After ten years, a memorable era in Queens has come to an abrupt end.
It was announced Friday afternoon that St. John's women's basketball head coach Kim Barnes Arico has decided to step down and accept the same position at the University of Michigan. As Barnes Arico embarks on her next journey in Ann Arbor, she stands as the St. John's program's all-time wins record holder with 176.
Barnes Arico, the Long Island south shore native and Montclair State University graduate, was hired by St. John's as the program's seventh head coach in 2002. She took over a team that had never enjoyed substantive success and transformed it into a Big East power.
The St. John's women are coming off their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this past March. Barnes Arico's Johnnies defeated Oklahoma and advanced to their first Sweet Sixteen in program history.
But, naturally, the first sniff of perennial success usually brings the larger dogs calling. The financial support of the state-funded Wolverines athletic department certainly provides Barnes Arico with an offer she cannot refuse.
And no one could blame her. More, below the fold.
When I spoke with Kim Barnes Arico at St. John's Media Day in November, it was the best interaction I had all year covering college basketball. Her undivided attention and frequent smiles were telling representations of the genuine presence she gave this university for a decade.
We conversed about the her expectations for the upcoming season and the weeks of training she spent preparing for the New York City Marathon. She was understandably nervous - the prospect of 26.2 miles was no less fearful for the St. John's head coach than it would be for anyone else.
After a few minutes of trading running experiences with she and Associate Vice President for Athletics, Kathy Meehan, I walked away with a reinforced perspective. St. John's was incredibly lucky to have Barnes Arico at the helm because, one day, she would assuredly move on.
On Friday, that day finally came. Barnes Arico will undoubtedly receive a significant salary increase in her move to coach the Wolverines. With three young children, the 41 year-old head coach and mother is taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity for the advancement of her career and family.
"We thank Kim for the great work she has done lifting our program to a prominent level," mentioned Athletic Director Chris Monasch in a statement.
In her time at the school, Barnes Arico changed the culture of the St. John's women's basketball team. What had been an overlooked and barren program is now one that is revitalized and nationally competitive.
The St. John's women are left in solid position heading into the 2012-13 season, even without Barnes Arico. Though top scorer and Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year Da'Shena Stevens is set to graduate this May, the Johnnies are left with six of its seven points leaders.
"The foundation has been built and the aspiration of our program is to continue to compete among the nation's best," Monasch continued. "Our appreciation and best wishes go out to Kim and her family."
Nine-year assistant and associate head coach Joe Tartamella has been named the interim head coach, as St. John's has already said it will commence an immediate national search for a new leader. Knowing how instrumental Tartamella has been to Barnes Arico's operation, it wouldn't be surprising if he were ultimately hired permanently.
Just two days after our conversation, "KBA" finished the city's marathon and fulfilled her lifelong dream. The resolve and willpower she utilized to finish the grueling race goes hand-in-hand with the same qualities she implemented to bring St. John's women's basketball to national relevance.
And there are no doubts that she will do the same in her next venture. The Rumble will track this story for more updates as they come.