As Jim Christian settled into his chair in front of the media on Friday night, he didn’t look like a guy who was entirely at peace with his team and the world. After throwing his arms forward to get comfortable, he made an opening statement, and rested his head in the palm of his right hand.
Boston College men’s basketball’s new head coach rattled off what he liked and what he didn’t like, and it quickly became evident that the Christian era is going to be marked by a focus on winning basketball games now, and not two or three years down the road.
After a rough start on defense, Christian’s team was able to lock New Hampshire down, despite offensive woes, and hold the Wildcats to a mere three points in the final eight minutes of the first half of a 58-50 victory.
Throughout the game, shots weren’t falling for BC, and the defense had to step up. The focus in practice has been about defense, and when graduate student Aaron Brown was asked about fitting into the offense, he couldn’t answer the question without mentioning his role on defense.
“Defensively, I thought we did real well guarding ‘em,” Brown said. “Towards the stretch, we let up on a few open shots and a few cuts that we went over.”
The mentality has changed in Chestnut Hill—instead of whining about the offense when shots don’t fall, the Eagles are going to try to prevent games from getting away from them with solid man-to-man defense.
“The hardest thing to do in basketball is to continue to guard when you don’t make shots,” Christian said. “So, the one positive I’m taking away from it is that we did that. We guarded very, very well, even though we weren’t making shots.”
A different coaching staff brings obvious change, but the atmosphere and expectations within the program are new, too. When Steve Donahue took the reigns four years ago, he was a happy-go-lucky guy with a high-tempo 3-point offense and an exciting basketball philosophy. Donahue’s press conferences involved him speaking positively about his team and his players in a manner as upbeat as the basketball his teams wanted to play.
Having success tomorrow always seemed to be the focus though, instead of being victorious during the season at hand. But the basketball got worse as time went on, and while improvements occurred on the offensive end, the defensive and rebounding parts of the game faltered to embarrassing lows.
The post-game conversations between Donahue and the media went from hopeful political stump speeches, in which he said the program was being rebuilt “the right way,” to therapy sessions, in which the media would ask Donahue about a certain player or aspect of the team’s game, and he would describe how close something like the defense was to getting those crucial game-winning stops. These press conferences were marathons that would last at least 10-15 minutes.
On Friday night, Christian’s dealing with the media, which included a few minutes’ worth of comments from players, ended with the press heading out to write its stories after about seven minutes.
Christian is more concise in his answers and seems like a guy who wants to get down to business. After he was asked what he would emphasize in the one day of practice he has before the team takes on UMass at TD Garden, he laughed, because there’s so much that needs to be fixed in a period of non-conference play where teams are playing every 3-4 days. When a reporter questioned Christian on whether or not he was satisfied with his team’s rebounding, the new head coach let out a monotonous “Ahhh,” before he said, “At times … You know, not really.”
His frustration with his team’s play on the glass was justifiable. BC was not as physical and smart under the rim as it should have been, which led to UNH getting 10 offensive rebounds even with Will Magarity and a healthy Dennis Clifford as the team’s rotation at center.
Rebounding is not a style of play like 3-point shooting—it’s one of the fundamentals of being a decent basketball team.
There’s no vision of a basketball utopia at BC anymore and the long term wasn’t something that came up at all after the loss, nor in the build up to the season. Right now, being 1-0 is a step in the right direction for the Christian era.
“It’s nice to win,” Christian said. “I mean, you only get 30 nights.”
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor