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Pollock: Why shouldn’t Schmidt talk to Boston College?

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 1:21 pm

Talk about a flashback.

When ESPN revealed late last week that St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt had met with Boston College about the Eagles’ open men’s basketball coaching job, following the firing of Steve Donahue, a bit of deja vu overcame me ... as in 28 years worth.

It was back in the early spring of 1986 that then-St. Bonaventure coach Jim O’Brien took a similar job at his alma mater, BC.

O’Brien, a controversial hiring in 1982 — he was the first non-Bona alum in that job in 29 years — came from UConn, where he was an assistant to Dom Perno, at the behest of Fr. James Toal, O.F.M., SBU’s Executive Vice President.

Fr. Toal, a no-nonsense administrator, didn’t blindly embrace the concept of the Bonnies only being coached by alums.

And, his choice was a good one. O’Brien still owns the best winning percentage — 67-51, .568 — of the last seven Bona coaches, though his critics point out that the lone post-season appearance (1983 NIT) was accomplished with the players of his predecessor, Jim Satalin.

After four seasons at St. Bonaventure, O’Brien was approached by BC when Gary Williams took the job at Ohio State. He returned to Boston College and the four-year veteran of three ABA teams had a solid 11-year stint with the Eagles before following Williams’ path to OSU.

AND THAT brings us to Schmidt.

Neither he, nor St. Bonaventure, has commented about ESPN’s and the Boston media’s report of a meeting with BC officials.

But we learned long ago that’s merely code for the interview having taken place ... a lie becomes a story unto itself and the truth hardly well-serves SBU.

As for Boston College’s interest in him, Schmidt didn’t merely graduate from there, he actually played his last three seasons for Williams, just before O’Brien got the job, and was part of a team that made four post-season tournaments, three NCAAs, two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight.

THE REALITY is this ... so what if Schmidt interviewed at the college from which he graduated?

Who wouldn’t ...  from mere flattery alone?

That also says BC quantified what Schmidt accomplished at St. Bonaventure.

Unfortunately, fans can be fiercely defensive and territorial.

Many of them take news that a coach or player might be leaving as a personal affront.

But doesn’t Schmidt have a responsibility to do what’s best for his career and family?

It’s not as if he just got here and is already blowing town.

Schmidt took over a program that was in shambles after the Anthony Solomon era and, in seven seasons, made it incrementally better.

He has his detractors, but if Schmidt left tomorrow, he would bequeath his successor a far better program than the one he inherited.

THEN, TOO, there’s a vast difference between interviewing and being offered the job.

And it’s not necessarily a good one with BC having joined the high-quality, 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference where its league foes include the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Virginia, Notre Dame, Pitt, Maryland and Clemson.

Donahue wasn’t fired because the Boston College athletics department was delighted with his 54-76 four-year record, culminated by this season’s 8-24, 4-14 in the ACC.

The feeling by some is that Schmidt is on the list merely because Harvard’s Tommy Amaker and Jim Calhoun, retired from UConn,  opted off of it.

But there’s also that old saying, “Just because I wasn’t my date’s first choice doesn’t mean I won’t have a good time at the prom.”

Reportedly Bona’s boss and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins are still in the BC mix.

There’s no reason to assume Schmidt would take the job if offered, but all coaches have egos and most are afflicted with a disease called “Terminal Uniqueness” (read: “I can handle it when nobody else can.”).

And from his standpoint there are plusses.

Of Boston College’s 24 losses, nine were by four-or-fewer points and all 10 players who started at least four games return.

Bottom line, if Schmidt isn’t offered the job, the point is moot.

But if it is, and he chooses to take it, good for him ... he’s earned that right.

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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