Reading between the lines at BC

March 30, 2010 - 12:27 pm

During his opening remarks to the media at Tuesday's press conference to announce Al Skinner's departure, Boston College director of athletics Gene DeFilippo talked about what he wanted in his next coach. It seems clear that the five points he brought up were the reasons he decided to end Skinner's tenure at BC after 13 seasons, and it answers some questions about how Skinner was perceived at Conte Forum and beyond. Here's a point-by-point analysis. DeFilippo: I know a lot of you are interested in what would we want in our new coach. What type of person would we look for. I think that these are the type of things that we would ask of our new coach: We want to be very competitive with this basketball program vs. local teams and vs. teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Analysis: Losing to the likes of Harvard, Maine and Vermont must stop. Once a decade, maybe. But four in four years? Unacceptable. That's on the coach for failing to properly prepare and motivate the players. DeFilippo: We want a coach who's going to play a very exciting brand of basketball. Analysis: Goodbye, flex offense. The flex is tolerable when you win, but running the flex and losing only makes it more difficult for the average fan to watch -- and it can't help with recruiting. DeFilippo: We want a team that's going to dive for loose balls, that's going to take charges, that's going to play great defense. And a team that's going to give us everything they have to give while they're out on that floor. Analysis: This has been a real problem for a while, and it's surprising that it continued so long. How many two-on-none and three-on-none fast breaks can one team allow before it's addressed? Even with Skinner's very successful BC teams, there were a number of times when the opposition simply (and visibly) out-hustled the Eagles and picked up wins because of it. Yes, you can blame part of it on the flex offense, because of where the players are positioned and the risk of turnovers up high. But still, the max effort has been lacking for some time at Conte Forum. DeFilippo: We want a team and a coach who will relate to our student body, to our faculty, to our staff, to our alumni and our fans. Analysis: DeFilippo did not get specific about this, but the implication is that Skinner was not as visible and welcoming around campus and with athletic department supporters as he could have been. DeFilippo: And we want a coach who's going to continue to recruit outstanding young men who will be successful in the classroom, on the basketball court and out in the community. And those people are out there. Analysis: Skinner fared OK in this category. There were a few notable exceptions '€” including Sean Williams and Akida McLain, who were suspended multiple times before finally being kicked off the team for good in 2007. As for academic performance, there are a number of ways to analyze this, and overall Skinner's teams appear to be average when compared to the rest of Division 1 basketball. One of the measures is Academic Progress Rate (APR), which includes factors such as athletes' academic eligibility, progress toward graduation, and staying in school. A school faces sanctions from the NCAA if it fails to achieve a certain score for two consecutive years. The 2008-09 BC team that reached the NCAA tournament had an APR of 944, slightly above average when compared to the other tourney teams. Meanwhile, the BC football team has been much more successful in this regard, consistently ranking at or near the top nationally in graduation rate the past few years. DeFilippo went on to say: "There's a lot of things that you look at when you look at a coach. You look at the recruiting aspects. You look at the interaction between the fans and the players. You look at the number of people that are coming to the games. You look at so many things over the course of the whole basketball program. "Recruiting is one of them, marketing and promotions is one of them, seats in the stadium are one of them, do our players play hard, do they identify with the Boston College community?" On the topic of recruiting, DeFilippo added: "We've had some excellent assistant coaches who were here who have all gone off and gotten terrific jobs -- Timmy O'Shea [now at Bryant], Bill Coen [Northeastern], Eddie Cooley [Fairfield]. They've brought in some terrific players through the years." Note how DeFilippo said, "They've brought in some terrific players." That's a telling comment, as there are those close to the program who will tell you O'Shea, Coen, Cooley and current assistants Pat Duquette, Bonzie Colson and Mo Cassara are the unheralded individuals who have kept this program competitive during Skinner's tenure. One source indicated that Skinner's curious reluctance  -- or unwillingness -- to hit the road and visit players in their homes has made his assistants' job all the more challenging. When talking about the appeal of BC, DeFilippo noted: "There's a great feeling of family here at this university. One thing about Boston College students: They are happy young men and women. They are happy." If BC gets the type of coach DeFilippo wants, certainly there will be happier faces on campus. And clearly, that's a gamble the AD was willing to take.