St. John’s and the coaching carousel

March 22, 2010

Billy Donovan would be a great fit in Queens

Watching the NCAA Tournament is tough for St. John’s fans, considering plenty of the teams boast talented New York players on their rosters.  While West Virginia was advancing to the Sweet 16 with five starters from the Metro-area, the administration in Queens was starting the hiring process for the next head coach.  Despite being a class-act on every level, Norm Roberts was a swing and miss for the Johnnies, and the next coach must be a home run if the school wants to regain their spot on the national stage. 

Chris Monasch, the Athletic Director at St. John’s, was smart to begin the process by reaching out to the local high school and AAU coaches.  One of the knocks on Norm was his inability to get the top New York ballers to stay home, and that begins with forming positive  relations with the local coaches. 

“The next coach has to understand what has to be done,” stated longtime AAU Panthers coach Gary Charles to the New York Post.   “He has to be able to get that player. The whole basketball community is ready to embrace whoever is next. We want to help St. John’s, but we have to do right by our players.”

Mike Jarvis burned plenty of bridges on the AAU circuit, and Roberts did an OK job in repairing them.  But OK is not good enough anymore, and the next coach must work even harder. 

“You have to find someone who wants to be here and understands New York,” said Kamani Young of New Heights AAU.  “Relations have gotten better with St. John’s, but the kids are still leaving.  The next coach has to be a can’t miss.” 

The two hot names on the list are Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan.  It’s been rumored that Pitino wants out of Louisville for one main reason- the presence of Calipari at Kentucky.  The toughest job in America is said to be the coach at Louisville when Kentucky is good.  Throw in the fact that Pitino has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, and it looks like a match made in heaven.  What better place for the diva than New York City and Madison Square Garden?

Billy Donovan has won two national titles at Florida, and life can’t get any better living in the Sunshine state.  However Donovan is from Rockville Centre, and it has always been believed that he would like to return home.  Donovan has accomplished really all he can at Florida, and a new challenge to his coaching career could entice him to leave. 

Over the weekend, Andy Katz of ESPN.com reported that Pitino intends to finish his career at Louisville.  Billy Donovan also told ESPN.com that he’s not currently involved with the people at St. John’s and he’s “happy where I’m at.”  The AD of Florida also shot down the rumor that St. John’s and Donovan were currently in discussion. 

So where does that leave the Johnnies? 

Listen, it would be a long-shot if either of those two guys came to New York, but let’s be honest….money talks.   If St. John’s is really ready to go for the big-hitter, and “money will not be a hinderance,” then anything is possible.  Another candidate appears to be current head coach of Virginia Tech Seth Greenberg, who is from Long Island and has succeeded every where he has gone. 

Seton Hall and their coaching vacancy doesn’t appear to be in direct competition with St. John’s as of now, as they plan to look at the lesser-known coaches such as Siena’s Fran McCaffrey and Chris Mooney, the current head coach of Richmond.  After the Bobby Gonzalez debacle, the Pirates want a “fresh face with a clean track record.”  Both McCaffrey and Mooney fit that build, but McCaffrey seems the more realistic of the two. 

As Andy Katz duly noted, it may be tough to pry Chris Mooney away from Richmond and the A-10.   

Another name to look out for is Tom Pecora of Hofstra.  While he isn’t the big-name that St. John’s wants, he has a great relationship with the local high school coaches and is an excellent recruiter.


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