It is safe to say that the 2016 offseason for the Boston College Eagles men’s basketball team has been nothing short of eventful. Following a summer where four players, Daryl Hicks, Matt Milon, Idy Diallo and Sammy Barnes-Thompkins transferred out of the program, Monday afternoon greeted the Eagles’ faithful with the surprising news that BC head coach Jim Christian had been given a one year contract extension.
Boston College's Jim Christian has received a one-year contract extension, multiple sources told @CBSSports.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 15, 2016
To say that Jim Christian had been given an impossible task with rebuilding the Eagles’ basketball program would be an understatement. After a tenure under Steve Donahue where the program, both in reputation and in on-court success, had been decimated, Christian has been in charge of fixing the mess.
To be blunt, the process has been a struggle for the program. Following Christian’s inaugural season where the team went 4-14 in conference matchups, the team had a much publicized setback, falling to 7-25 overall, including an 0-18 record in conference.
Some of the blame falls on Christian, as blame for the struggles of a team inevitably falls on the head coach. Yet much of this is outside of Christian’s control. Systemically it is hard for a program in a conference as competitive as the ACC to recover from the difficulties that have faced the Eagles.
For one, recruits like to come to programs with a history of success. With the successes of BC basketball in distant memory, it makes the sell of future success with BC more difficult.
Indeed recruiting seems to be the reason that the extension was offered. Sources within the program confirmed to BCI that the extension was offered with the intention of signaling to future recruits that the job is, for the time being, stable.
As, frankly it should be. Brad Bates and the athletic department should be making every effort to show that, at least for the time being, Jim Christian is the head coach of the Eagles basketball team. Showing that there is any sign of instability at the position helps no one. So long as the team progresses, the department should have patience and trust Christian to manage the progression.
Yet the department may have been too over-aggressive in its offering of a contract extension for Christian, for several reasons. The first reason is the whether or not the extension will actually be effective in mitigating any feelings of instability. While BC will certainly be able to point to the extension as a matter of showcasing the stability at the head coaching position, many recruits may continue to be skeptical. Ultimately the most effective way of proving stability is by winning, and until the Eagles begin to return to winning ways under Christian, the question of stability, whether fair or not, might still exist.
The second reason touches upon actual progression. While the Eagles have struggled mightily, a redeeming factor for a struggle as deep as the Eagles are experiencing would be progression, or a noticeable shift towards success. Yet that has yet to happen for BC. That is not to say that progression can’t happen under Christian–it might, in fact, begin to happen in the 2016-17 season. The progression, however, has yet to occur. With three more years under the original contract left, there should be no need to offer an extension just yet, as Christian still has enough time to prove his successes under the original three year window.
Finally, this extension makes an escape route more difficult for BC. To be clear, BC should not be discussing Jim Christian’s job security at this juncture. Unless BC can hire someone who is an obviously better coach than Christian, Christian’s potential successor would deal with many of the same problems Christian has dealt with, and nothing will be fixed. Christian has had only two years to improve the program, and patience is needed. Yet, somewhere down the line, the conversation about Christian’s job might be merited. When that conversation happens, this one year extension might become problematic. With Steve Donahue’s contract still on the books as of this year’s taxes, it wouldn’t be prudent to put an additional financial burden on the athletic department’s books.
Ultimately it comes down to this: BC, at this point, needs to do all that it can to support Jim Christian, and to show that they have no plans to replace him. But that doesn’t mean there should be any sense of urgency to give Christian one more year.