As soon as this college basketball season had ended, it figured that the Boston College Eagles were going to be looking in a new direction for a head coach. Steve Donahue was let go after the Eagles went 8-24 and 4-14 in the ACC, only finishing ahead of Virginia Tech in the 15-team league. Boston College did have a myriad of issues with injuries and at times were pretty much a one-man show thanks to the talent of sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who averaged 18.5 points per game and had 38 in a win over Florida Atlantic early in the season.
But Hanlan rarely got any significant help and the Eagles cratered. There was life for one night, however, as Boston College went into Syracuse and handed the then-top-ranked and undefeated Orange their first loss of the season. But what could have been a turning point for the Eagles and Donahue just ended up being a blip. BC went 1-6 the rest of the way, with a win at Wake Forest the only positive notch on the slate. The Syracuse win wasn’t enough to save Donahue, and Jim Christian was today named the new coach at Boston College.
Christian was formerly the head coach at Ohio University, where he was 49-21 in two years and went 25-9 in the MAC. His Bobcats didn’t make the NCAA Tournament either year, but it was still a respectable couple seasons. But whether this was the hire that Eagles fans and perhaps even their players — especially Hanlan — were looking for is another matter. Tommy Amaker, the former Duke standout who now is the head coach at Harvard, seemed like the perfect fit for BC, having won back-to-back titles and winning an NCAA Tournament game each of the past two seasons. Why wouldn’t Amaker want to come to the ACC and try and succeed, especially since it’s his old conference?
But there’s the rub right there. No one identifies Boston College with the ACC. Since going 21-11 in the league in its first two years after joining, the Eagles haven’t won 10 games in a conference season since and went 15-37 the past three seasons in the league. BC hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009 and hasn’t won a game in the Big Dance since 2007. BC came to the ACC in the midst of several solid seasons, but that has disappeared in recent years. While many felt Amaker was the person to restore the good times to Boston College, Amaker didn’t.
And who can blame him. Amaker is at a great school, one that isn’t trying to be a football powerhouse and one that doesn’t necessarily worry about getting every basketball game on TV and playing ridiculous schedules. Amaker knows if he stays the course, he can continue to win the Ivy League, get in the NCAA Tournament and do damage, no matter the seed. You can’t blame him for feeling BC isn’t the right fit just as much as you have to wonder if people at BC feel the ACC is the right fit for them — and the other way around. The conference will never complain about having a presence in the Boston TV market, of course, but BC basketball has become a wasteland in the nine years since the Eagles fled the Big East to join.
You can’t blame Amaker for not wanting to be a part of that. But you also can’t blame Christian for wanting to try his hand in the ACC after coaching in the MAC for two years. For Christian, it’s a solid step up after previously coaching Kent State and TCU, as well. Christian has never won an NCAA Tournament game, so there’s one clear goal. The other is sitting down with Hanlan and convincing his star player to stay and be a part of what is going to be a difficult rebuild.