St. Bonaventure University brought its new vice president and director of athletics, Gothard A. Lane, to Buffalo this week for a little rally for the faithful.
It didn't go well.
Only a handful of the Buffalo-based faithful showed up to meet Lane, a likable enough sort who does seem to have legitimate qualifications for the task at hand.
Worse than that, whoever was charged with bringing the successor to Dr. David Diles up to speed on the issues that confront the university, its basketball program and its relationship with the Buffalo market, failed to do his or her job.
Lane wasn't at all ready to address the perception that minorities have trouble adjusting to life at Bona. He seemed to have no grasp on the problems they have being accepted in the Olean community.
He was seemingly unaware of the pitfalls facing the Big 4 program itself, which is now in virtual ruin.
He did say he was "absolutely committed" to Bona remaining a part of the Atlantic 10, but had few solid answers as to how the tiny Franciscan institution might be able to better compete in a league that may well be passing it by.
Lane doesn't officially report for work until Oct. 11 and there's a good chance he doesn't even know where the telephone in his office will be, let alone how to work it. Still, someone should have had him better prepared.
However, it is not in our nature to be totally negative, especially when the new guy is still looking around and wondering why it isn't snowing yet. In a positive vein, it's fair to argue that coming to Buffalo might well be a necessary eye-opener for Lane, no matter what his state of readiness.
It is here that Bona still must answer to a substantial number of its well-moneyed alumni. It's here that there is real opposition to retaining Jim Baron as coach of the men's basketball program. It is here that Bona and Marine Midland Arena types should mend fences and salvage a workable plan from the ruins of past financial arrangements from which only the Sabres hockey club benefited. It is here -- not the Reilly Center -- that represents the best chance for Bona to recapture its reputation as a big-time college program.
Lots of people in Olean might not want to believe that, and Lane himself once resorted to the old chestnut regarding the glory days of the great Bob Lanier. (Honestly, if one more basketball fan brings up the glory days of Big Foot and Randy Smith, I swear I'll hit him with Calvin Murphy's baton). But if Bona really is committed to being anything other than a dues-paying member of the Atlantic 10, Lane needs to deal with all of these issues. Soon.
His visit gave the impression that he understood that. It's a plus, along with some genuine good marks on his portfolio that illustrate a talent for marketing, fund raising and community outreach programs.
The former University of Maryland administrator should soon come to recognize the challenges before him. He'll need to make hard decisions on Baron, a good man who hasn't yet proven he can do the job. He needs to understand that lowered expectations are not acceptable. That a .500 team is not a good thing and that not getting to even the semifinal round in the A-10 Tournament since 1984 is not conducive to building a successful small-school program in any league.
He needs to know that lip service regarding an NCAA Tournament berth doesn't cut it anymore.
The one thing Lane said that made sense was that he recognized the need for "a period of adjustment" for new recruits and incoming players. That it didn't matter if the program catered to 3,000 or 30,000. That if people didn't feel comfortable in their surroundings and weren't brought into a program where everyone was made to feel accepted and a part of a common goal, that the situation would never work.
Lane is entering that period right now. He's entitled to some time to get up to speed, but he should be on notice that business as usual at St. Bonaventure isn't good enough anymore.
The time for leadership AND a dedicated program committed to winning at the Atlantic 10 level is at hand.
It is his job to make it happen.