BOSTON (AP) — Boston College is turning to another small conference coach to make the Eagles competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BC hired Jim Christian of Ohio University on Thursday, hoping the coach who has led his teams to eight postseason berths in 12 years can get the Eagles back into the NCAA tournament. BC went 4-14 in the ACC last year — the third straight year it was under .500 in the conference — and the Eagles have not made the NCAAs since 2009.
"Any coach wants to have his chance to compete against the very best. The ACC is the very best," Christian said Thursday in a conference call. "There's no doubt for what I'm looking for, this is just a tremendous fit. ... The opportunity for growth — that's what excites you."
Christian, 49, led the Bobcats to a 49-22 record in two seasons at the school. In 12 years at Ohio, Texas Christian and Kent State, he has a record of 243-153.
"He's always been on my list and someone I've had a high regard for," said BC athletic director Brad Bates, who spent 10 years in that job at Miami of Ohio, overlapping in the Mid-American Conference with Christian. "We want to win; we want someone with championship and postseason experiences."
Christian replaces Steve Donahue, who was hired to replace Al Skinner in 2010. Donahue led Cornell to three straight NCAA tournament berths — including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2010 — but couldn't find similar success at BC.
Despite a 21-13 record his first year at Chestnut Hill, Donahue never reached the tournament, finishing below .500 in his last three seasons — including marks of 8-24 and 9-22.
This year's team was hurt by the injury to 7-footer Dennis Clifford, who played just two games because of arthritic knees. The Eagles' biggest win came on Feb. 19, when they beat top-ranked and previously unbeaten Syracuse on the road in overtime.
But they were just 1-5 after that, finishing the season with a 73-70 overtime loss to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC tournament.
In all, BC went 54-76 under Donahue.
A native of Bethpage, N.Y., who was recruited to Boston University by Rick Pitino, Christian is the MAC's all-time leader in winning percentage. He acknowledged that he was not a splashy, big-name hire, but said he hoped to have the kind of success that coaches like Tom Davis, Jim O'Brien and Skinner had after coming to BC as relative unknowns.
"In those days, those guys might not have been considered splash hires. But at the end of the day, they had success up there," Christian said. "That excites me."