A couple weeks ago (sue me, it’s the off-season, I’m busy) The Heights interviewed incoming Boston College basketball coach Jim Christian.The whole thing is definitely worth a read; TH once again does a great job of asking direct, real questions. Coach Christian’s answers however, left something to be desired. Here are some of his most troubling answers (in my humble opinion of course):
Heights: What kind of defensive system are you trying to set up with them?
Jim Christian: I mean it starts with man, right? You’re going to be in man 95 percent of the time, so you better be able to understand it and understand our thing. It’s not complex. It’s effort, attitude, positioning.
Uh, no Coach. No it sure, doesn’t. Man-to-man tends to be a viable defensive scheme when you have the personnel to back it up. With no Dennis Clifford or suitable back up at Center, BC was torched in the paint last year both defensively and on the boards. I have written ad nauseam about the front court’s match up issues, but I don’t see them improving much next year. If Coach Christian is going to play successful man-to-man defense, Dennis Clifford is going to need to play 25 plus minutes per game, new recruit Idrissa Diallo needs to be ready to replace Ryan Anderson defensively (which admittedly shouldn’t be that daunting of a task) and the guards need to extend the defense to some sort of press. A little more than effort, attitude and positioning. Things like personnel and scheme do tend to matter.
Heights: How much film of last season have you watched?
Jim Christian: None, I won’t watch one clip. It’s got nothing to do with me. I mean that sincerely, what am I going to watch film for? I don’t play that way. Everybody plays differently and looks for different things. I don’t want to have any prejudgments. They’re going to show me what they have when they’re out here. I really don’t care about that.
I am torn with this answer. In some ways, I respect that Coach Christian has the confidence to do things his way and isn’t interested in looking to the past in order to diagnose future problems. However, this answer also alludes to a greater point around Coach Christian’s attitude: I get the feeling through this interview that he thinks the main problem with this team was effort and attitude. That Big Bad Jim is going to walk through those doors and change the way BC Basketball does business. Similar to Coach Addazio and the football team.
I hope he’s right. I just don’t think he is.
I felt like the team played hard and wanted to win for Coach Donahue. I think he was the worst Xs and Os basketball coach I’ve ever watched closely and I think he miscalculated how tough rebounding and frontcourt defense was in the ACC.
These are scheme and personnel problems, not effort and attitude problems. Teaching Eddie Odio when to slide over on pick and rolls is not the only thing that is going to make BC Basketball relevant.
Heights: So you’re not watching any film of last year, but you’ve mentioned before that this team has to get better defensively. Do you think it’s just focusing on effort and positioning and things like keeping your man in front that will solve those issues?
Jim Christian: I think it’s just emphasis. It’s like anything else, you only become better when you really emphasize something. We have to get this group to buy into not accepting that anymore. I think our standard of what we expect from each other has got to be raised. It’s nothing technical. It’s all effort, attitude, and heart. They all know how to play. It’s not like we got out-schemed and they were dunking on us left and right. I know Steve and his staff spent an unbelievable amount of time on preparation, so now it’s mentality. What is the mentality? Can we take the drill and put it into live play? So it’s more of a competitive thing.
So what we do do, is we play a ton of one-on-one live now. And that’s what we’ll show today. Look at your effort, look at your positioning, look what you did here. There’s some technique things, but there’s more of a mentality thing and that’s where it starts. It starts with our individual ability to play the ball and then everybody else is understanding positioning-wise from there. Any good defensive team in the country, that’s what they do. And if we want to become a much better defensive team then we better understand and emphasize that right now. It’s emphasizing the competitive nature of it, the technique of it with the terminology with which we do, and putting that together with the hungriness of the team.
Coach Christian and I have a serious difference of opinion here. Now he happens to coach a Division 1 Basketball team and I happen to eat lots of fast food. But fixing this team is going to take more than positioning. When you are attempting to defend 5 star recruits with 3 star recruits, it takes a little creativity. You have to use your cognitive advantage to your ability. If Coach Christian’s philosophy is to out-man, out-technique and out-body UNC and Duke, his stay in the ACC might be a short one.
Anyways, read the entire interview and make your own judgments. He also goes on a nice rant about not needing to be the one to recruit students to go to the games. I may be putting too much stock into one interview, but his first go-around did not pass my litmus test. I am excited that he wants to make an attitude change but it’s going to take a lot more than “try harder.”
If I’m wrong, only then will the true scale of Coach Donahue’s ineptitude be realized.