Men's Basketball, Basketball, Top Story, Sports

Jim Christian Fired Mid-Season After 3-13 Start

Boston College has fired men’s basketball coach Jim Christian after six and a half years at the helm, BC Athletics announced on Monday. 

Christian has been on the hot seat for the past few seasons, as the Eagles have struggled to produce good results year after year. Since Christian was hired as the head coach in 2014, BC has only had one winning season, when the Eagles went 19-16 during their 2017-18 campaign. 

Christian concludes his tenure with the Eagles with a record of 78-132 and an ACC record of 26-94.

According to a statement from BC Athletics, Athletics Director Pat Kraft opted to release Christian mid-season, effective immediately. Scott Spinelli, six-year assistant coach at BC, will serve as the interim head coach. 

“I know that Jim gave everything that he had into leading our program and mentoring our student-athletes,” Kraft said in Monday’s press release. “Ultimately, the program is not headed in the right direction and though I hesitate to make a mid-season coaching change in any sport, now is the right time for us to look forward. We wish Jim and his family all the best in their future endeavors and thank them for their service to Boston College.”

Though the news officially came on Monday at noon, Christian’s firing has been in the works for a while. Shortly after BC men’s basketball lost its game against Florida State last March—a crushing 80-62 loss that capped off the Eagles’ disappointing 2019-20 campaign—news began to leak that Christian would be relieved of his coaching duties.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, secured Christian’s job on a temporary basis. Then-Athletics Director Martin Jarmond opted to keep Christian on for another season. 

“There’s uncertainty when we’re going to have students back on campus, there’s uncertainty about graduation, there’s uncertainty about the fall,” Jarmond said about his decision, as reported in The Boston Globe. “With so much uncertainty, I just feel like it’s important to have stability in your leadership.” 

With his job saved by the pandemic, Christian has shown no improvement during the 2020-21 season, as the Eagles have slipped even deeper into the depths of the ACC standings. BC is currently last in the ACC with a woeful 1-9 conference record. BC has recorded just three wins during the 2020-21 campaign.

The firing is the first major move for Kraft, who was hired by BC in June of last year. Kraft oversaw one men’s basketball coaching change during his time at Temple with the hiring of head coach Aaron McKie in 2019 after longtime Owls head coach Fran Dunphy retired. 

Huge losses became something of Christian’s signature during his time on the Heights. The Eagles lost five games by at least 20 points during the 2019-20 season and have lost by that margin 26 times during Christian’s six-plus years in charge. BC’s 38-point loss to Syracuse earlier this season put his proclivity for huge defeats on full display, a loss only exceeded by the 39-point drubbing that Duke levied against the Eagles last season. 

Since finishing above .500 in the 2017-18 season, Christian has seen the Eagles take a large step back in terms of performance, unable to compete on the conference and national level. While BC had hoped to maintain its momentum following the departure of Jerome Robinson—replacing him with Jairus Hamilton and then-junior Ky Bowman—the Eagles failed to replicate their winning season, instead taking a dramatic step back from the season prior. 

BC’s most impressive performance under Christian came during the 2017-18 season, when the Eagles upset then-top ranked Duke 89-84. The victory snapped the Blue Devils’ 11-game win streak over the Eagles. 

With Christian at the helm, BC not only struggled on the floor, but also on the recruiting trail. BC averaged a 12th-place finish in the ACC recruiting rankings over Christian’s seven signing classes.

Two Eagles were drafted into the NBA during Christian’s time in charge. Olivier Hanlan was drafted in the second round in 2015 by the Utah Jazz and Robinson was selected 13th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018

“I am confident that our student-athletes will compete hard down the stretch in this most unusual year with our full support,” Kraft said in the release. “We will begin a national search immediately to find a new leader of our young men on the Heights.”

With an opening in the program for the first time in over six years, BC is left with a burning question: Who can create the change that BC has been without for so long?

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

February 15, 2021