Mike Dunlap has moved on to become the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, and the St. John's Red Storm are left with an important vacancy to fill. Dunlap, who served as Steve Lavin's top assistant and main sideline strategist for two years in Queens, was a key part of the Red Storm's basketball operation.
And, now, Lavin has an essential decision to make that could shape the forseeable future of the program. As a coach, Lavin has never been considered to be an X's and O's specialist. From his days at UCLA and now at St. John's, he is regarded as one of the best recruiters and motivators in the game.
For 27 months, Dunlap was Lavin's sidekick - the always-reliable second opinion. Dunlap even filled in for Lavin, without hesitancy, as head coach for 28 games in 2011-12. With NBA and NCAA experience, the ability to develop talent, and the passion to get the most out of players, Dunlap was a huge asset to St. John's.
Those are some large shoes to fill. And, with how many miles Dunlap logged on a weekly basis, the new guy will probably have to settle for a pair of heavily weathered running shoes. So, who will it be? Who will Lavin choose to fill the void?
More, below the fold.
A short list of possible candidates to replace Mike Dunlap on the St. John's bench has been compiled by SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria and others. Here are some of the coaches who we may see on the staff for next season:
Tom Abatemarco (Colorado University assistant) - The Colorado coach confirmed to the Denver Post this past weekend that he has been in contact with Steve Lavin regarding the vacant coaching position for the Red Storm. Abatemarco is originally from New York and actually served on Lou Carnesecca's staff at St. John's in the late 1970's. His ties with Lavin could place him atop the short list of candidates.
Tim Grgurich (former NBA, Pitt, and UNLV assistant) - Grgurich has been around the game for a long time, dating back to his days as an assistant at Pittsburgh during the 1970's. Before becoming a top assistant in the NBA, his defensive coaching tactics were key in the construction of the strong UNLV teams of the early 1990's. It is said that Lavin is looking for a coach with NBA experience, and Grgurich certainly offers just that.
Paul Biancardi (ESPN recruiting analyst) - This would be an interesting choice, being that Biancardi has spent much of his career as an analyst. But you can bet that he and Lavin developed a relationship while the St. John's coach was employed by the Worldwide Leader, and Biancardi's recruiting connections certainly wouldn't hurt. But how much can he offer as a sideline strategist?
Jim Boylen (former Utah head coach and current Indiana Pacers assistant) - As a former assistant at Michigan State both alongside and under Tom Izzo, Boylen knows all about being an assistant for a top-tier program. He served as the head coach for Utah for four years, which included a 24-win season in 2008-09. On top of his NCAA experience, he has almost 15 years spent as an assistant in the NBA.
Barry Rohrssen (former Pitt assistant and Manhattan head coach) - St. John's fans know how solid of a recruiter Rohrssen has proven he can be. At Pittsburgh, he brought what seemed like countless New York City kids to Jamie Dixon's program while the Red Storm struggled to convince young talent to stay home. As head coach of the Manhattan Jaspers, Rohrssen didn't provide overwhelmingly impressive results, but he left the program in position to succeed in the very near future. Having been seen attending multiple St. John's games last season, Rohrssen certainly has a close relationship with Lavin and could be a great choice to replace Dunlap with the Johnnies.
Earl Watson (former UCLA and NBA player) - No, Watson doesn't have any coaching experience whatsoever. But you can't deny his relationship with Lavin. Since playing four years under Lavin at UCLA from 1997 to 2001, Watson has maintained consistent contact with his former coach (as many of Lavin's players do). If Watson is interested in a post-playing career in coaching, what better way to hit the ground running than to land a Big East assistant job? It would be a long shot choice, but it can't be ruled out.
Tim O'Toole (former Fairfield head coach and current St. John's radio color commentator) - O'Toole's name hasn't been talked about for many jobs since his final year with the Stags in 2006, but being in close vicinity of the Johnnies' program last season alongside John Minko on the Bloomberg Radio broadcasts could be a blessing in disguise. But the real question is: If O'Toole were hired as an assistant for the Red Storm, would he continue to wear his patented red blazer on the sideline? We sure hope so.
Who do you think St. John's should hire to fill Mike Dunlap's empty chair?