The first game week press conference of the season for new men's basketball coach Jim Christian comes to you courtesy of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Media Conference. Christian was joined by Kevin Ollie (Connecticut), Craig Neal (New Mexico), Archie Miller (Dayton), Bill Kennedy (Texas A&M), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Paul Hewitt (George Mason) and Earl Grant (Charleston) to talk about the state of the program ahead of next week's tournament.
TIM SIMMONS: Our second coach, Jim Christian from Boston College. Are you on the line? Welcome to the teleconference for the Puerto Rico Tip‑Off. You're in your first season just like Coach Grant that we talked to before. How are things going at BC with your early season practices?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, yeah, things are going well. We open up on Friday night, so we've already had a scrimmage and an exhibition game, so we've had a chance to see what our guys have been able to comprehend and carry over into the games, and we've done some things I'm really proud of and some things obviously like everybody else that we need to get better at. But I'm fortunate I inherited a great group of kids, a lot of experience on our team, and a bunch of guys who want to win.
TIM SIMMONS: What are the strengths that you're seeing right now in your team or any concerns that you have?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, everybody has concerns. I think the strengths‑‑I mean, obviously we start with a great player. I think you have to have a great player to have success. Olivier Hanlan is in my opinion one of the best players in the country, so I think he's a very dynamic guy, and I think what happened, when we had some guys leave the program, he's taken ownership of the whole thing, and he's really‑‑his leadership has emerged, and I think we've added two fifth‑year seniors in Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten, guys who have had a lot of success in their college careers that have played in NCAA Tournaments, and I think those guys have helped changed the culture of our team.
TIM SIMMONS: Outside of Hanlan, what other players have stood out for you?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, the re‑emergence of Dennis Clifford, he's a seven‑foot center that has only played two games in two years, so now to see him first and foremost enjoying basketball and out there every day and healthy, that's been so rewarding for everybody, it's really uplifted the whole team, and to see him have success. He's like getting a new recruit. You get a guy like that who was a very good player before he got hurt, to see him back healthy, it's uplifting every day.
TIM SIMMONS: What are your thoughts about your first‑round opponent New Mexico? Obviously you've got a couple games prior to probably playing, but have you got any thoughts on New Mexico?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, I'm very familiar with them from my time at TCU, so I know how much pride they have in their program and the success that they've had over years and years, and Craig has done such a great job, so it's not easy to do to take over a winning program from an assistant coach to head coach. He did a phenomenal job and they're continuing to do great things. They've got a great fan base. I'm sure they'll have great support out there because their fans travel everywhere, and it's a program that's used to winning. It's going to be a great test for our team.
TIM SIMMONS: What about the second round, George Mason or West Virginia? Any thoughts?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, I mean, both teams, again, coaches who have coached in Final Fours and so highly successful programs that win. Those games are really going to test us because our program, the guys in my program right now, they haven't had a chance to win like that, so we're going to have to change the mentality to compete with teams like that every night, but it's going to be great early season challenges for these guys.
TIM SIMMONS: Let's talk a little bit about the format for the tournament. You play two games, off a day, and then play the placement championship game on the third fourth day. Do you like the format?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I do. You know, I've played in other tournaments that have it, and I think it's really good to have that off day for the kids. It gets them to get a chance to enjoy where they're at. It takes the pressure off them for a day. Coaches get a chance to kind of reidentify some things that you wanted to emphasize and learn from the first couple nights.
I think it's a great format. I think it's great for the kids. They get a chance to enjoy their experience, and at the same time you get that day to kind of regroup and figure out some things you want to improve on.
Q. Congratulations on getting the job, first of all. Second of all, I know exhibitions are what they are, but in just looking at the score sheet, I noticed a couple of names were not on there like guys that jumped out at me with Hicks and Jackson, didn't play. Any reason why?
JIM CHRISTIAN: They've been hurt. I mean, they're hurt. Darryl Hicks has reinjured his knee, and Lonnie Jackson has been hurt for most of the year with a deep calf strain.
Q. What are your expectations for them in Puerto Rico?
JIM CHRISTIAN: I think guys with injuries this time of the year, it's hard to know. Darryl will definitely be out because I think he just had to have a second surgery on his knee, which was disappointing for him, and Lonnie is still fighting to get back out there, so it's kind of a day‑by‑day situation.
Q. Last year I did several of BC's games, and the three‑point shot was a big weapon for them. Do you anticipate that that will be a weapon for you and your offense?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I mean, we have guys that can actually shoot the ball, but I'm hoping that's not the only thing. We have to become a more diversified team. Having a Dennis Clifford gives us a better inside presence, the development of a Will Magarity gives us additional inside presence. It's obviously a strength because we do have some guys who shoot the three very, very well, but hopefully we'll get a little bit more balanced in how we play.
Q. I'm doing a story for Basketball Times Magazine about team camaraderie in the social media era. I know you've only been at BC just this year, but you've been a head coach before. Now compared to say five, 10, 20 years ago, have those things weakened the bond among players? In other words, are they on their phones or wearing headphones instead of talking to each other during meals and plane rides?
JIM CHRISTIAN: Well, I think they're probably‑‑they used to just have conversations all the time. Again, when I was coaching in the MAC and other places, there was a lot of bus trips, so kids would be on the phone a lot of times before the era of Twitter and text messaging and all that, so obviously now it's more continuous, but we try to do things to prevent it, so when we have meals, nobody is allowed to have their phone. When there's times that we think there's things that are important that we're trying to do, we just ban them for short periods of time. I think you have to, and then I think you have to try to force situations where they do have conversations, so it's really big for us, especially for my coaching staff. Me, I've always had the policy that I try to meet with each guy on the team every two weeks just to have personal one‑on‑one conversations because I think it's really important, especially with young people today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports