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BC makes coaching inquiries; Skinner on outs?

St. John’s wants Lavin; Eagles set to move on

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 30, 2010

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As St. John’s focused on making former UCLA coach Steve Lavin its next basketball coach, Boston College coach Al Skinner remained in the mix, but not as the primary backup. With that information, BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo, who granted St. John’s permission to talk to Skinner last week, is preparing for a future without him, and according to a BC source, Skinner could be fired today.

The source said Skinner met with DeFilippo and Leo Sullivan, the school’s vice president of human resources, to discuss his future yesterday, and a final decision on the coach’s status could come today.

According to sources within the BC athletic department, DeFilippo has contacted a few schools and requested permission to talk to its coaches. According to the sources, DeFilippo has not had direct contact with any coach but is prepared to act quickly if he has an opening.

Skinner had been regarded as the backup plan for St. John’s, but yesterday, according to sources at St. John’s, athletic director Chris Monasch set up a tentative interview with Rhode Island coach Jim Baron.

Skinner interviewed at St. John’s Friday but was not given assurances he was the leading candidate. St. John’s officials want a coaching staff with strong New York City ties. Skinner, who comes from Long Island, said he wanted to bring his entire staff to New York, but none have strong New York City backgrounds.

Lavin, who has not coached for seven years, was agreeable to having a New York City-connected staff. Part of the package St. John’s is putting together for Lavin includes Dave Leitao, who was an assistant at Connecticut and the head man at Northeastern, DePaul, and Virginia; and Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen.

According to sources at St. John’s, Lavin met with school officials last night to work out the final details, with an announcement expected tomorrow morning. St. John’s officials called media outlets in New York yesterday and told them to keep tomorrow morning clear for an announcement.

Lavin, who was fired by UCLA seven years ago and has worked for ESPN as a college basketball analyst, spent a week talking to North Carolina State officials in 2006 before deciding to remain at ESPN.

He could do the same thing if St. John’s doesn’t meet his salary demands or if there is some other snag. Skinner seemed the logical choice after Lavin until yesterday, when Baron entered the picture.

Skinner’s situation at BC appears precarious, but just because DeFilippo asked permission to talk to other coaches is no guarantee Skinner will be fired.

If Skinner is dismissed, BC will be obligated to pay the final three years of his contract. But all BC head coaches have had offset clauses in their contracts, which means the payoff would be offset by the salary in the coach’s next job.

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, Cornell coach Steve Donahue, and Richmond coach Chris Mooney likely would be prime candidates on BC’s wish list if Skinner were to leave.