Boston College and men's basketball coach Al Skinner mutually agreed to part ways following a meeting last Wednesday, two days before Skinner interviewed with St. John's, BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said.
While DeFilippo said at a Tuesday news conference that Skinner's departure was agreed to by both sides, the parting 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 team's 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.
Skinner could not be reached for comment. The Boston Globe first reported that Skinner was out as coach.
DeFilippo said St. John's was aware of the agreement that Skinner would not be returning to Boston College for a 14th season.
"We agreed to separate before he interviewed, for the best interests of both parties," DeFilippo said Tuesday. "We agreed to part ways before he talked to St. John's. And we kept it out of the public so that he could gain employment."
Skinner is the winningest coach in school history, with a 247-165 record and seven NCAA tournament berths since 2001. But BC has finished below .500 in two of the last three seasons, with a first-round loss in the ACC tournament this year.
Skinner was not let go for seeking other employment, according to two BC officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.
DeFilippo fired football coach Jeff Jagodzinski last year for seeking an NFL job without permission. Skinner had permission to interview for the St. John's vacancy -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- that opened when Norm Roberts was fired.
DeFilippo said the university has a buyout agreement with Skinner, who is reportedly owed $3 million for the final three seasons of his contract.
"He will be taken care of," DeFilippo said, adding that Skinner's assistants also will be treated fairly.
Asked about the reasons for the split, DeFilippo said "people weren't willing to go to the arena. There's a lot of reasons."
Men's basketball has consistently been a poorly attended program at BC, regardless of who's coaching the Eagles. Playing in a professional sports town like Boston, the Eagles have struggled to generate interest in college basketball. DeFilippo said the donor-based seating at Conte Forum isn't a reason a number of seats have remained empty.
Skinner didn't get the job at St. John's; ESPN analyst and former UCLA coach Steve Lavin was hired to succeed Norm Roberts, a school spokesman said Tuesday. The school will hold a news conference to introduce Lavin on Wednesday.
DeFilippo spent the weekend contacting Richmond and Cornell for permission to speak with their head coaches. He said he hadn't spoken to any. Harvard's Tommy Amaker is also expected to be on a short list of potential candidates.
DeFilippo 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.
"We want a coach who is going to play a very exciting brand of basketball," DeFilippo said. "We want a team that's going to dive for loose balls, that's going to take charges, that's going to play great defense, and a team that's going to give us everything they have to give while they're out on that floor.
"We want a team and a coach who will relate to our student body, to our faculty, to our staff, to our alumni and our fans. And 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 world. And those people are out there."
The Eagles (15-16, 6-10 ACC) missed the postseason as they struggled to replace all-ACC guard Tyrese Rice.
Skinner, who previously coached at Rhode Island, took over the program from Jim O'Brien after he left for Ohio State over academic concerns, leaving Skinner with only six scholarship players. Four seasons later, the Eagles won the Big East. He was named Big East and national coach of the year in 2001, and Big East coach of the year in 2005.
Skinner has a 385-291 career record over 22 seasons at Boston College and Rhode Island.
The Eagles have a senior-loaded roster next season with Rakim Sanders, Joe Trapani, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and Josh Southern. The Eagles' top player is Reggie Jackson, who will be a junior and would have more wiggle room to transfer.
DeFilippo said that there is no timetable for finding a new coach and that he will ask players for their patience during the search. 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 allowed to go to the Final Four in Indianapolis to look for new jobs, DeFilippo said.
The new coach, DeFilippo said, will be somebody that the players "really want to play for."
"And I want you to know that this is a very, very good job," he said. "Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference is a terrific job."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from reporter Tom Lakin and The Associated Press was used in this report.