St. John's basketball: When it's time to change

For St. John's, this season has to be a disappointment. And not just a disappointment because the fans hope the team would get to the NCAA Tournament - that was fool's gold.

I thought the team might be able to get over some serious problems in scoring and defense and surpass the regular ceiling of improvement with returning players and the same coach (see a table from Basketball Prospectus here).

But they have not.

Later in the week, I'll speak to the specifics on the team that have kept them at this level. For now, here is a table showing the team's points per possession (PPP, per 100 possessions), their opponents, and the efficiency margin (how many more points their opponents score per 100 possessions) in Big East play. Of course, 2010 is only halfway over:

Numbers and records for Big East games only.
Year
PPP
Opp's PPP
Eff Margin
Pace
Record
Win%
2010
92.8
103.9
-11.1
66.8
2-8
20%
2009
93.6
105.3
-11.7
66.8
6-12
33%
2008
89.9
102
-12.1
65.6
5-13
28%
2007
94.8
103.6
-8.8
65.1
7-9
44%
2006
91.6
100.1
-8.5
64.5
5-11
31%
2005
94.4
103
-8.6
65.8
3-13
19%

If you can't guess, that's consistently awful.

And surprising; the Big East went to a longer, more unbalanced schedule in 2008 and it has NOT been kind to the Red Storm at all. It's not just the influx of freshmen in the 2008 season, it's also been the inability to keep up with the new talent and improving teams in the Big East. Even more surprising is that the turnover-filled Geno Lawrence teams in 2005 and 2007 were the best offensive squads in conference that Coach Norm Roberts has had.

Yeesh.

And it seems that the team is confused, don't know how to dig out of the losing rut, and there are no signs of improvement. The Big East may be as strong as ever, but a team filled with juniors has to compete - especially when the coach often relied on saying that the guys are young, that you need juniors and seniors to compete.

Combine that with the fact that the current St. John's staff has little to sell to recruits for the 8 roster spots opening in 2011. St. John's needs verbals from a good 5 players by October, and preferably some by August to get the ball rolling And I'm not even talking high-impact players, I'm talking players who can credibly suit up in the Big East. Who's going to sign up for a team that will always be at the bottom of the standings? MAAC players and NEC players with delusions of talent grandeur. That's going to send the team into a serious talent spiral.

St. John's needs to make a change. They need a new staff to get players. They need a new staff to get something out of the sparks of talent in Justin Burrell and Dele Coker.

The postgame quotes are of a man who knows he is struggling and is trying to keep his team focused. Zach Smart pointed out the simplistic quotes that don't speak to the quantifiably poor execution that's been happening for 6 years.

Vin Parise calls it a total disaster.

"Norm must go" chants at an away game at Rutgers.

Mike Vaccaro (who has the role at the NY Post of bulldog columnist) agrees it's time for Norm to leave the program.

The New York Times even points subtly to the lack of answers in what should have been a rebound season. And the school newspaper, The Torch, thinks Norm has done all he can for the program and it's time for him to go. The official school newspaper!

There are rumors of a coaching search committee already forming (though those are message board rumors, unsubstantiated by journalists so far and possibly a plant to help get the ball rolling), and the hope of a new direction is on the horizon. Hopefully St. John's actually lets the man go right as the season ends and not leave him twisting in the wind. He's already twisting, and the fans will be chanting "Fire Norm," wearing paper bags on their heads, and otherwise giving St. John's all kinds of "loser" publicity they really don't want.

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