April 18, 2010

Which ACC school made the best hire?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: Three ACC teams -- Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest -- have new coaches. Which administration made the best hire?

David Fox's answer:
As much as I respect the job Steve Donahue did at Cornell, I have to say Brad Brownell to Clemson was the best hire in the ACC. The knee-jerk reaction is to pick Donahue since we just watched him take an Ivy League team to the Sweet 16, but look at Brownell's career path. He's taken two teams to the NCAA tournament, UNC Wilmington and Wright State. More important, he did it with -- for the most part -- three rosters. He has five consecutive 20-win seasons and six in his eight-year career as a coach. Critics might point to his three-year NCAA tournament drought, but in case you've been living under a rock, Butler is doing pretty well in the Horizon League right now. Clemson brought in a proven and consistent winner who will flourish at a second-tier school in the conference.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I've been a Brad Brownell fan since he followed Jerry Wainwright at UNC Wilmington, and I think Clemson has struck it rich. Nothing against Oliver Purnell, who turned Clemson into an almost-annual NCAA tournament team, which is a feat. But I think Brownell will make Clemson an annual contender in the ACC and a team that always challenges for at least the Sweet 16. I think Wake upgraded its Xs and Os ability big-time when it hired Jeff Bzdelik, but I have my doubts if Bzdelik can recruit as well as predecessor Dino Gaudio. I also wonder if new Boston College coach Steve Donahue will be able to recruit any better than Al Skinner did at BC. Recruiting in the Ivy League is vastly different than recruiting in the ACC -- and at an ACC school that is an especially poor geographic fit, basketball-wise, in the league to boot.

Jason King's answer:
Boston College surprised some folks when it fired Al Skinner, but I think it was a great move -- especially since the Eagles were able to land Steve Donahue from Cornell. The Big Red went 29-5 this season and reached the Sweet 16 by beating two ranked teams (Temple and Wisconsin). They eventually bowed out to Kentucky but were able to keep things competitive with the Wildcats. Cornell also gave No. 1 seed Kansas all it could handle during a regular-season loss at Allen Fieldhouse. All season long, Cornell was known as a disciplined, confident team that took care of the ball, limited its mistakes and took good shots. That's a reflection of Donahue, who could turn the Eagles into a power. BC only reached the Sweet 16 once in Skinner's 13 seasons. My guess is that the Eagles will do much better than that under Donahue. I'm also a big fan of the Brad Brownell hire at Clemson.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Boston College made the splashiest choice by getting Steve Donahue fresh off his Sweet 16 run with Cornell, but I believe Clemson made the best move. Brad Brownell has won at least 19 games in seven of his eight seasons as a head coach and has led two programs (UNC Wilmington and Wright State) to the NCAA tournament. He has won nearly two-thirds of his career games. Donahue did an amazing job in leading Cornell to three consecutive Ivy League titles, but I can't ignore that his teams posted losing records in each of his first six seasons. Donahue didn't even have a lifetime record above .500 until this season. New Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik's teams have recorded winning records in just two of his seven seasons, though he admittedly has worked at programs with losing traditions. Bzdelik does have major-conference experience at Colorado, but I'm not convinced he can recruit any better than Brownell or Donahue. Brownell's winning history makes him the safest pick.


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