Stay Cool Apple Boys: Media overreacts to rejection

There's some serious horse cake complaining, twisteration, and hot-tempered I WANT IT NOW whining going on around St. John's coaching search.

To recap:

  • Billy Donovan received an overture from a booster (Mike Repole), inquiring if he wanted to come to NYC for $3 million (less than he is making in cheaper Gainesville, Florida). Donovan says no.
  • Paul Hewitt rumors heat up. St. John's gets permission to speak to the man. He has interest, even though there is a $3.5 million buyout on his contract; but the Georgia Tech fans seem to hate him.
  • Strong rumors from the NY Post and the NY Daily News (compiled by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) have Hewitt coming to St. John's, after he consults with his family.
  • Hewitt turns down the job, citing family reasons.
  • St. John's is moving on to Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg as a possibility, Al Skinner from Boston College, and possibly Cornell's Steve Donahue (though I would look at Robert Morris' Mike Rice, Kevin Willard from Iona, and Fran McCaffery from Siena before an Ivy League coach who only won with Ryan Wittman).

Hearing "it wasn't the program, it was my family" is sort of like hearing from a young lady "I'm just not ready to date yet" - it could be true, and it could be a source of bitterness when you see her with some other schmoe. It sucks to be rejected, no matter how politely; and it's strange to have a guy get that far and then spurn the offer.

And certainly, there are some loose lips around St. John's, letting word of Donovan's offer out. Though that offer might have just been to let the world know - if he didn't take it - that St. John's was very, very serious about paying serious money for a serious coach.

But the reaction that isn't deserved from the overheated NY media, working to break stories before the other guys do, is this:

Mike Vaccaro, NY Post: This is no way to run a coaching search

Mostly, what we see is this: Monasch conducting this search in real time, rather than having done the kind of legwork you need already to have done if you're going to replace your most valuable athletic commodity, or if you want to at least pretend to know how to operate a big-time basketball program....

But for now, Monasch is in real danger of making St. John's coach look like a job he wouldn't be able to give away in a lottery.

And

Dick Weiss, NY Daily News: With Paul Hewitt's rejection, St. John's Red Storm is aimless in coach search

It is becoming painfully obvious that St. John's doesn't have a vision to resurrect its once proud program.

School president Rev. Donald Harrington appears to have given athletic director Chris Monasch and assistant AD Brian Colleary the autonomy to pick a new coach after they had recommended firing Norm Roberts.

The problem for the Johnnies is that Monasch has never hired a coach before, and Colleary never made a successful hire when he was at Duquesne....

If Greenberg accepts an offer from St. John's, it could make the Johnnies look like they are settling again, just as they have in previous searches.

This is rapidly becoming a comedy of errors. It is hard to believe St. John's could duplicate the fiasco that occurred six years ago when it was turned down by Hewitt and had to eventually hire Roberts.

This time around, Monasch boxed himself into a corner when he claimed that St. John's had the resources to pay a Top 25 coach, and then haphazardly grasped at straws by putting together a wish list of candidates without properly gauging the probability of getting them. It's like going on a family vacation without any tickets or reservations.

There are some valid points to be made - the search could be smoother. There has been one official rejection and one inquiry-rejection. Both from well-known coaches. And both scoops were broken... by the NY Post and Daily News, who said Hewitt to St. John's was a done deal.

But tumultuous coaching searches with rejections are not uncommon. To wit:

  • A fairly comparable job in Providence saw George Mason's Jim Larranaga toy with the idea of coaching the Friars... and then turning them down, as Davidson's Bob McKillop and U Mass' Travis Ford did. They settled on Keno Davis.
  • Arizona went to John Calipari, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few, and Tim Floyd before interviewing Sean Miller - who rejected the job at first!
  • Oregon has a number of names bandied about - prominently Mark Few, who they wanted last year as well (before they fired Ernie Kent). They are keeping a much tighter lid around the information, however.
  • Indiana was rejected by Dick Bennett before reaching out to Tom Crean two years ago.
  • A lot of names came out of the Virginia coaching search - Jeff Capel, Rick Barnes, Trent Johnson. Not sure if any of them interviewed.

Coaching searches are sloppy, fraught with regret. And the major schools have to chase the best first before moving down to the realistic options. Yes, Fordham had their search done quickly; there's nowhere to go but up, and they had checked in with Tom Pecora, who had been talking about leaving his Virginia-based conference pretty steadily, through his media friends. It was a good match between the schools. But Pecora - who hasn't dominated his league, and relies on middle of the pack New York City talent only, is not attractive to St. John's, no matter how badly he wishes he were.

St. John's has to reach out to the proper level of coaches first, before checking in with the mid-majors. Offering more money than Seton Hall (reported as wanting to pay between $500K and $700K) will definitely help. But the difficulty of winning in the league, and dealing with the AAU coaches, will make the Red Storm job a bit harder to fill.

That's okay. They can take their time, as long as they bring in someone with (good) coaching experience and a reason for the fans to believe they can recruit competitive NY players... or develop lower-level guys with upside to Big East performances.

Interviews happen. Seton Hall has had 4 of them already, supposedly.

And word is that Al Skinner is interviewing with St. John's today.

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