Anyone who wants to know how Steve Donahue is faring so far as Penn basketball’s new head coach can refer to a May 16 Tweet from Donahue:
— Steve Donahue (@Coach_Donahue) May 16, 2015
It’s all there: Donahue’s savvy embrace of analytics for his new program, awareness that upgrades to the program must be highlighted and emphasis on accordingly communicating with both the public at large and the Penn student community (The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student newspaper whose story Donahue linked to in the Tweet).
Donahue’s making moves – simple, logical moves – and making sure we know it.
As for logical – how else to describe tapping Penn professor and program superfan Nakia Rimmer to work on basketball analytics projects with select undergraduates for the coaching staff? It’s not a shocking measure given Donahue’s commitment to analytics-friendly motion offense predicated on three-pointers and ball movement. But it’s still refreshing and supports Donahue’s acknowledgment upon his hiring that the Palestra and the Big 5 weren’t enough to ensure success for Penn anymore.
One thing that used to enable such success for the Quakers was a stream of impact transfers like Matt Maloney and current Penn assistant coach Ira Bowman. Donahue has already snagged his first transfer for Penn with former Fairleigh Dickinson guard Matt MacDonald, who has averaged at least 8.6 points per game in both his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Knights, canning 42.1 percent of his 195 three-point attempts last season. MacDonald logged 30.3 minutes per contest as a freshman, suggesting that he wasn’t as raw as other comparable rookies at the time and has only developed further from there. And yes, he poured 29 points on Princeton in a win over the Tigers in December, which means he’s popular on 33rd Street already. MacDonald should be a reliable backcourt partner for Antonio Woods in 2016-17 and a sharpshooter who can heat up as much as Sam Jones, which is saying quite a lot. Quaker fans will get to see again how impactful transfers can be.
What they’ve already seen is a head coach willing to be open toward program followers via social media, whether it’s showing off his institutional memory with a Throwback Thursday Tweet of himself assistant coaching in 1993 with then-Penn head coach Fran Dunphy or thanking former NBA coach Mike Brown for talking offensive Xs & Os. Donahue isn’t media-averse like predecessor Jerome Allen, which won’t matter if the losses keep coming (like they did for Donahue at Boston College) but is nevertheless a most encouraging breath of fresh air until gameplay rolls around.
And that’s all you could ask of Steve Donahue as of May 27. He’s using the resources around him, utilizing social media and analytics as efficiently as can be expected – like a newly assembled three-pointer-oriented motion offense gradually finding its way.