St. John’s a shell of its former selfNovember 24, 2009
As St. John’s was barely beating a bottom of the barrel Ivy League team Friday night, Seton Hall was out working a tough Cornell squad on the road, and Syracuse was routing the 4th ranked Tar Heels at the Garden. St. Johns, pegged to finish 11th in the Big East pre-season, has been disappointing to say the least so far, despite a 3-0 start. This is a St. John’s program that has the 5th most wins in college basketball history (1673 wins), has the 7th best winning percentage (.680) in the NCAA, the 7th-most NCAA tournament appearances (27), two Wooden National Player of the Year Award Winners, 11 consensus All-Americans, 6 members of the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and has sent 59 players to the NBA. Gone are the days of Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Malik Sealy, Walter Berry, and Ron Artest. Now, St. John’s is left scrapping it out with mid-majors, while other big time programs have their eyes on a national title.
I became a St. John’s fan because my father attended the school, and I was always intrigued by the heart that the collegiate players showed on the court, day in and day out. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, St. John’s was a big deal in New York City, the talk of the town, selling out the Garden every night. They were a hot topic on talk radio, made front page headlines, and had a strong buzz nationally. I will never forget the glory days of Ron Artest, or Bootsy Thornton dropping 40 on Duke, Erik Barkley’s alley-oop to Lavor Postell in the NCAA tournament, or Marcus Hatten sending the Garden into a frenzy when hit that free throw with no time remaining against Duke. There was Zendon Hamilton, Felipe Lopez, Tyrone Grant, Erick Barkley, Omar Cook; St. John’s had some serious players.
You all know I was emphatic before the season started saying that St. John’s would be the surprise team in the Big East and make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. This was their year, returning 90%+ of their scoring from last season, and adding a top recruiting class. This was Norm’s chance to show that he can actually coach at the Big East level, and get this experienced, athletic, and talented team to mature even further, play together, and cause havoc in 2009-2010. So far, I have some serious egg on my face (n/Rex Ryan) and Norm’s career is on life support.
Roberts has a 64-85 record since he arrived in 2004, and has only had one winning season since then, 16-15 in 2007. His teams have yet to appear in an NCAA or NIT tournament. There is no doubt the Mike Jarvis scandal embarrassed the school both locally and nationally, and left the Redmen in a rut that still haunts the team to this day. They lost top recruits, post-season eligibility, and respect across the country. I was all for the Norm Roberts hire, as this was the guy who constructed (supposedly) those great Kansas teams earlier this decade. Roberts was a Queens native, a real city guy, and was impressive with the media. I understood that it would take time to get this team back to national prominence, but it can’t take this long.
I know Father Harrington will never read this, nor cares what I have to say, but the time for Norm’s firing has long passed.
Harrington stated that boosters have expressed “a broad spectrum of satisfaction and dissatisfaction” with Roberts. I realize that St. John’s does not have the competitive advantage it once had in the 80’s and 90’s, and that other top Big East schools have emerged, but Roberts should be making longer strides than he has so far.
Norm has failed at getting the top recruits, especially the top NYC ballers. The list of recent top New York players that went elsewhere includes Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati), Kemba Walker (UCONN), Sylven Landesberg (Virginia), Edgar Sosa (Louisville), Levance Fields (Pittsburgh), A.J. Price (UCONN) and Corey Fisher (Villanova) just to name a few. Norm could not recruit even ONE of these guys. I thought he was a top recruiter?
St. John’s is left having to recruit that “next-level” guy, the three star player instead of the four and five-star ones listed above. Don’t get me wrong, guys like Paris Horne, D.J. Kennedy, and Sean Evans are nice players. But the Johnnies have yet to land that big time recruit since Norm has been here. Omari Lawrence, this year’s top freshman for St. John’s, is highly regarded across the recruiting outlets, but only time will tell how good he will be.
St. John’s is unbeaten this year, and still has a chance to show the country why so many people were high on them pre-season. The unimpressive victories over Brown and the Bonnies will all be forgotten if the Red Storm can upset some top teams this year. They have their first shot Friday against Siena at the Palestra.
Norm, your days are numbered.
Marcus Hatten stuns Duke