Top Story, Men's Basketball

Christian Signs Two-Year Extension Through 2021-22 Season

This summer, Boston College men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian was on the hot seat. With newly named Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond in town—a former Michigan State and Ohio State executive, who not only has a basketball background, but also played at University of North Carolina Wilmington—there was a sense that the fourth-year coach had to prove himself in 2017-18. Eight months down the road, it’s pretty clear that he passed the test.

Christian guided the Eagles to seven ACC wins—one more than he totaled in his first three years on the Heights—five victories over NCAA Tournament-bound teams, including a thrilling upset over top-ranked Duke, back-to-back conference tournament wins, and their first winning season and postseason appearance since 2010-11. On Wednesday afternoon, Christian was reportedly rewarded with a two-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season, per CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein.

Since taking over the position in 2014-15, the Bethpage, N.Y. native has posted a 48-83 record, all while attempting to rebuild the program from the ground up. After winning 13 games in his first year with the team, Christian weathered back-to-back single-digit victory seasons—the first of which saw the Eagles infamously finish 0-18 in ACC play. During that span, six players that Christian recruited—Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, Matt Milon, Idy Diallo, Ty Graves, A.J. Turner, and Mike Sagay—transferred.

Fortunately for Christian and assistant coach Scott Spinelli, they were able to find a few diamonds in the rough, namely Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman. In 2016-17, the two North Carolina guards teamed up to form one of the most lethal backcourts in the conference. Slowly but surely the Eagles earned respect, snapping their 666-day ACC losing streak on New Year’s Day with a 15-point victory over reigning Midwest Regional Champion Syracuse. Despite dropping the final 15 games of the season, there was a newfound optimism surrounding the program.

This year, the results started to show. Robinson and Bowman upped their consistency, rivaling the best guards in the country, Jordan Chatman diversified his game—establishing himself as the team’s third scoring option—Nik Popovic mastered the pick and roll and transformed into an effective low-post scorer, and Steffon Mitchell flourished as a do-it-all stretch four. Stringing together multiple win streaks, BC showed that it could beat anyone in the country—that is, when it was in on its game. Meanwhile, Christian and Spinelli landed the program’s first ESPN 100 recruit in 12 years: 6-foot-8 small forward Jairus Hamilton. Despite suffering a first-round exit in the NIT, the Eagles have already popped up in number of way-too-early 2019 NCAA Tournament brackets.

Three weeks ago, Robinson and Bowman declared for the upcoming NBA Draft, but both elected not to sign an agent, thereby temporarily maintaining NCAA eligibility. Many believe Robinson—an AP All-American honorable mention—has played his way into the first round. Bowman, on the other hand, will likely return for his junior campaign.

As far as Christian is concerned, his ability to lead BC to the dance without one of his bonafide stars could very well determine whether or not Wednesday’s two-year extension eventually turns into a long-term deal.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

April 25, 2018