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October 16, 2013

Steve Donahue


THE MODERATOR:  We have Steve Donahue from Boston College.
Steve, you have a rare opportunity this year.  You get to coach five returning starters.  Obviously the game of college basketball has changed a lot.  Talk about that opportunity.
COACH DONAHUE:  I think obviously it's a very unique situation in this day and age, especially high major basketball, where you can bring in a group of kids as freshmen, play them a lot, lose, go through some values, build on that, bring in a couple more guys, then have the opportunity to reward your team hopefully with all the hard work and perseverance, experience that they gain.
Hopefully you have a great season based on all the things you worked on.
An opportunity that wouldn't have presented itself unless we actually started them as freshmen, as we did.
THE MODERATOR:  Is it hard to have the long view?
COACH DONAHUE:  I've unfortunately coached some really bad teams in my day.  My experience at Cornell taught me a lot.  I never really judge my teams on wins and losses.  That's kind of coach's speak.  But I don't.  I do it on quality of growth.  That means individually, that means collectively, physically, mentally.
I just thought when I got this job, I talked to my AD, I said, We got a chance to be okay the first year.  We had a really good year.  Tied for fourth.  But years two and three are going to be building.  Are you with me on that?  Sure.  Okay, let's go.
I think my experience, as I said, at Cornell helped me prepare for that.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  Am I right in thinking that you had all five starters back in 2010 at Cornell?  Talk about anything you draw off that experience this year.
COACH DONAHUE:  We had five starters back.  Very similar scenarios in how we built that, what we did here.
I was very fortunate.  I know it's crazy.  There was a clean cut from our program that the former regime had after one year.  At the time, in April of that year, I had one scholarship player on campus, one player.  Nine guys were coming.  I think that was a good thing, to be quite honest.  We could do what we did at Cornell, have veteran guys work together, play together.
My experience told me that after about 50 college games, if you get a kid who can play, start 30 minutes, go through 50 games, early in their career, after I think you get a kid who figures it out.  I think that's what you saw when we won five out of seven at the end.  You saw a group that really understood what they were in for every night.
They understood what to expect.  I thought you saw a team that was able to succeed once they figured that all out.

Q.  You knew what Big East basketball was like.  Coming to the ACC, is there a different brand of basketball down here?  Talk about the challenge of making that transition.
COACH DONAHUE:  Obviously for me personally, dramatically different play from Ivy League.  I was 20 years in the Ivy League.
Syracuse, I think they are in for an eye‑opening experience.¬† The basketball is dramatically different, not because it's in the south, but just because of the programs.
That's the great thing about college basketball, unlike the NBA, teams are dramatically different.¬† The style of play in this league is dramatically different than the grind‑it‑out physicality of the Big East.¬† Doesn't mean they're not going to be successful, it's just different.¬† A different flow to the game.
I think our league is very unique in that all the places are on campus as opposed to the Big East where you're going to Madison Square Garden, Verizon Center, Wells Fargo, the dome.¬† I think the home court is a huge advantage.¬† I think those are things that those three schools are going to see as eye‑opening.

Q.  We had Ryan and Olivier in here this morning.  Break down their games, how they've developed.
COACH DONAHUE:  Both have done a terrific job since they arrived on campus.  How we end up with those two guys, they weren't finished products in high school.  Ryan was probably overlooked, probably a little heavy, not the most athletic guy coming out of high school.  Basically he's transformed his body.  Now you see a kid who I think overachieved dramatically because of his physical limitations.  That's because he's young, going against great athletes.  He's physically fit, older, stronger.  He has that knack of scoring the basketball.  He has different ways of scoring.  He rebounds, has an ability to track the ball down that you can't teach.
Olivier, the biggest thing coming into college basketball, he's never been asked to score.  He's always been a kid that tried to fit in.  His AAU, high school, he didn't know if he had the ability to really score.  When he was asked to score last year, he's got a special ability to score the basketball in different ways, and he works at it.  As hard a worker that I've ever coached on his individual game.
When you get a kid that's that talented and works at it, I think that's what you saw in Olivier.

Q.  Obviously with the five starters back, expectations are going to be pretty high out there.  Now you have Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame coming in to make it harder.  Is it like, Not this year?
COACH DONAHUE:¬† I think it's a great thing for us.¬† I think it's a great thing for Boston College to have even a better league.¬† If you look at our non‑league schedule, I think we have arguably the best non‑league schedule in the country.¬† We're playing five true road games, another four neutral games.¬† No one does that.¬† We have only three guarantee games.
My feeling is that we can't afford to be at BC, play a lot of average to mediocre teams, go 12‑2, then have a triple‑digit RPI and expect to win 13 games in this league.
We're going to have to somehow win big games November, December, January and February knowing that we're going to lose a lot as well.  That's the whole game now.  The NCAA tournament is the RPI Invitational.
I invite better teams in our league, I really do.  Gives you more opportunities to win big games, improve your RPI, make an impact on the Selection Committee.

Q.  Was there a game during the course of the season last year where you saw your guys turn a corner and you started to feel the things you were imparting on them was being absorbed in the proper fashion?
COACH DONAHUE:¬† Cut it in half.¬† The pre‑season still felt like the year before.¬† We struggled.¬† We lose to Bryant.¬† Still not feeling like we're there.
We go into the league and we play NC State, if you remember, really well, a very talented team. ¬†Then from that point on, I say we're going to be fine.¬† We played Duke and Miami to one‑point losses at home.¬† We beat a really good Virginia team with a buzzer‑beater down 12.¬† I think that day is when I probably felt the best about my team, where we were heading.¬† Felt really good about fighting through adversity, beating a good team, down by 12.¬† I think that's probably the moment that it really hit me.

Q.  A moment ago you said to take the league out of it, this new conference is good for BC.  Talk about the conference as a whole.  Does this have the potential to be what SEC is to college football, be the dominant conference year in and year out?
COACH DONAHUE:¬† I think it definitely has the potential.¬† I say this 'cause I think we all have to do a very good job in our non‑conference.¬† I'm trying to do my part for the league.¬† I think we should all schedule up.¬† Everybody's situation's different.¬† Job security, all that.
That being said, if we do that, I think we can be the most dominant amateur athletic conference that's ever been put together.  No one has put this type of résumé together.  Hall of Fame coaches, national championships, incredible traditional power basketball programs.  Never been put together like this.
No one has been bad.  This is not against the Big East when they got 11 bids.  There's five bad teams in that league, traditional bad teams for 20 years.  Everybody in this league has been to the tournament since 2007.  There's no bad program.
We have a great opportunity to set the bar that's never been set before.
THE MODERATOR:  Good luck on a great season.
COACH DONAHUE:  Thank you.

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