Boston College men's basketball coach Jim Christian made his very real public appearance this afternoon at ACC Media Day down in Charlotte. The Eagles' first-year coach talks about his new program and the expectations for the season.
Here's the complete interview:
Q. Jim, I talked with your players a little bit earlier about how they've responded to you. How do you feel the team has, from your perspective, responded to what you're trying to institute in Boston?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, you know, I think right from the beginning, I think that the message that I sent to them, it's an unusual group I inherited because there's six seniors, and I think right from the beginning the point I made to them is my job is to have them enjoy and make the most of their senior year, and I think they were kind of taken aback by that. But I think a lot of times they expect the coach is going to wait to get his own players and then create things, and I didn't do that. I went right to getting to know them, getting on the floor with them and getting them right away to understand what I was trying to do, and for them to have the best senior year that they could have, and I think they've really responded to that very, very well.
Q. How would you define the Boston College Eagles right now as far as your expectations and the environment that you've been trying to create?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, you know, for us right now it's establishing the proper habits and a big understanding, but the expectations for us are the same as the other 14 teams: We're trying to make the NCAA Tournament. I inherited a very experienced group of guys, a group of guys that hasn't had success, but I think there's talent. We've had the emergence of some guys. We've added some new pieces that I think have changed our culture immediately. Obviously we added a great player in Olivier Hanlan and he's got the attitude that you'd want for a great player. But I think a Dennis Clifford, who hasn't played in two years, to see him play pain‑free basketball and enjoy the game the way he has has been rewarding. And then the two fifth‑year guys we added, Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten, they've changed our culture because they're competitive guys who have won, and because of that, they've influenced practice and we're establishing the habits that we want.
Q. Talk about playing in the ACC. You can have a good basketball team and still finish in the middle of the pack or even lower.
JIM CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it's a difficult task. Obviously it's an unbelievable league from top to bottom with power, and you have to stay the course. That's the first thing I gave this team was these bands that say "Stay Positive" because it's one of those leagues, and I agree, you could play very, very well and lose. If your confidence wavers or your belief in what you're doing wavers, you can't go forward.
Hopefully our experience, the number of games we've played, even though we haven't had success, if we can change the mentality, that'll be a strength for us. But it's definitely a very difficult task because of the unbelievable challenge night in and night out, different styles of play. Every league has different styles of play, but in this league the styles of play that you're playing, they do it better than anybody in the nation, and that's the unique challenge.
Q. Coach, just a question about Syracuse, your thoughts on them.
JIM CHRISTIAN: Again, I mean, I'm not as familiar right now with the individual pieces other than watching them for years and years and understanding the tremendous amount of success they've had year in and year out. It seems like the players' names change, but the success level stays the same, the philosophy stays the same.
And again, I was speaking a little bit with Coach Boeheim earlier. What he's done, even if you took half the years, what he's done in college basketball at one university, playing, coaching, being part of it the whole time, it's an impossible task that will probably never again be duplicated in this game. It's a program year in and year out that can and will compete for national championships.
Q. It's been such a long time since people have seen a healthy Dennis and what he can do. What can he do now? He says he's feeling 100 percent, so what do you look for from him?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, for me, when I took the job, I heard all these stories about Dennis Clifford, that he can't do it anymore, his career is over, and then when I started doing the workouts, I had a friend of mine come in, and I said, "There's a guy out here who hasn't played for two years. Can you pick him out?" It took him a couple guesses to get Dennis. That doesn't say much for the other guys right now.
But for Dennis he's a guy that can run the floor unbelievably well. He's got great hands, he has great touch, he has good feel. For a big kid he can pass the basketball, so you can run offense through him. He's seven feet, 250 pounds for a feet that really struggled in the interior defensively and rebounding the ball on the interior. He just gives us help.
And the other part of that that goes with that, you know, is sometimes when there's changes, guys emerge. They get a different outlook, maybe a clean slate or maybe a part of their game emerges that didn't emerge in the past, and I think we have some of that, which is exciting for me.
Q. In the short time Steve Addazio has brought a little bit of swagger back to B.C. football. In a couple of years as you establish your program, what might be the word you would use to describe your program?
JIM CHRISTIAN: "Swagger" is a good word, but I want our basketball team from the minute we step out there for people to understand how hard we compete and how much we are passionate about what we're doing and the amount of time we spend in developing our players. I think over the course of my time, that's the things that I've taken the most pride in is that people from other programs that we play, the one thing they say about our team is that from year in and year out, our players get better. That just is a compliment to our staff and the amount of time we spend on that.
Q. Do you like the schedule that you've inherited?
JIM CHRISTIAN: It's a schedule‑‑ again, the non‑conference schedule is one that I had to inherit the majority of it. It's not easy, but it wouldn't have been probably the way I would like to set up, but the schedule is the schedule, and the ACC schedule, there is no easy ones anyway, so whenever you play them you play.
I'm more concerned now about the developments of our team, our understanding and what the foundation of our program is going to be and their understanding of what the foundation is and not worry about stuff like that.
Q. Is there something you really, really, really like about the program right now in practice?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I really believe it's just the coachability of our players. The energy they bring every day and the attitude with which they show every day is‑‑ when you inherit a new program, that's always a concern. Am I going to be able to get through to these guys and get them to buy into what we're trying to do? And right from day one, which is a credit to them, that they've bought into everything we've asked them to do on the court, off the court, and they've responded very, very well.
Q. Will Olivier Hanlan, do you expect he'll continue to score at a similar pace to what he's done his first couple of years?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Again, I think he'll probably‑‑ he's our primary ball handler now, and I don't know if he was that. Again, I didn't watch any film of them, so I'm going by what I've been told. He's a guy that can score the ball, and he's great in the open floor. We play probably a little bit faster than they played, so he'll have a lot of opportunities. But he's been a great scorer. But he's also a guy that can get other people shots. He's also a guy when he breaks the defense down is getting better and better at reading the situation and knowing when to get rid of the ball, which is probably‑‑ knowing who to throw it to is important, knowing when to get rid of it is even more important, and I think he's developing.
Q. Momentum is a really big deal obviously in sports. You've got great momentum coming in as a head coach based on your experience at Ohio. What type of advantage do you have based on the last three seasons or so to get B.C. rolling?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I think really we've just taken the approach that we're all in this together, and they understand that all of us have questions to answer. Coaches have questions, players have questions, and we just kind of dove into doing this thing together and understanding step by step what we're trying to do. I have a very mature group of guys. We probably‑‑ I haven't looked at it, but chronologically we might have the oldest team in the country. It's been great because there's a lot of conversation and understanding. They're not afraid to ask me questions, which is great, and there's been a lot of time that we've spent developing relationships with those guys, which was priority No.1, has really paid dividends.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports