In the great Jim Christian Hot Seat Debate of 2019, I have been decidedly on the don’t-blow-it-up side of the discussion. I have felt that those calling for Christian’s head since last season were shortsighted and that there would be no quick fix with a new coach. The loss from a recruiting standpoint tends to decimate teams for at least two seasons, throwing BC down to the bottom rung of ACC play for the type of slow, clawing rebuild that drives fans away. Also, what hotshot hire do fans think is coming through that door? This is the kind of tough rebuild job that attracts up-and-comers, not established successes, and there is just no guarantee that Jarmond will hit on the right untested candidate. Is this going to be a Skinner-to-Donohue debacle? Can the program withstand another of those?
I’ve had plenty of other justifications, the main one being that the program is so frustratingly close to reasonable expectations. There is no room for error in this conference, and both this and last year’s teams have been a few overtime losses and one key injury (Teddy Hawkins, Wynston Tabbs) away from being in contention for NCAA tournament bids and the upper half of the ACC. Anyone, even top teams, can drop a bad loss like IUPUI. Sure they can lose to anyone, but can’t this team also beat top-25 teams? This coaching staff found Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, and have started bringing in classes with multiple ACC-level talents starting with Tabbs and Hamilton. The buildup has been slow with a few stumbles along the way, but isn’t the trajectory upward?
Well, I’m starting to think it’s not. Doubt has been chipping away all season. One bad OOC loss sure, but two? How can we go 0-4 in overtime? This team has put up too many stinkers, culminating in an absolutely embarrassing effort on Senior Night. While Christian’s willingness to take blame for poor efforts was refreshing in December, it has started to wear thin. This team has not only stumbled to the finish line, losing five of their last six, they look more directionless and uninspired than at any point all year. A well-coached team trends up, playing better as the season progresses. If anything, this team has been the opposite.
I’ve defended Jim Christian’s quiet sideline demeanor was well. There are plenty of subdued coaches who have been successful without getting worked up in game, it can even be a positive if it rubs off and keeps players focused and clear headed in the moment. I think this is something different. This team (outside of Steff Mitchell) is rarely fired up. Christian’s body language when the team gets down isn’t calm and confident, it’s depressing. They have routinely come out sleeping in the first half of games and had to (successfully or not) pull themselves out of deep holes. Say what you want about Steve Addazio but at least he seems to get guys fired up. I’m not sure this team likes or listens to Christian, or that he has the skill set to inspire players to dig deep.
Most concerning of all, I have a nagging feeling that the recruiting successes have been overblown. Jairus Hamilton, the Eagles’ highest recruit in a decade, was supposed to be the crowning jewel of this year’s class. He has improved some of late and seems to be gaining confidence but I think it’s time to say out loud that he is no Craig Smith. On a team that has often been desperate for scoring, Hamilton has been unable to pass offensive black hole Steffon Mitchell all year. He may break out into a star player yet, but I’m starting to worry that he was less of a recruiting steal and more of an overrated player all along. Will the same be said of next year’s class?
So, I’m sold on moving on from Jim Christian. Change is always tempting because it’s undefined and infinitely possible- that’s why draft picks hold more trade value than the actual players once they have been drafted. But the bad news is that I still believe what I said before. A rebuild will be hard on the program and at least a partial crap shoot. It will have to get a lot worse before it gets better (if it gets better?) and the fans are hungry for immediate success. I just don’t think there’s as much progress to hold onto as I did before. I guess it’s time to light a candle in my Jared Dudley shrine and hope for the best.