Now that the Boston College Men's Basketball coaching search is over, and Jim Christian has been announced as the new head coach, the Monday-morning quarterbacking of the process can officially begin.
Like many fans, I am extremely underwhelmed by this hire. Boston College, and specifically AD Brad Bates, had a golden opportunity to both inject life and interest into the basketball program, and also set the program on a quicker road to recovery by bringing in an established coach with a proven pedigree of winning in major conferences. The environment also couldn't be more advantageous for the hire, either: very few major conference jobs opened up, and one could argue that of the ones that were open, Boston College was the most attractive: a power conference, (ostensibly) money to spend, and the ability to put your "stamp" on the program very quickly via a high number of scholarships coming free in just two seasons.
Instead, BC (and Bates) yet again went for the "reach" hire by bringing in Jim Christian. I will admit that up until about two days before this hire, I had never heard of Christian in my life. Yes, he has won before in the MAC, but he will be making a marked leap up, both in terms of who he is coaching against regularly as well as the type of talent he is going to have to recruit for BC to be competitive in the ACC. It's a stretch, to be sure. While I personally don't see this ending well, I will give Christian the benefit of the doubt and see what he can do - just as I did with Steve Donahue before him.
All this being said, there are a number of questions around this search for which all BC fans should be demanding answers from Brad Bates. When the process takes 2 1/2 weeks and the result is hiring away Jim Christian from Ohio University, there is something that frankly is not quite right.
1. Were more established coaching candidates considered for the opening?
The marketplace was not lacking in coaching candidates that have a strong pedigree. Of course, Bruce Pearl topped the list of many fans, as a BC alum, and a proven winner everywhere he has been. However, even beyond Pearl, one could look at Ben Howland as an exceptionally strong candidate as well. Even Tommy Amaker, while another Ivy League-rehash, had significant experience at Seton Hall and Michigan. Also, there are probably other coaches on which there was no chatter, but could have been had - the Buzz Williams move to Virginia Tech being a prime example. The question at least needs to be asked: did Bates contact these individuals, and/or others like them?
2. If he did contact them, what were the reasons they turned BC down?
If it was a money problem, then that's not on Brad Bates, other than to say that he needs to be able to make his case to his superiors a little better to try and get them to understand the potential benefits of an increased monetary investment in coaching. But if money is not the issue, what is it about the BC job that was not attractive to these candidates?
3. If he did not contact them, what is the reason for only pursuing the "second-tier" (and quite possibly "third-tier") candidates?
This is the scary proposition. If the coaching search only focused on second and third-tier names, an explanation is in order. Brad Bates needs to understand that BC is not in the MAC - the ACC is a completely different animal and the investment in coaching cannot be understated. BC is not in a position to be a "testing ground" for coaches to "come play with the big boys". This is now the second coach in a row that Bates has plucked from the MAC (yes, Temple was in the Big East during Steve Addazio's last season, but it was mainly still a MAC team), so you have to begin to wonder if this is the level at which Bates views BC Athletics. Boston College will never succeed in the long-term with second-tier talent consistently at the forefront of its leadership. Bates had the opportunity to aim a lot higher, and if he didn't bother trying, that's a huge red flag.
4. Why did this search take 2 1/2 weeks if it was going to land on Jim Christian?
This is probably the most interesting question of all. What happened for 2 1/2 weeks? If BC truly wanted Jim Christian, it probably could have had him the day after Steve Donahue was fired. Therefore, either Bates sat on his hands way too long before circling around to Christian, or Jim Christian was actually way, way down on Bates' list of candidates, and it took numerous rejections by other coaches before discussions with Christian began.
Overall, I am not very excited about this hire, but like with the hire of Steve Addazio, I'll give Jim Christian the benefit of the doubt and see what happens. The one thing Brad Bates has going in his favor for now is that it will be very difficult for ANY coach to be worse than Steve Donahue was (similar to how Addazio had such a low bar to clear in his first season replacing Frank Spaziani), so Christian may enjoy some short-term success. Long-term, however, you have to ask yourself: can Jim Christian out-coach folks like Coach K, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Jamie Dixon, Mike Brey, Tony Bennett, and others to bring home an ACC championship? My gut tells me no, but we will find out.
That said, though - Brad Bates likes to preach transparency to the BC fanbase. He goes on Twitter regularly, he holds town halls with season ticket holders, and generally makes himself more available to the fans of BC athletics. That transparency needs to extend to this hire - answers need to be given to these questions to understand just exactly what went on in this search.