Steve Donahue may be safe at Boston College.
Despite finishing 8-24 and missing out on postseason play again, BC has informed Donahue he will return for a fifth season next year, Sports Illustrated reported.
The news came two days after the conclusion of a disappointing season in which the Eagles had the most losses since they lost 21 games in the second year of Al Skinner’s 13-year tenure in 1998-99.
Donahue had earlier asserted that his job was safe, with two years remaining on a six-year contract.
According to SI, Donahue might not be the only key figure returning to BC. Olivier Hanlan, the Eagles’ best player who has said he may consider leaving for the NBA, is unlikely to make that jump, SI reported, because he’s not yet considered a sure-fire first-round pick.
Following a 78-68 loss in the regular-season finale at North Carolina State March 9, which left the Eagles with a 4-14 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play, Donahue said he had the support of BC athletic director Brad Bates, with whom the coach spoke regularly, and the backing of the college president, Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.
Donahue, 51, has collected a record 22 games below .500 (54-76) in his four seasons at BC after being hired April 7, 2010, as Skinner’s successor.
He had a a signature 62-59 overtime victory this season at top-ranked Syracuse Feb. 19, which dropped the Orange from the ranks of the undefeated.
So far Donahue has been unable to duplicate the success he had at Cornell, where in 2010 he guided the Big Red to an Ivy League title, an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, and a run to the Sweet 16. Donahue faced a monumental struggle in the ACC, compiling a 24-44 regular-season record.
His Eagles have finished no better than tied for fourth place in the conference and have been over .500 in league play just once, recording a 9-7 mark in his first season.
BC has made just one postseason appearance under Donahue, landing a berth in the National Invitation Tournament three years ago and getting eliminated in the second round.
Returning all five starters from a 2012-13 team that went 16-17 overall and finished eighth in the ACC with a 7-11 conference record, Donahue challenged his club by ramping up the nonconference schedule this season. He hoped to improved BC’s ratings percentage index, a metric the NCAA selection committee relies upon to help set the tournament field of 68.
But the strategy backfired when BC wound up going 4-9 in nonconference play, losing all five road games and going 1-3 at neutral sites. The lone victory was an 89-78 triumph over Washington Nov. 22 at Madison Square Garden.
When asked if he erred in taking on such an ambitious nonconference schedule, Donahue sighed and replied, “Yeah, I did.’’
Among the road losses were back-to-back setbacks Dec. 4 and 8 against Purdue and Southern Cal, teams that wound up finishing last in their conferences.
“This group, I didn’t do them any favors by doing that,’’ said Donahue. “I probably had the right reason at heart. I said, ‘You know what, if we’re going to get to the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to need to have a really good nonconference schedule.’ ’’