With the men’s basketball program drowning in another losing season, Boston College’s decision Monday to fire head coach Jim Christian wasn’t necessarily surprising. Parting ways with five games left in the season was unexpected.
Despite a 78-132 overall record and a 26-94 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Christian’s seven-year run was the longest since Al Skinner (1998-2010), the winningest coach in program history.
“I know that Jim gave everything that he had into leading our program and mentoring our student-athletes,” athletic director Pat Kraft said in a statement. “Ultimately, the program is not headed in the right direction and though I hesitate to make a midseason coaching change in any sport, now is the right time for us to look forward. We wish Jim and his family all the best in their future endeavors and thank them for their service to Boston College.”
Kraft was unavailable for comment.
Assistant coach Scott Spinelli will serve as interim head coach. The search for Christian’s replacement will begin immediately. Kraft has yet to decide whether he will handle the search himself or hire a search firm.
This season, complicated from the beginning by the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, proved to be rock bottom for Christian. After opening the season with a near-upset of No. 3 Villanova and then beating Rhode Island, the Eagles (3-13, 1-9 ACC) lost eight of their next nine, including a 101-63 beating by Syracuse that is the worst loss at Conte Forum in program history.
The Eagles had five games postponed due to COVID protocols, and have lost three straight since.
Christian was in the first year of a two-year extension he signed in 2018. While there were rumblings a year ago that his time at the Heights might be running out, then-athletic director Martin Jarmond chose to bring him back for another season amid the uncertainty — along with the unknown financial ramifications — of the pandemic.
Christian was optimistic that the backcourt of Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath would give the Eagles enough firepower. Instead, BC’s offense is 10th in the conference and doing nothing to mask easily the ACC’s worst defense.
Tabbs’s campaign also ended on Monday, as the school announced the sophomore guard will miss the remainder of the season due to a violation of the university’s COVID-19 protocols. Tabbs, BC’s second-leading scorer, has not played since the Eagles resumed following their five postponements.
Christian had two players move on to the NBA: Jerome Robinson was drafted by the Clippers in 2018 and now plays for Washington, while Ky Bowman landed with the Golden State Warriors as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and now plays for the Clippers G-League affiliate. The height of his tenure came with both in 2017-18, when the Eagles won 19 games, reached the third round of the ACC tournament, and went to the National Invitational Tournament — their first postseason appearance since 2011.
That was Christian’s lone winning season, however, and BC’s last NCAA appearance remains in 2009, Skinner’s next-to-last season. BC has spent more than a decade trying to rebuild its basketball program after an ugly split with Skinner in 2010. The largest takeaway over that time has been that to be successful in a conference as competitive as the ACC, the university will have to make a deeper investment in the program.
The school is expected to take at least one step by building a new practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball. The programs currently share Power Gym at Conte Forum with the volleyball team.
In the meantime, the Eagles still have a season to finish. They travel to face Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
“I am confident that our student-athletes will compete hard down the stretch in this most unusual year with our full support,” Kraft’s statement read. “We will begin a national search immediately to find a new leader of our young men on the Heights.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.