Time may be right for BU and coach Wolff to go separate ways
The college basketball season came to a close this week with one thriller and one massacre. As I was watching Florida's romp of UCLA, it was hard to imagine that the season was still going on a month after the 2005-06 campaign came to an end for the Boston University men's basketball team.
After such a disappointing season, you can't help but wonder what needs to be done to get the basketball team playing deeper into March. You can't help but wonder if Dennis Wolff and BU are no longer a good fit. Perhaps it's time for the two to go separate ways.
First, let me say this: Dennis Wolff has had a great ride here at BU and he has coached some very successful teams. It was only a couple of years ago that BU was considered one of the hottest teams in the country and even received votes in the national polls. But despite all of Wolff's success, he has little to show for it. During his 12 seasons at BU, the Terriers have only made the NCAA Tournament twice.
Granted, it can't be blamed entirely on Wolff -- strength of schedule hurts BU a lot when compared to many other teams, and Wolff has done the best he can to overcome that by scheduling teams such as Duke University, Boston College and George Washington University. But if BU really wants to take the athletic program to the next level, it can't have basketball dragging it down.
Still, after winning consecutive America East regular-season championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004, a spot in the tournament seemed to be BU's to lose. Time and again, BU was dogged by its inability to play well in the postseason -- for which the coach has to take a significant amount of responsibility. Regular season accolades are nice, but they lose a lot of their value when you're unable to follow them up in the postseason.
Recently, the situation worsened as three players -- Tony Gaffney, Bryan Geffen and Brendan Sullivan -- were released from the team. A player leaving the team for one reason or another has become all too common in recent years. In the past four years, eight players have either left or been released from the team. While the players might have been dismissed for reasons off the court, and Wolff deserves credit for releasing players who might be detrimental to the team, these are players Wolff himself recruited, and he deserves some of the blame if these players can't make it at Boston University.
As Gaffney told The Daily Free Press at the time of his release, he and Wolff "weren't on the same page." While it's a shame it didn't work out, it's ultimately the coach's job to make sure the players he recruits will be on the same page as both the coach and the rest of the team.
The biggest effect of the departures is the huge hole left in the Terrier roster. Next season there will be only two seniors on the team -- neither began their careers at BU. Barring any transfers, there will be no junior class next year, as two would-be juniors were among those released a couple weeks ago, and Matt Wolff, the only surviving member of the sophomore class will most likely retain his sophomore eligibility after playing in only four games due to injury. It all adds up to a roster that's devoid of leadership and leaning heavily on the incoming freshman class.
In Wolff's defense, those players who do stick around generally improve from their freshman to senior year. The best example this season was Kevin Gardner, a player who averaged only 7.4 minutes per game as a freshman but blossomed into an America East first-team All-Conference selection as a senior after leading the team in points, rebounds and blocked shots.
Still, I don't mean this as a knock on Wolff, rather as an opportunity to jumpstart an ailing program. At this point, Dennis Wolff and Boston University just aren't working well together so it might be best for both to move on. With his credentials Wolff would have no problem finding another head coaching position, and once BU's current turmoil is in the past, we just might have a thrilling mid-major basketball program that is a staple in the NCAA Tournament.