You’d have thought the New York Post’s report that St. John’s was likely to fire Norm Roberts would be bulletin board material for his players.
You’d have thought they’d be in “Win one for the Gipper” mode for tonight’s NIT game against Memphis and want to advance as far as possible in the tournament to help save the fate of their head coach.
But that’s not quite the case. When asked if the team was motivated by Roberts’ uncertain job status, junior guard Paris Horne dismissed the idea, saying, “We’re not thinking about it. That isn’t our standpoint. Our mindset is to play and going out and trying to win.” Horne went on to say that the team cannot focus on things out of its control.
So tonight will be just another game night and Memphis will be just another opponent.
Yeah, and Tiger Woods only made “transgressions” against Elin Nordegren.
Tonight’s game is the biggest game of the Roberts era, and he will likely need to win in order to keep his job. His team should have realized that – it is, after all, only the 800-pound gorilla in the locker room.
They’ve heard the boos, they’ve read the reports – they’ve been going on for the greater part of two seasons. The team has to understand that in order for a coach to continue coaching, he has to win games, and Roberts’ 81-100 record at St. John’s has been anything but successful.
Instead, we’re likely to see the same Red Storm team we’ve seen all year, one that despite playing with passion and tremendous effort often lacks a sense of urgency. The uncertain fate of their head coach should have created the greatest sense of urgency the team has experienced all year, but it has obviously been overlooked.
I understand that Horne does not want the team to use the adversity and hazy reports as a distraction while it tries to make a run at the NIT championship. The team shouldn’t need any extra motivation to go out and play the best basketball it possibly can, especially in a postseason tournament.
But such adversity does not have to be viewed negatively. After all, Roberts’ fate goes hand-in-hand with how well this group of juniors – the core of the St. John’s roster -performs. That was the promise the St. John’s administration made when it renewed his contract two years ago.
That fate should be reciprocated. No, the University cannot fire the players, but Roberts is not all to blame. He wouldn’t have such a record if not for the lackluster results on the court, and if he is fired the players should share the responsibility for its occurrence.
This group of players has consistently defended their head coach before, going as far as yelling at fans during games. They have to defend him one more time by making a deep run in the NIT, so that he can be part of whatever success they revel in next year. A deep run in the NIT would make the decision to keep or fire Roberts as tough as possible for administration.