King’s Court

Norm Roberts is giving it his all, but as of right now, it hasn’t been enough.
Roberts is the nicest guy you could ask for. He treats the media and, by all accounts, his players, with a level of respect not often seen in major athletic programs.

It’s hard not to root for Roberts to turn the men’s basketball program around, not only because of his amicability, but because of the history entrenched in St. John’s basketball.

But there’s a problem here.

It is year four of Roberts’ tenure as head coach and progress has been slow.

It’s no secret that when Roberts inherited his duties as head coach the program was a mess. Scandals and NCAA sanctions were abound, and it was fair not to expect much in the first two years. St. John’s improved, slowly but surely, over Roberts’ first three years. The team increased its Big East win total by two each season, going 7-9 last season and making it into the Big East Tournament. But this season can only be seen as a regression.

St. John’s is sitting at 4-9 in the Big East and 10-14 overall this season. And with a hot Marquette team coming into Madison Square Garden tonight and St. John’s next conference game in Washington, D.C. against Georgetown, it will be a tall task for the Johnnies to get into the Big East Tournament.

The numbers aren’t in Roberts’ favor. Roberts’ record as head coach of St. John’s is currently 19-42 in Big East play and 47-61 overall. At Madison Square Garden, a building St. John’s uses as a recruiting tool to woo high school players, the Red Storm is 0-3 in conference games this season and has been outscored by 68 total points in those three games. St. John’s is also averaging just 47 points per game at MSG.

While it’s true that St. John’s is a very young team with eight players, five of which are averaging more than 10 minutes per game, Roberts has seen more than his fair share of players transfer from the University.

Last season Avery Patterson, a junior college transfer with a reliable shot, Qa’rraan Calhoun, a power forward and the hardly-used Ricky Torres transferred to other schools. Patterson and Calhoun may not have been the cornerstones to an NCAA berth, but with Patterson’s presence from outside and Calhoun in the paint, along with one year’s worth of Big East experience for each player, St. John’s would be a better team this season.

But transfers haven’t been uncommon for St. John’s the past few years. Dexter Gray, Jermaine Maybank and Cedric Jackson, who is with Cleveland State and averaging 14.2 points and 4.9 assists this season, have all transferred during the Roberts era.
There is no question that Norm Roberts has instilled a clean, scandal-free image of St. John’s back into the minds of college basketball fans across the nation. But what’s missing is the results on the stat sheet.

Roberts has six games left in this season. For 2007-08 to be considered any kind of success, the Johnnies need to have a big finish. After all, the numbers
don’t lie.