BOSTON -- As the losses mounted and the seats in Conte Forum went unfilled this season, it became more and more apparent that the marriage between Boston College and men's basketball coach Steve Donahue wasn't going to last.
The divorce is now final, as BC athletic director Brad Bates announced Donahue's firing on Tuesday -- the day the 2014 NCAA tournament officially began -- and held a news conference to discuss the move.
"In trying to project the future you have to take what information you have at your fingertips and make a decision in the best interest of the program," Bates said. "And we've decided to make a change in our leadership."
Donahue scheduled aggressively ahead of the 2013-14 season, believing the pieces were in place to make a run at the NCAA tournament. But that optimistic view never materialized and the Eagles trudged to an 8-24 record that included a 4-14 mark in ACC play.
In four seasons in the Heights, Donahue compiled a 54-76 record. After going 21-13 in his first season -- with a roster mostly assembled by his predecessor, Al Skinner -- Donahue never posted another winning season at BC.
Donahue, 51, was hired in 2010 by former athletic director Gene DeFilippo after taking Cornell to the Sweet 16. But in his last three seasons at BC, the Eagles went 9-22, 16-17 and 8-24 as he was unable to restock the roster with ACC-caliber talent.
"I think you've probably seen me enough to know that I'm very open to people's thoughts and perspectives," Bates said when asked about public opinion affecting the decision. "Either way this decision went, it would disappoint constituents from Boston College. Those of you who know Steve know that he is a tremendous individual. Either way this went there were going to be people who were disappointed."
Donahue broke the news to the players, Bates said, but the AD addressed the team immediately afterward.
"We didn't talk about process at this point," he said, "but I planted some questions in their heads to think about and we're going to get together and talk about those."
The search for a new coach will begin immediately.
"In the next 24 hours, we're going to begin a needs assessment for our program, and out of that we'll have a profile of the type of coach we're looking for," Bates said. "There are a lot of great coaches out there, not every great coach is a great fit for every school, particularly BC. So we need to identify a profile of the specific coaches that can really lead us at this moment in time."
This is the second major coaching search Bates will oversee in Chestnut Hill, after the AD fired Frank Spaziani and hired Steve Addazio to head the Eagles' football program. BC went from 2-10 in the final season under Spaziani to 7-6 and a berth in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in the first season under Addazio.
Bates said he learned a lot from the process that ended in Addazio's hiring, including the importance of involving the current players in the decision-making process.
While he wants to move quickly, Bates said he won't be hasty.
"This is a long-term decision and you can't hurry into some spontaneous decision," he said. "So we need to move as quickly as possible, but we need to be very deliberate in terms of the timing of the process."
Asked about the futures of Donahue's assistants, Bates said he's always believed that a head coach should have "autonomy" when it comes to who he surrounds himself with in his program.
As of now, the only player the Eagles are guaranteed to lose from the 2013-14 roster is senior Danny Rubin -- a former walk-on. But star guard Olivier Hanlan is testing the NBA waters and there have been reports that if Hanlan leaves, other players such as Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon could follow.
"Whenever you have a change in leadership, you worry about attrition," Bates said. "These students clearly know that we care about them genuinely. Boston College has an incredible diploma, it's a great institution. We have a lot to offer these students. They know that. But as I said whenever you have a change in leadership, you worry about attrition."
And though some might expect the Eagles to go for a loud hire in an attempt to energize the fan base, that's not Bates' style.
"I don't think you need the splash," he said. "I'm not interested in short-term enthusiasm at the expense of long-term substance. You need to hire whoever is going to best fit what the program needs at this moment in time."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.