Monday, March 23, 2020

Waiting for the "right time" is usually a bad idea

Jim Christian is not being fired by BC.

A year ago, BC and Martin Jarmond had every reason in the world to make a change with Men's Basketball. But they waited. The idea was to get the house in order (financially, facilities, and really take time making a thoughtful hire). Then this year -- despite some fun moments -- predictably proved to be another disappointment and another wasted year. They wasted the players' time, the fans' time and even Jim Christian's time. (Coaching is tough under the best of circumstances. Coaching is really tough when there isn't buy-in from the bosses, players and fans.)

Now, when BC was on the verge of finally making a move, the whole world got flipped on its head. BC has huge questions with no answers with regards to their 2020-21 school year, their budget shortfalls this year (housing refunds), the hit the endowment took, and the potential huge loss of revenues next year from media partners if Football is not played. Adding a basketball coaching search to that mix was not financially or perhaps even logistically possible. So they kicked the metaphorical can...again.

Basketball clearly isn't that important. Yet BC Men will be play again. And when they do, Jim Christian will be coaching. That season will have little fan support. It will be tough to recruit and whatever media attention BC gets will constantly be about Jim Christian's future. It will be a lame duck season and once again, a waste of time.

Now if Jon Beilein was really interested would BC have made a move? Probably, but he wasn't. BC's facilities and current spot on the basketball landscape were the biggest obstacles.

My frustration is consistent. When you know you have the wrong guy, you need to make a change. The move should have been made last year. And even with all the current economic uncertainty, I would argue a less expensive hire now (Coen, Becker) would be better than another year of Jim Christian.

The only solace in this all is that the other major conference schools who were on the verge of change -- Minnesota, Texas, Wake Forest, etc -- also have put hiring and firing on pause. We won't miss out on "the guy," whoever that might have been.

I hope BC plays all sports next year. I hope Christian gets a great season out of his young talent. I hope things get back to normal and things like a silly basketball coaching search can feel important again. I also hope the next BC coach is the right guy, because Jim Christian is not.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Jim Christian is not THE problem, but he is A problem

With another blowout loss, the TV crew working the Notre Dame game shifted the conversation to Jim Christian's future at BC. Predictably they mentioned that Christian is a nice guy and respected by all. That's a good thing. They hammered BC's facilities and unwillingness to play the arms race in college sports. That is a fair criticism and needs to be addressed. But regardless of BC Basketball's many issues and challenges, six seasons has shown that Jim Christian is not the guy to fix them nor overcome them.

I don't take firing a coach lightly. I understand he has a family and a staff that will all be impacted by this. However, this is one of the challenges of their chosen profession and they are all well compensated for the risk they assume. The ones who are not compensated are they players. I don't know if they are not that talented, checked out or what, but they didn't look like a well-coached team for most of this year. Effort issues. Defensive issues. Not making good decisions. All of that has little to do with basketball facilities or admissions offices. I understand injuries and age are factors with the roster, but the most consistent thing about the JC era is not maximizing talent. Was there any year where you felt he got the most out of his roster (maybe his first season?).

I had an argument with a BC person last year and said that even if he had Top 4 facilities and budget in the ACC, I don't think Christian would get Top 4 results. I still believe that.

Every coaching change has risk. We might lose talent. We might not find the right coach and waste another couple years. I don't know. But I know what we are doing is not working and it is time to make a coaching change. We've seen what a new Women's Basketball coach can do. Why not roll the dice on the Men's side?

Monday, March 09, 2020

Why the same old names are unlikely hires

I don't know if BC will fire Jim Christian. I think they should, but the point of these coaching profiles is "where does BC go from here?" and "who is the right guy for the program?" Part 4: Last year's candidates.

Last year when it looked like Jim Christian might be fired, you saw multiple names floated, but three that seemed rather relevant and obvious were Northeastern coach Bill Coen, St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt and former Ohio State coach Thad Matta. As speculation kicks in on the BC job again, all three are being floated again. This is in part because the ties to BC (Coen and Schmidt) or Jarmond (Matta) are so obvious. However, I don't think any of these guys will be on Jarmond's short list. If he wanted to hire them, he could have done so a year ago.

Because of their ties to BC, Martin Jarmond heard "Schmidt" and "Coen" a lot last year. They've been long-time head coaches, so they have an established track record. BC and Jarmond would know what they are getting and know what the potential obstacles would be (mainly recruiting at an ACC level). And more importantly, money and availability wouldn't have been an issue with either last year. But Jarmond didn't pull the trigger. Partially to get other things in place at BC and also -- whether fair or not --  the perception that neither was a difference maker. Last year at this time both were near the top of their respective conferences. While still having winning seasons this year, both teams have taken a slight step back, which only reinforces that they are pretty good coaches, but not great.

Matta is a bit more complicated. Like the other two, he was there for the taking last year. But it didn't happen. Who knows if there was serious interest then...or now? As I said last year, Matta had the Georgia job until he slept on it and decided he didn't want to come back. If you read up on him, he says he is happier than ever, but his health remains a concern. Jarmond worked with Matta for a long time, so he probably has a good feel for what the coach can or cannot do at this stage of his career. My guess is that more time away from the action and grind of the game doesn't make BC more appealing to Matta nor for Jarmond to bet his basketball program on a guy whose heart might not be in it.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Can Tommy Lloyd build the Gonzaga model at BC?

I don't know if BC will fire Jim Christian. I think they should, but the point of these coaching profiles is "where does BC go from here?" and "who is the right guy for the program?" Part 3: Tommy Lloyd.

BC Basketball doesn't have an identity. Or at least doesn't have a positive identity. Meanwhile there is a Jesuit school on the other side of the country in Gonzaga that has gone from cute mid-major to a perennial power with a very disciplined and specific model. It is heavy on analytics and heavy on international recruiting. And the lead guy on international recruiting is Tommy Lloyd.

We all know BC's challenges with elite recruits. Our facilities are inferior. Our admissions office can be meddlesome. It doesn't appear like we are buying the top talent like most of the traditional powers are (per FBI recordings). That leaves BC to keep trying to find the under the radar guys. Gonzaga also has unconventional recruiting in that their focus is primarily international players. They are doing this by finding them early, developing relationships and then making them better once they get to Spokane. BC has had a handful of international players with limited success, but there is no reason why this wouldn't work in Boston or in the ACC. (There is also the added bonus of most of these internationals are students who the BC admissions office will approve.)

Few is quick to credit Lloyd for the talent. It is also assumed that Lloyd will take over if and when Few decides to retire. But how long will Lloyd wait? As Mike Hopkins showed at Syracuse, even the most loyal and patient assistants still want their shot.

I think Lloyd could quickly upgrade the talent at BC. But like Eisley, the huge unknown is can he actually coach. He has interviewed for other jobs, so we know he will listen. But those other opportunities were all west coast. Would he be willing to take a risk across the country in the toughest basketball conference?

Lloyd has a lot of similarities to Jeff Hafley in that he's done everything you would want but be a head coach. I don't know think he will be the first call, but I do think Jarmond understands the Gonzaga model and knows it is an option for BC.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Would Bobby Hurley fit at BC?

I don't know if BC will fire Jim Christian. I think they should, but the point of these coaching profiles is "where does BC go from here?" and "who is the right guy for the program?" Part 2: Bobby Hurley.

When a successful coach -- especially one at a Power Conference job -- gets floated for multiple openings, you know his agent is putting his name out there. Arizona State's Bobby Hurley has been linked to rumored openings, including a potential spot at BC. While this sort of coaching carousel gossip is often a ploy for more money from their current job, it also means that Hurley is open to a move.

Although he is having his best season yet at Arizona State, you can see why Hurley might want a move. 1. The Pac-12 is in an unstable situation and continues to lag behind the other conferences with regards to money. While BC might not spend right now, we could probably top Hurley's $2.6 million salary. 2. Hurley is an East Coast guy who played in the ACC. If he wants back, BC would make sense. 3. Hurley might be wearing out his welcome with some. Just last week he got into a verbal spat with UCLA fans. And if you've ever watched Arizona State game, you would know that Hurley is very vocal, very animated and a big personality.

It is Hurley's personality that has me questioning if BC would even bother with him. You can tell from Jarmond's recent hires that he values a coach who can represent BC in a warm, professional manner. Hurley is not afraid to be the face of the program, but would his big personality cause political problems for Jarmond and BC? There were plenty who didn't care for Addazio's antics on the sidelines or behind the scenes. Would Hurley's histrionics bug the same people?

Then there is one other problem -- Hurley has a $6+ million buyout at Arizona State. Those can always been negotiated but that might make Hurley more expensive than even Beilein. I don't care for Hurley, but I think he would win and probably win big at BC. He has an intensity that BC Basketball hasn't seen since Gary Williams. That sort of passion would be welcome to BC fans and I think among the local basketball community. Among the "A" List guys, I think Hurley is the longest shot, but BC needs to at least make the call to see if his interest in coming back East is real.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Let's talk about Howard Eisley

I don't know if BC will fire Jim Christian. I think they should, but the point of these coaching profiles is "where does BC go from here?" and "who is the right guy for the program?" Part 1: Howard Eisley.

There is only one major conference program that would hire Howard Eisley as their Head Coach this season and that's Boston College. That is both a problem and an opportunity.

No one else will hire Eisley this year for some simple reasons like he has only been a college assistant one season, has no head coaching experience at any level and is rather anonymous to the media and casual fans.

BC would hire Eisley because he is a well-regarded alumni from a very successful era of BC Basketball, he would be something different after giving the job to a series of mid-major coaches, and he is respected among basketball people. It doesn't hurt that his son is a highly touted 8th-grader, so he is familiar with the AAU circuit, process and network, which would help in recruiting.

If anything, the model for hiring Eisley would be his current boss at Michigan, Juwan Howard. Howard had no prior head coaching experience and no prior recruiting experience. There are some notably differences too. Howard took over a much more stable situation at Michigan and was a more accomplished assistant in the NBA (Howard was known as Miami's big man coach and defensive expert). Howard's higher profile in the sport and among Michigan fans made the transition less controversial.

Eisley is not the way I would go now. Like any blank slate, he has great potential. But the program is in such a delicate spot, I would hate to see it continue to stumble. If we were to go the Eisley route, he would have to emulate one of Juwan Howard's critical steps -- bringing along an experienced head coach (Howard hired Phil Martelli). I don't know who that guy would be for Eisley, but that right hand man who has been through the process is invaluable.

Will Eisley get the job? He doesn't fit the model of other coaches hired by Jarmond, but I assume he will be interviewed. If he emerges as a real candidate, I will dive deeper into what BC Basketball would look like under Eisley.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The underlying importance of the John Beilein talk

Numerous reports this week have stated that the Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein are working on an exit agreement. It sounds like he is quitting but also getting paid, so maybe it is more mutual than the initial "Beilein is walking away" speculation. Regardless of how it happens, the minute Beilein is free, he instantly becomes the biggest free agent in college basketball. And with his name looming comes the media list of landing spots including Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wake and...Boston College. Now anyone reading this probably already thinks Beilein to BC will never happen. It doesn't matter if he would consider BC or laugh it off. What matters is two fold:

1. The College Hoops media (and agents feeding them gossip) assume the BC job is coming open.
2. Outside of Texas, there are fewer great jobs certainly opening. This would be a good time for BC to make a hire since we won't be competing for our candidate with many other power programs.

I find this encouraging. I remain firmly in the fire Jim Christian camp. Even if he has a strong finish (for him) to this season, I think we've seen his best and should move on after six years. Regardless of John Beilein's availability, change is needed.  

Could Beilein end up at BC? Sure. Stranger things have happened. He graduated from a Jesuit college. He supposedly prefers a program focused on development and teaching and not recruiting one and dones. BC offers access to a major conference, a decent returning roster and plenty of patience. The expectations are much lower than a Texas. If the 67 year old guy just wants to coach again, BC offers him a chance to do it away from the spotlight yet with access to media and the NCAA tournament.

Beilein doesn't fit the mold of the other hires Jarmond has made, but getting this type of coach might make him adjust. I don't know if money will be an issue. The current rumor is Beilein will get $12 million from Cleveland, so a big pay day from BC might not be needed.

There is also a chance that Beilein is done. The man is 67, left one of the best situations in his sport at Michigan and clearly wasn't enjoying coaching in the NBA. Maybe this is it.  But the fact that BC is even being connected to him is good news for frustrated BC basketball fans.