Going big or go home

During Norm Roberts’ tenure at St. John’s, the school’s athletic department followed the philosophy that a more wholesome culture of Red Storm basketball be nurtured.

When Roberts was fired last week, athletic director Chris Monasch decided it was time for that philosophy to be tweaked slightly.

Roberts, whose the 2009-10 salary hovered around $650,000, was among the conference’s lowest-paid coaches, not surprising considering St. John’s doesn’t have the kind of revenue that schools like West Virginia and Pittsburgh-schools deemed by many as “football schools,” who retain tremendous revenue through their football programs-can devote to their basketball programs to maintain the salaries of Bob Huggins and Jamie Dixon, who each make more than $1 million per season.

When Monasch addressed the media Friday, he assured the St. John’s community that the athletic department would be willing to pay for a top head coach, even if it meant paying double what it paid Roberts to get him to come to Queens.

“The University has committed
resources to make this team successful,” Monasch said. “I don’t know if you can always look at dollars spent as a commitment, but in my five years here I don’t feel we’ve ever not done something
because financially, we couldn’t do it.”
Monasch wasn’t kidding. The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that Florida head coach Billy Donovan, rumored to be atop the Red Storm’s wish list, had rejected a $3 million deal to become the next head coach at St. John’s.

The New York Post also reported Tuesday that St. John’s received permission to talk to Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and will meet with him today.

Though the school plans on making a larger financial commitment to a head coach to help reach the NCAA
tournament, Monasch vowed that he
will not allow the program to revert to
its pre-Roberts days, when the men’s
basketball team was forced to forfeit
its 2003 NIT championship and was placed on postseason probation until 2006 due to multiple NCAA violations, no matter who is eventually hired.

“We will look nationally for a proven winner at a high level who will be able to impart that success to our program,” Monasch said. “We seek a candidate who has an understanding of the sports culture in New York City and its pressures and media demands, who has the ability to recruit New York student-athletes, and who recognize the importance of the winning tradition of St. John’s men’s basketball.

“We are looking for candidate with a solid plan for marked improvement on the conference and national levels, while seeking to maintain the high level of integrity on and off the court that we have restored over the past several seasons,” Monasch said.

Monasch may not want to compete within his own conference for coaches, but he’ll likely have to fight off teams within the tri-state area to fulfill the Red Storm’s head coaching position. Seton Hall (South Orange, N.J.) and Fordham (Bronx, N.Y.) are searching for their next head coaches, and reports indicate that both schools are also interested in Pecora, with Fordham deeming him a potential favorite to replace interim coach Jared Grasso.

“There are enough coaches that we’d all be happy with,” Monasch said.