After more than three days of speculation, rumors and "no comments" news broke Thursday afternoon that now former Ohio men's basketball head coach Jim Christian has accepted the position to be the next head men's basketball coach at Boston College as reported by Jason Arkley of the Athens Messenger. Christian replaces former coach Steve Donahue, who was fired in mid-March after going 54-76 in four seasons at BC.
By taking the position, Christian's two-year run as the head coach of the Ohio Bobcats has came to an end.
News broke late Monday evening that Christian, a native of Bethpage, NY, had emerged as a "legit candidate" for the position. It was reported that Christian interviewed with Boston College officials Tuesday, and was rumored to have been in Boston all day Wednesday. By Wednesday morning it appeared he was the front-runner for the job, which boasted a long list of former candidates including Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and former UConn coach Jim Calhoun. Thursday afternoon FOX Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson reported the two sides were close to finalizing a deal.
A 12-year veteran head coach (236-153), all at the Division I level, Christian owns the best career winning percentage amongst MAC head coaches, having won 73 percent of his games during six seasons in the MAC. He was the head coach of the Kent State Golden Flashes from 2002-2008 and Ohio from 2012-2014. During his time in the MAC his teams won at least a share of the MAC East title five times, leading his teams to seven post-season tournaments and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
An impressive recruiter, Christian has a knack for finding undervalued big men and athletic wings. Maurice Ndour, a first-year player at Ohio this past season, was considered one of the nation's top JUCO forwards in the 2013 recruiting class. The average height of that class was 6-foot-7, in a conference that struggles to find size. His teams tend to be more post-focused, he runs a traditional half-court offense that emphasizes pick and rolls often.
The former Rhode Island point guard came to Ohio in 2012, after a disappointing four-year stint at TCU that saw him go (56-73), as the replacement for John Groce who left for the Illinois job following Ohio's Sweet 16 run. The Bobcats and Christian agreed to a five-year deal that made him the highest paid basketball coach in the MAC, making an annual salary of $425,000. Three years were left on that deal and by taking the position at BC he owes Ohio a $500,000 buyout according to the terms of his contract.
In two seasons with Ohio Christian lead the team to 49 wins and two post-season tournament appearances. In 2012-2013 the Bobcats went 24-10 (14-2 MAC), winning a share of the MAC East and regular season title before falling to rival Akron 65-46 in the MAC Championship. The team followed that loss up with a first-round NIT loss to Denver.
After replacing the then winningest class in program history, and four long-time starters, Christian followed up with a 25-12 (11-7 MAC) season. The Bobcats were less succesful in the MAC season, finishign third in the East and losing in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals, but advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2014 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Many Ohio fans were critical of Christian as the head coach of Ohio, citing his 1-5 record vs. rival Akron (including two MAC Tournament losses), poor team rebounding, and issues with players that saw one player quit after the MAC Tournament this past season and last-years team give an uninspired performance in the NIT.
The fallout from Christian's decision has already started to take place. The program's top-recruit in the 2014 recruiting class, 4-star forward Tariq Owens, requested a release from his Letter of Intent, citing the Christian decision as a reason.
It's unknown if any of Christian's assistants will make the move with him, or if any of them will be retained at Ohio by the next head coach.