The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Hall of Fame St. John’s basketball coach Lou Carnesecca talks hoops recruits and New York’s team

The Torch: Do you miss coaching?

Looie: No, but I have a good reason. I was there 22 years. I left with a good taste. I got burnt out, and I got a lot done. After 22 years, it was time for me to go.

Dean Smith and John Wooden still have offices at North Carolina and UCLA and give advice to Roy Williams and Ben Howland.

Do you do something similar with Norm Roberts and his team?

No. First of all, I’m here [in my office in Sun Yat Sen Hall]. I’m not going to get involved with basketball anymore. I left in 1992.

In 1965, I followed Joe Lapchick and he said to me, “Lou, if you want me, you know where to get me. This is your ship now. And you have to run it the way you want to.” When he took the job from Buck Freeman, Buck Freeman told him the same thing. And I think they have to run their own ship. If they need me, I’m here willing to help them.

So have you told that to coach Roberts?

No, no. He knows I’m here for him. If I can help in any way, I’m here. And that goes for anybody on campus.

What do you think of the job coach Roberts has done?

I think he’s had a very difficult job. He’s had to start from scratch. I don’t think anybody else in the history of St. John’s had to take over a situation so difficult, so complex, and I think he’s building a good solid foundation. I think he has. It takes time.

Lance Stephenson is a big-time New York recruit that St. John’s wants. Have you been able to see him play?

I’ve seen him play a couple times. Excellent player. He’s a first-liner. He’s a good player. He would help our situation.

How would he help the situation?

I mean he’s a great player. He’s a good scorer and also I think that when you start getting names like that, it pulls other guys too.

How important do you think it is to build a nucleus from New York City?

I think at one time it was really important. Today, kids travel, they go all over the country. At one time, they were mostly home-brewed. But I think for our situation it would be very good. Not only for the team but also for the surrounding New York City and everything else.

You were once quoted saying that all you had to do to recruit in New York City is walk outside.

No, it was take the subway. Those were different times. Things have changed. I think it’s very difficult to coach today. Much, much tougher than when I coached.

Why do you say that?

The competition is much, much greater and at one time not too many people came into the city [to recruit]. Now they’re all coming into the city. The situation changed where it was once a local thing, now there are prep schools all over. So you don’t have the closeness that you once had. But one or two guys can turn this whole thing around.

When those guys come on campus, from wherever they are from, do they come to meet you?

Sometimes they do. Sometimes I’ve spoken to them, and I like to talk to them so they can tell me who they are, especially if they’re New York kids. I mean this is where we grew up. This is the greatest city in the world. They come here, and play in [Madison Square Garden] where the old pros used to come and tighten their sneakers up. They come and play a big-time schedule, play in a big-time league. But the contacts you can make here are tremendous at St. John’s.

Have you met Stephenson?

No I have not, I’ve seen him play on the television. He’s a good player. He’s good. He’d be a nice addition.

Do you think it’s important for the players on the team now and the players coming in to have an understanding of the history of the St. John’s basketball program?

I think they know, I think they’re told. I mean look around. They have to [know].
This is one of the great powers of basketball of all time; it is. I know I said we’re going through troubled waters now but that’ll change. UCLA went through it. Kentucky’s going through it. You can’t have it your way all the time.

What would you say to people who say it hasn’t changed fast enough?

People are always impatient. It’s a natural inclination, but sometimes you have to wait. You’d like to rush things, especially today they want it right away. Look at the whole thing: how many years have we been in basketball? Over a hundred years.

Fans say that when you were coaching St. John’s was hands-down “New York’s team,” evcn more so than the Knicks.

I think if you go back to the time of Joe
Lapchick and Buck Freeman [you’ll find that] because people related with St. John’s.

What is your reaction to people calling Syracuse “New York’s team” and that Madison Square Garden is their new “home away from home?”

They want to say it, let them say it.

Do you still believe that St. John’s is still “New York’s team?”

I still believe it, because people have found that they like St. John’s. There’s a bond between St. John’s and the metropolitan area.

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