A sad tale of two basketball programs

It was the best of times (once).

It was the worst of times (now).

It isn't even the Ides of March, nor Selection Sunday and the basketball seasons at Boston College and the University of Massachusetts are over.

The Eagles were a woeful 9-23, while the Minutemen were a more respectable, but still not acceptable 14-18. Over the past two seasons, the combined conference records of the two programs was 12-60.

Clearly, both programs, which had seen far better times in the not too distant past, are pointed in the wrong direction.
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Here is where they head in different directions.

In a move which was as decisive, as it was difficult, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford followed UMass's season ending loss to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 tournament in Pittsburgh with an announcement shortly after the game that basketball coach Derek Kellogg was being fired after 9 seasons.

You could argue correctly that there are signs of life and progress at UMass. The Minutemen have talent on the roster, they can compete in the A10, their facilities match or better many Power 5 conference schools. They also have a leader in Bamford, who has a clear vision of the direction UMass must take to succeed.

Compare that with what BC has or doesn't have--talent, facilities, realistic expectations of competing in the ACC--and there is no comparison. UMass is a better job. Kellogg made as much $1.1.6 million--as Christian. The Minutemen can realistically compete for the A-10 title EVERY year.

But UMass wasn't winning enough. ""It was a hard decision to make,'' said Bamford in a teleconference with reporters on Friday. ""But we needed more consistent results competitively''

So Bamford made the change. And he did it in Pittsburgh after the game, which sounds harsh and cold blooded to some, but was done because next week is spring break at UMass and the players weren't flying back to campus, they were headed home. Bamford did not want to have the players hear about the dismissal of a popular coach. He wanted to tell them himself.

"Part of the job,'' he said, when asked about the reaction. ""It had to be done and I felt that was the right way to do that.''

An example of leadership. At BC, it is invisible. Athletic director Brad Bates announced his resignation last month and the job has yet to be posted. BC seems to be in no hurry to do anything. Christian, who received a year's contract extension a year ago after the Eagles posted an 0-18 ACC record, was told at the end of this season, after a 2-16 conference record that his job was safe.

Not on merit, although Christian is working hard to build BC back to where they can make a break through.
The job is safe now because there was no one in place to hire a new basketball coach. So the process will continue at its own pace.
When a new AD is hired--perhaps in late May--that person will then have a full year to evaluate the football and basketball programs and then make decisions about the future. If football coach Stee Addazio, who has had his own problems in rebuilding a winning program, or Christian can find a winning formula, BC can move ahead.
If not, the Eagles will be in the same position they are now. But the time table is much much slower.

At UMass, the pace will be much quicker.

Bamford already has a list of potential candidates. He could go in any number of directions.

Bill Coen, has done a terrific job at Northeastern and would do the same thing in Amherst. There are mid-major cooaches such as Pat Kelsey at Winthrop, Tim Cluess at Iona, and John Becker at Vermont who could move up in competition to the A10. Florida Gulf Coast's Joe Dooley would also be a good fit. So would King Rice at Monmouth.

UMass could also make a look back to the future move and turn to former BC and Rhode Island coach (and UMass graduate) Al Skinner.

Or there could be someone with experience at the major level like Brian Gregory, who Bamford knows from their days together at Georgia Tech, who might fit into the mix.

Bamford and UMass will make the right hire. They will get better.

At BC, there are no guarantees about anything.

So let's see how this plays out at two schools, who should be at the prime cuts in Massachusetts basketball, but are far short of that right now.[/membership]

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