After six seasons of mediocrity at Boston College Basketball, Jim Christian’s job is undoubtedly in question.
The pressure is on this season in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, for Jim Christian and the Boston College Basketball team. After an era of mediocrity in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, Christian will face one of his biggest hurdles yet: losing three of his four leading scorers while competing in one of the strongest conferences in college basketball.
It is easy to look at Christian’s record at BC and question how he still has the job – for good reason, too. The Eagles have endured consistent failure during Christian’s tenure – some of it historic, including an 0-18 season in ACC play during the 2015-16 season, becoming the first team in ACC basketball history to never win a conference game. This past season, they finished the season at 13-19, bringing Christian’s overall record at BC to 75-119.
Not all have been awful at Boston College, however. In his fourth season at the helm, Christian led the team to a 19-16 overall record and an NIT berth. He has also recruited and coached NBA draftees Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, both of whom were two of the best players in college basketball during their times at BC.
Christian’s Boston College squads also carry some marquee wins, including a close win over then first-ranked Duke in 2017 – the same Duke team that featured Marvin Bagley III and would lose to Kansas in the Elite Eight. This past season, their best wins came against nationally-ranked Virginia, at North Carolina, and at Notre Dame. But, they were also blown out by ACC squads like Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Clemson.
Boston College has definitely enjoyed some glimpses of success under Christian – and obviously, it is difficult to picture BC succeeding in a conference consistently dominated by household names like Duke and North Carolina, and, as of late, Louisville and Virginia.
But that excuse can only last so long. Christian’s predecessor at BC, current Penn head coach Steve Donahue, struggled to string together any form of success at BC. Much like Christian, Donahue enjoyed one solid year – a 21-13 record his first season – before three straight losing seasons cost him his job.
Like Christian, Donahue’s teams enjoyed marquee victories, including a win over a then-undefeated 25-0 Syracuse squad in his final season, but that was as far as his success went.
Al Skinner, however, has proven that success can come to Boston College. Skinner led the Eagles from 1997 to 2010, finishing his time there with a 247-165 overall record and taking BC to seven NCAA tournaments in 13 seasons, with eight years coming in the Big East and the other five in the ACC. Skinner’s best season was a 28-8 record and a Sweet 16 berth in the program’s first year in the ACC.
If Donahue and Christian’s tenures have proven anything, it is that success can still come to Chestnut Hill, and incredible talent is still walking through the door at Boston College. Mixed with Skinner’s flourishment at the helm, it is easy to also say that Boston College is still a place that can be victorious and triumphant in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Hot seat for the head coach
For these reasons, Christian’s job is undoubtedly in jeopardy, and, truthfully, it is miraculous that he still has it. He is not a bad coach by any means – he enjoyed postseason success at the mid-major level with Kent State and Ohio but struggled to put together success at TCU. His time at BC reflects his time spent at TCU, where he finished 56-73 in four seasons.
Unfortunately, for Christian, this coming season may be his greatest challenge yet. Coming off a 13-19 year with a 7-13 mark in ACC play, the Eagles have lost three of their top four leading scorers in Derryck Thornton, Nik Popovic, and Jairus Hamilton.
On top of that, obviously, Christian has to recruit and compete against the rest of the ACC, where North Carolina and Duke are bringing in the second and third-highest ranked recruiting classes in the country, according to 247sports.
There are some positives for Christian and Boston College entering next season, however. Jay Heath is returning after leading the Eagles in scoring as a freshman at 13.1 points per game, good for a top-20 spot in the ACC. Also returning for his senior season is Steffon Mitchell, one of the premier rebounders in the conference at 8.7 boards per game.
All eyes will be on newcomers Makai Ashton-Langford and DeMarr Langford, Jr. to make an immediate impact, as well. Makai is a transfer from Providence who is eligible to play after sitting out last season, while DeMarr is a four-star recruit out of Brewster Academy who, according to 247sports, is the fifth-highest rated recruit in BC program history.
Among the influx of newcomers, the Eagles will bring in a number of accomplished mid-major graduate transfers who all will be looked to provide leadership and productivity on and off the floor.
Frederick Scott, a three-time All-MAAC Third Team honoree, comes after posting 20 double-digit performances in his junior season at Rider. Andre Adams arrives after averaging nine points his senior season at Southern Utah, and Rich Kelly, the second-leading scorer in the MAAC at 16.7 points per game at Quinnipiac, will finish his career with BC.
With North Carolina expected to return to the upper echelon of the ACC and Wake Forest making a home-run hire with Steve Forbes, Boston College has a real opportunity to slip back to the bottom of the ACC. For Christian, this is undeniably a do-or-die season.
There is no reason to believe that Boston College should not be competitive in the ACC. Skinner proved that on a national level, and both Donahue and Christian have shown that BC can hang around with, and defeat, some of the best teams in the nation.
Whether Christian can turn the tide and ignite the Eagles onto a path of consistent national success has yet to be seen, however, and as he enters his seventh season, the window of opportunity is getting narrower with every game. If BC can string together some success with Heath and the newcomers, then there will undoubtedly be some newfound hope in Chestnut Hill.
But if the Eagles underachieve for yet another season, it might be time for Boston College to reevaluate and move on.