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How can Boston College Basketball Make a Return to Relevancy?

NCAA Second Round - Boston College v Georgetown Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

10 years removed from its last Sweet 16 appearance, BC Basketball finds itself with a 16-48 record over the last two years. That’s, um, not great. Despite having a backcourt of two studs in Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, the wins are just not coming. While his recruiting leaves a lot to be desired, head coach Jim Christian has been able to get Bowman, Robinson, and (the recently departed) AJ Turner, but his in-game management is not up to par with other coaches in the ACC. While this may seem obvious with Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Roy Williams of UNC, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, and Rick Pitino of Louisville all in the Hall of Fame, Christian also gets out-coached by the likes of Danny Manning of Wake Forest, Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech, and Josh Pastnor of Georgia Tech, none of whom have that much better of a team than he does. And that’s still ignoring great coaches such as Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, UVA’s Tony Bennett, and Miami’s Jim Larranaga. I cannot see Martin Jarmond keeping Christian around if the Eagles struggle in such an ugly fashion again. I expect him to replace Christian with someone who would be more capable of competing with the more talented ACC coaches. So, without further ado, here is my foolproof plan to solve BC’s basketball woes.

  1. Fire Christian and Replace with a Proven Head Coach:

As I mentioned above, Christian has done a decent job recruiting, but he has not done enough to warrant another losing season at BC. He has seen talented recruits leave the New England area to play elsewhere time and time again. The real reason Christian will ultimately have to leave, however, is because of his poor game management which leads to a poor Win-Loss record.

Once Jarmond gets rid of Christian, he will be faced with the task of filling that position. When thinking about who he could get, BC fans would love to get a big name splash, a proven winner, and someone who will be able to recruit.

The first person who comes to mind is Thad Matta, who just so happens to have most recently worked at Jarmond’s former school. Matta, who has a career record of 439-154, reached the Final Four twice with the Buckeyes, has seen many of his former players enjoy fruitful careers in the NBA, and did a great job of keeping Ohio talent in Ohio.

The second coach I would target is Tom Crean, the former Indiana coach. A real character, there are many people who cannot stand Crean, but given his winning reputation and ability to rebuild an Indiana program that had been sputtering, he would be a huge upgrade for the Eagles. As far as recruiting and in game management are concerned, he’s one of the best in the business and could only help BC.

Lastly, I would look in conference to the Duke Blue Devils’ bench. While we probably would not be able to swing the winningest college basketball coach of all time, there are some quality coaches who currently have the title “assistant.” With Chris Collins (Northwestern), Steve Wojciechowski (Marquette), and Johnny Dawkins (Stanford) recently leaving Durham in search of head coaching jobs at good academic schools in Power 5 conferences, it is worth taking a look at the Duke bench to see if any of the current coaches would be willing to come to BC. Most likely, the Eagles would target either associate head coach Jeff Capel, or Nate James. Both former Blue Devils, Capel has been a head coach at VCU and Oklahoma, and James has been an assistant for the last eight years. However, even a third person, Jon Scheyer could be an attractive name to hire. BC fans may remember him from his playing days, a deadeye shooter who won a national championship as a player with Duke. Young, energetic, and experience as an assistant under the tutelage of Coach K could be a tantalizing combination and could make him an attractive candidate for a head coaching job soon.

If BC were able to swing any of those five coaches, it would be a huge coup, as the Eagles would immediately see results. Of course, none of these may be a realistic possibility, but it is worth at least exploring.

2. Upgrade Facilities

This has been a huge gripe with BC alums lately, as the lack of state-of-the-art facilities has held back the Eagles’ recruiting efforts. Conte Forum is built for hockey and a terrible place to both watch and play basketball. The student section is broken up, small, and behind the baskets, which provides an inadequate view of the court. Also, the seats, in particular the bleachers are very uncomfortable. They are made for standing and cheering, but if it’s not students sitting there, there will probably not be much standing during the game. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the practice facility needs to be upgraded. For a money sport, having to share the court with another sport is very difficult because it prevents blackout times when the other team is using it, particularly during the fall, when volleyball is in season and basketball is preparing for theirs. In addition, upgrading the locker room for the team that morphs into a clubhouse/hangout area with some TVs, video game consoles, and a place to get snacks would allow the team to spend more time together. While this may sound ridiculous, teams all over the country have these perks for their players after a practice or game, or even in between classes.

3. Recruit, recruit, recruit

This is the big one. Recruiting solves a lot of other issues. The fact of the matter is that if better players are recruited, a better product will be put on the floor, more games will be won, more fans will want to come, and even more high profile players will want to come play at the Heights. One thing that BC has done an extremely poor job of doing recently is containing New England and its rich basketball talent. With arguably the best high school basketball league in the country, the NEPSAC, right in its backyard, BC has no excuse to not recruit players from those schools every year. Combined with the fact that the Boston area has two Nike EYBL and two Adidas Uprising teams each, the coaching staff should be focusing its recruiting efforts in New England.

While Christian has done a good job of finding diamonds in the rough in Bowman and Robinson, he cannot count on consistently recruiting players that other ACC schools overlook. He must start out-recruiting other coaches for players that he wants. Players like Malik Abu of NC State, Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame, Duncan Robinson of Michigan, Jermaine Samuels of Villanova, and Jalen Adams of UConn are all recent players from the state of Massachusetts who left to play elsewhere. Colson is an all conference player at ND, Abu is a great role player for the Wolfpack, and Robinson is one of the best spot up shooters in the country. Obviously, it is not expected that BC ends up with all of those guys, but if one or two of those guys were on the floor with Bowman and Robinson every night, the Eagles would be a much more dangerous and versatile team.

With AJ Reeves and Cole Swider committing to Providence and Villanova, respectively, Christian and Co. missed out on two big time recruits who would have been able to come in, play, and help BC win games right away. It would be nice to see the Eagles go and aggressively pursue David Duke and Nate Laszewski in the class of 2018 and Akok Akok and Taelon Martin in the class of 2019. Four of the brightest available players in New England, those guys could be immediate contributors in Conte Forum.

At the end of the day, it is much easier to change the course of the basketball program than the football program because there are so many fewer roster spots. If BC were to make a splash on the coaching market and follow that up with getting two or three top-100 players (which is easier said than done) and all of a sudden, BC could be back in the middle of the pack in the ACC instead of the basement. They may never get back to the point of dominance in conference with Duke, UNC, Louisville, and UVA all national powers at this point, and that’s ok, but six ACC teams made the NCAA tournament in 2016 and nine in 2017 and BC wasn’t even close.

If they can continue to find diamonds in the rough (Bowman, Robinson) and combine them with top 50 recruits (Duke, Martin, Akok, etc.), and/or good role players (Abu, Robinson), the Eagles would at least be able to put out 7 or 8 players who can play in the ACC, which they have lacked in the past few years. I’m optimistic that if (read when) Jarmond fires Christian and replaces him, the new coach will be a big name that will rebuild the BC and put them in a respectable position in the ACC.