After firing head coach Steve Donahue in mid-March, Boston College Director of Athletics Brad Bates was tasked with changing the direction of his men’s basketball program. With Donahue in charge of an 8-24 season, the problem was obvious-his man in charge was not winning games.
“We want to win,” Bates said during BC’s Thursday teleconference, which introduced Jim Christian of Ohio University as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team.
Bates took a pulse of the program when beginning his hunt for a new leader. He started putting names up on a board before contacting potential candidates, he said. Others got in touch with BC to inquire about the opening before Bates began to narrow down the field. Two rounds of interviews were held and the decision to hire the former Bobcat was made. The length of Christian’s deal is undisclosed, according to Associate Athletics Director Chris Cameron.
“He emerged pretty early on as a strong candidate and certainly separated himself in the home stretch,” Bates said.
Christian has been able to pile up victories in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). He is the winningest men’s basketball coach in conference history, boasting a 187-80 record. His career hit a rough patch after six consecutive 20-plus-win seasons at Kent State, though-four years at Texas Christian University saw Christian compile three straight losing campaigns before taking the team to the College Basketball Invitational in his final season.
TCU gave Christian the opportunity to resurrect a program stifled by consecutive seasons of losing basketball. Christian left the school with the team’s core graduating and its athletics set to enter the Big 12. The school’s football program often overshadowed the team’s efforts on the court as well.
“I think it’s so much better to walk into an established program where there’s a culture of winning and an expectation of winning, where the university wants your particular sport to be the front porch of the university,” Christian told Yahoo! Sports upon taking the Ohio job in 2012.
In looking at BC, Christian seems to see something different in the program.
“I’ve always looked at programs historically, not just the way they are right now, and I think that if you look at Boston College historically, the things that they’ve accomplished-it excites you,” Christian said. “Any coach wants to have his chance to compete against the very best, and obviously, the ACC is the very best.”
Christian noted that the conference is as strong as ever, and that many styles of play are working out for different sides. He said that, as a program, BC has the potential to compete.
“The opportunity for growth-and that’s what excites you,” Christian said. “Throughout my whole career that’s kinda the situation that I wanted, the situation that I think can grow or become successful, or success can be maintained, and I think that’s been proven at Boston College.”
Although BC’s program is in a state of disarray at the moment given the rumored exit of several players, the coach will have to get to know his new troops to get them on board with what he is trying to achieve.
“It’s a situation where you wake up every day and you just can’t wait to get to work and roll your sleeves up,” Christian said. “I can’t wait to get up there, and you know, players, spend as much time getting to know them as possible and just go attack the things that we want.”
To build off the current team, which Bates described as relieved to hear of a decision on the matter, Christian and his staff will have to hit the recruiting trail. With an ACC pedigree now to his name, Christian’s understanding of basketball in the nation’s northeast corridor and beyond will be put to the test.
“Boston College has had so much success nationally,” Christian said. “If you look at some of their best players, they come from other parts of the country, so I think you kind of have to go in all directions. With that door-the ACC-a lot of people want to hear what you have to say.”
Finding players and coaching them is not always conducive to developing success, though. Christian will need the backing of the University to take the program in a new direction, and the level of commitment from Bates and his administration was very important to Christian in his decision-making process.
“I feel like Brad and I have partnered up in this along with the rest of the administration because, in reality, that’s how it has to work,” Christian said. “It’s not just coaching, and it’s not just players-it has to be a great partnership with all parties, and that’s what great programs have, and I know that’s what we’re trying to become.”