BOSTON (AP) — Al Skinner is out as the Boston College basketball coach, ending a 13-year tenure in which he led the Eagles to more wins than anyone else in school history — many of them in front of lackluster home crowds who never embraced the program.
Athletic director Gene DeFilippo said Skinner’s departure was by mutual agreement, but it had all the markings of a firing: Skinner will be paid for the remaining three years on his contract, and DeFilippo discussed at length the teams’ shortcomings while referring to the move as “my decision.”
“Change is good sometimes. How many basketball coaches have been in the same position for 13 years? Very, very few,” said DeFilippo, who arrived in Chestnut Hill shortly after Skinner in 1997 on the heels of a gambling scandal that had devastated the athletic department.
DeFilippo said the decision was made last Wednesday, but the announcement was kept secret for almost a week at Skinner’s request so he could interview for other jobs, including the vacancy at St. John’s. Skinner will be paid what he’s owed unless he finds a new job.
“Al Skinner will be treated very, very, very well, as he should be,” said DeFilippo.
Skinner was not available for comment.
Assistant coach Pat Duquette will take over as interim head coach and be responsible for making sure the players go to classes and the weight room. The coaching staff will be able to go to the Final Four in Indianapolis to look for new jobs, DeFilippo said.
BC has already received permission to talk to three potential replacements, DeFilippo said, declining to identify any. He said he was looking for a more exciting style of play than the banging, Big East style that Skinner favored and that DeFilippo blamed for half-empty arenas that were as much a hallmark of BC basketball as Doug Flutie playing drums in the pep band.
Attendance has declined for four straight years at the 8,606-seat Conte Forum, and though Skinner would play lunchtime pickup games on campus he was not otherwise “engaged in the BC community” or a person the school could build a marketing campaign around.
DeFilippo, who fired football coach Jeff Jagodzinski last year for seeking an NFL job without permission, said Skinner had permission to interview for the St. John’s vacancy — or anywhere else, for that matter — that opened when Norm Roberts was fired.
“Coach Skinner then asked if we could delay the announcement so that he could pursue other opportunities. Out of respect for coach Skinner, Boston College agreed,” DeFilippo said. “Other institutions were made aware we would be parting ways from the beginning of the process.”
In 13 seasons leading the Eagles, Skinner compiled a 247-165 record with seven NCAA berths since 2001. But BC has finished below .500 in two of the last three seasons, with a 15-16 in 2009-10 that included a 6-10 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference and a first-round loss in the league tournament.
Skinner has never been known as a top-notch recruiter, though he did excel at taking lightly recruited players like Troy Bell, Craig Smith and Jared Dudley and turning them into NBA prospects.
Before coming to BC, Skinner spent nine years at Rhode Island. In all, he has a 385-291 record that includes 10 seasons of 20 wins or more.
A standout player at Massachusetts and a teammate of Julius Erving’s on the 1976 ABA champion New York Nets, Skinner came to Boston College after a gambling scandal that cost the school its football coach and athletic director. His predecessor, Jim O’Brien, went to Ohio State after a power struggle with the BC admissions department and left just seven scholarship players behind.
The Eagles won 32 games in his first three years and finished last in the Big East in 2000. But the next season they became the first school in conference history to go from worst-to-first and Skinner was a contender for national coach of the year.
BC reached the NCAA tournament seven times in the next nine years despite an uncomfortable move to the ACC that was made with football in mind.