If St. John’s chose to fire men’s basketball coach Norm Roberts and his staff, I’d certainly understand.
The Red Storm lost to unranked Rutgers and to then-No. 6 West Virginia by 19 last week after blowing an 11-point halftime lead. If that wasn’t enough, the team allowed two 33-point solo performances by the Scarlet Knights’ Mike Rosario and the Mountaineers’ De’Sean Butler and is currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
On numerous occasions this season, the Johnnies have stayed competitive with some of the top teams in the Big East – they did, after all, lead by as many as 13 points Saturday against the Mountaineers early in the second half. Yet somewhere around the 12-minute mark, everything falls apart for the Red Storm and they find a way to lose.
Saturday’s collapse has been a recurring theme for the Red Storm this season. St. John’s has led at halftime in six of its 10 losses this season and with the amount of talent the Johnnies possess, there have been more questions than answers. Roberts did say earlier in the season that NBA scouts have inquired about D.J. Kennedy, Sean Evans, Paris Horne, Justin Burrell and Anthony Mason Jr.
So if St. John’s decided to relieve Roberts of his duties as head coach, now would be the right time to do so. Roberts has obviously proved incapable of fully maximizing the talent he has brought to Queens, and when a team cannot make the most of its talent, changes need to be made.
That is not to say Roberts hasn’t made strides in his six years at the University, and the chants of “Fire Norm!” by St. John’s fans these last few years have been completely unjustified. People tend to view Roberts only in terms of his record, and sometimes fail to see the good he’s brought to the program.
Remember the program he took over in 2004, the one that had to forfeit its 2003 NIT championship because of multiple NCAA violations?
Roberts took on the toughest rebuilding project in the nation with his first head coaching job at the Division I level and, though he is 76-95 all-time at St. John’s and just 28-66 in Big East play, he has in no way been a failure at the school.
Early on, Roberts lost out on local recruits who didn’t want to play at a school where their reputations would potentially be tarnished by the mistakes of the past. Instead, Roberts had to utilize his strengths -teaching young players and going beyond the mainstream recruiting scene to find talent – just to get the Red Storm to the level of competition at which they currently play.
Roberts has brought in players from all over the country in his six years, players who are even better people than they are basketball players. That is the foundation Roberts built for this program. It’s one that whoever took over that program in 2004 would have had to build, one that was going to take time to grow.
Those players have an incredible opportunity to diversify that foundation. By playing well and winning, not only would St. John’s become relevant again, but even better basketball players would eventually want to call St. John’s home and further the project that Norm Roberts undertook in 2004.
Unfortunately, that project just isn’t finished and Roberts isn’t the right man to complete the task. When a team continues to struggle in the same aspects of the game – in the Red Storm’s case, scoring when a team switches to a zone defense – and fails to make any sort of noticeable improvement over time, it’s time for somebody else to step in.
The men’s basketball program has gone as far as Norm Roberts can take it.