be Cooley, Coen, or Donahue.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at