By: Andrew Brown
SNHU Business Law MBA
October 30, 14
Albert “Al” Skinner was the former head coach for the Boston College men’s basketball team, a division 1 powerhouse competing in the Big East conference, and later to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Unlike professional sports, college teams are constantly changing due to athletes graduating or entering the draft. So a new coach has a three to four year window to compile a team that is comprised of his recruits. Understanding this concept will help to evaluate the performance of any head basketball coach at the collegiate level.
Prior to arriving at Chestnut Hill, coach Skinner was the head coach at the University of Rhode Island from 1988-1997. His basketball team recorded a 20-14 and 20-10 record his final two years at the school. He is also credited for recruiting Cuttino Mobley, Tyson Wheeler and Lamar Odom, a URI team that went to the Elite Eight in 1998, his first year at Boston College.
During his time at URI, Boston College had a head coach in Jim O’Brien, who struggled to get recruits through the admission process at the school. When he left the school following the 1996-1997 season, coach O’Brien took nearly all of his players, including star Scoonie Penn to Ohio State. Coach O’Brien later sued Boston College for slander and breach of contract citing racial bias as a reason for denial of admission for recruits.
The Golden Years on the Hill
Coach Skinner arrives on campus in 1997, and takes over a program with a depleted roster. As mentioned earlier, it takes a new coach at least three years to recruit and build a team capable of competing at a high level. During his first three years, coach Skinner’s Eagles struggled to win games as expected. But his fourth year at the school proved to be special. The Boston College Eagles won the 2000-2001 Big East regular season title for the first time in 18 years; going 27-5 setting a then school record for wins in a season and earned a #3 seed in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Coach Skinner won both Big East and National Coach of the Year awards.
The success of the Eagles continued to grow, as they defeated the defending national champions 3 years consecutively. They started the 2004-2005 campaign with a 20-0 record, and ranking as high as #3 in the nation, winning the regular season title and another Coach of the Year award for Coach Skinner. The following season, the Eagles went 28-8 in his 9th season, and he became the winningest coach in Boston College history after 6 straight years of highly competitive play. On September 4, 2007, Boston College announced on their website that “Boston College head men's basketball coach Al Skinner has received a contract extension that will keep him in his current position through the 2012-13 season, according to an announcement made by Boston College director of athletics Gene DeFilippo.” The school acknowledges that success of their basketball program and offered this contract extension.
The Beginning of the End
In March 2010, St. Johns University was granted permission by Boston College to talk to coach Skinner about their coaching vacancy. This is a practice that happens all the time in college sports. Coach Skinner emerged as their top-coaching prospect. On March 30, 2010, Boston College confirmed the firing of coach Skinner after an article in the Boston Globe was published Tuesday morning. That afternoon, St. Johns decided to go in another direction and hired former UCLA coach Steve Lavin.
In the Boston Globe, long time sports columnist Bob Ryan written the following statement, “Doesn’t St. John’s understand that Al is the least-hard-working guy in show business” (Ryan, Boston Globe). Then later in the day, Gene DeFilippo states, “’we want a coach who is going to continue to recruit outstanding young men who will be successful in the classroom, on the basketball court and out in the