The challenge with being a contrarian
College basketball is a coaches's sport. The guys in the fancy suits are the names. They are the familiar faces on TV. They pitch the products. While their football counterparts certainly get accolades, basketball's nature directs much more visual attention to the head man. And what sort of traits fit into the stereo-typical college basketball winner? What would you want and expect if you were building a college coach from scratch? 1. Vocal 2. Passionate 3. Great salesman of the program to fans and recruits 4. Capabable of Xs and Os to overcome talent gaps. 5. A grinder/workaholic. Al Skinner is not your prototypical college head coach. And that is probably his biggest problem.
In this interview with the Globe, Skinnner states that he wants to coach again. He also says it is important for him to coach in a major conference. Given the tone of the piece and the lack of gossip surrounding Skinner, I don't think many are calling. But why? Al's age is probably a factor. Hiring a fired coach is always tougher than hiring a rising coach. But I think Al's biggest challenge remains perception. Why would a school hire an unassuming, laid back coach when there are dozens of so many young coaches who have the potential upside and wear their emotions on their sleeves?
I am not here to rehash the Skinner firing at BC. I disagreed with Gene's move but like Donahue. I also agree with those who felt Skinner and BC basketball had become stale. But regardless of how it ended you cannot question Skinner's success. Al has an incredible eye for coaching and player talent. He had a deadly efficient offense. He's a much better game manager than people realize. I am confident that Al could go to any BCS program and have them in the tourney within four years. But I don't think it is going to happen. I think if Al wants one last run, it will have to be at a smaller school.
I loved the Al Skinner era at BC. A big part of that was the identity his teams had and his ability to win differently. I also think many of the complaints regarding Skinner are mistated and uniformed. Al Skinner is a great coach. He deserves another chance and any school that rolls the dice with a young unproven coach is missing on a sure thing.