Bryant adds Al Skinner to staff

Bryant University coach Tim O'Shea made official Thursday what had been expected for the past few weeks by hiring his longtime mentor and former ACC and Big East coach of the year Al Skinner to his staff.

The school announced Thursday morning that Skinner would be an associate head coach.

O'Shea worked under Skinner at Rhode Island from 1988-97 and Boston College from 1997-2001. The two have remained friends.

The hiring strengthens a Bulldogs' staff that coached the team to a 19-12 record (12-6 NEC) and an appearance in the CBI in its first season eligible for postseason in Division I. Bryant posted one of the best turnarounds in Division I history after going 2-28 (1-17) in 2011-12.

"This is a relationship that started 30 years ago when I was hired by Brendan Malone at URI to be a graduate assistant and Al had just left pro ball to start his career as an assistant coach,'' O'Shea said Thursday. "We have shared the ups and downs that accompany a coaching life over the years. It seems like things have now traveled in a circle with Al joining me back in Rhode Island at Bryant."

Skinner, who was forced out at Boston College three years ago, was a head coach for 22 seasons and won 385 games, appeared in nine NCAA tournaments and won four league championships. He was the national coach of the year in 2001. Skinner left BC as the winningest coach in school history at 247-165 from 1997-2010. The Eagles went to six NCAA tournaments in seven seasons, and his 2006 Sweet 16 team was within a bucket of beating Villanova and challenging Florida for a berth to the Final Four.

"Bryant University is the big winner here in picking up a coach universally respected by his former players and coaching peers," O'Shea said. "He's a proven winner. I look forward to Al's assistance as we look to continue to make our mark as a Division I program."

Skinner remained on the NCAA ethics committee while sitting out the last three seasons. He did some television work for NESN as a Celtics analyst at times but also went to a number of Bryant practices and games. Skinner interviewed for a handful of jobs the past three years, including Northwestern last spring.

"I have a lot to offer to student-athletes," Skinner said. "I am excited to share my experiences. Bryant has made great strides. The increments of improvements will be smaller and I believe I can help with this."

Skinner has three other former assistants who are head coaches: at Providence (Ed Cooley), Northeastern (Bill Coen) and UMass-Lowell (Pat Duquette).

The Bulldogs will be considered a contender in the NEC this season with Wagner, Long Island, Robert Morris and Mount Saint Mary's.