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Al Skinner Jersey Retirement

February 21, 2004 Columns No Comments

Massachusetts Retires Al Skinner’s Jersey

by Phil Kasiecki

AMHERST, Mass. – Wednesday night, Massachusetts retired Al Skinner’s jersey at halftime of their game against Rhode Island. It was a fitting setting considering that Skinner had his first head coaching job at Rhode Island prior to his current position as the head coach at Boston College.

Prior to his tenure at Boston College, Skinner posted a 138-126 record in nine seasons at Rhode Island. During his tenure, the Rams made two trips to the NCAA Tournament and two to the NIT, reaching the Elite Eight in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. He is the school’s third-winningest head coach.

The master of ceremonies on the evening was another legendary Minuteman, Julius Erving. Dr. J introduced Skinner as “another individual who went here in the ’70s, who worked hard, learned a lot, and had a great time”. He then ran down Skinner’s accomplishments in between cheers from some of the more than 4,600 who were at the Mullins Center.

While playing from 1971-74, Skinner was a three-time All-Yankee Conference selection and led the team to a 56-24 record and two Yankee Conference titles in the process. He scored 1,235 points and averaged 9.5 rebounds per game, leading the team in rebounding three times. He is 16th on the school’s all-time scoring list, while his 320 assists are good for ninth all-time.

New UMass athletic director John McCutcheon announced the attendance of Skinner’s 16 teammates, then presented him with a replica jersey. Then he introduced Skinner’s coach, Jack Leaman. Leaman started out by saying that the school did something tonight they could never do before – “they got Al Skinner and Julius Erving on the floor at the same time”.

Leaman then went on to mention that Skinner was then how we know him now.

“Al Skinner wasn’t about stats,” Leaman said. “He was a good player, but an even better citizen on campus.”

Skinner doesn’t put expectations on his players as far as wins and losses are concerned; it’s all about doing what they need to do. If a team plays the game the right way, the results will follow. He also recruits quality young men, and those who don’t fit that mold don’t last long. A close look at the current Boston College team shows that, as the team is comprised of good young men throughout the roster, while players with constant off-court issues such as Ryan Sidney and Andrew Bryant were dismissed from the team.

The formula is clearly working, as the Eagles are 17-8 with a team starting two freshmen and two sophomores and having just one senior. Barring a complete collapse in the final four regular season games and the Big East Tournament, the Eagles will likely be in the NCAA Tournament once again.

Skinner unveiled his No. 30 jersey in the rafters with One Moment In Time playing in the Mullins Center, then was fairly brief in his comments. He said that he hopes more people will come out and support the basketball program there, a comment that many in the school’s administration is surely echoing. The Mullins Center is a nice place to go watch a game, but routinely has a number of empty seats. The Minutemen are struggling, but have a promising young talent base that could get them back in contention in another year or two.

Skinner joins Erving (No. 32, 1969-71), George “Trigger” Burke (No. 32, 1954-56) and Lou Roe (No. 15, 1991-95) among the players whose jerseys have been retired by the school.

After the game, Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron had words of praise for Skinner, illustrating how well-respected he is in the coaching community and among those who follow college basketball.

“Al Skinner is a great guy, he’s done a great job at URI, he’s done a great job at Boston College,” Baron said while emphasizing how special the day was.


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