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St. John's basketball: Norm Roberts feels the heat

St John's Red Storm logo - HorseThe NY Daily News has a profile of the troubles Coach Norm Roberts is facing:

High-pressure Storm: Norm Roberts feels heat as St. John's flounders

Roberts is finishing his fourth season, and the Johnnies need a strong finish just to get back to the Big East's postseason tournament, which they reached last season for the first time in four years. The team is 10-16 after Saturday's 30-point loss at Duke, and a dialogue about the program's future is percolating. In high school gyms, on the talk-radio airwaves and among St. John's most loyal and influential supporters, the question is asked whether the school will stick with Roberts or make a change.

A determination probably is still weeks away and the value of Roberts' successes and failures will be measured by the university president, the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, and athletic director, Chris Monasch.

"I'm not willing to pass judgment on a season until it's a complete season," Monasch said. "We knew our record would probably take a step back this year. The criteria we're looking for is whether there's a good core of players to build on."

St John's players during loss
The article goes into the mixed bag of Roberts’ tenure, including some of the achievements in bringing in better citizens and getting the students to hit the books counterbalanced with the lack of wins and the gossip about Coach Roberts’ future.

In my earlier post about Coach Roberts’ profile, I didn’t add the bit about how this season’s team had one of the highest first semester GPA’s for a basketball team at St. John’s. That is an important metric—if we talk about how Bobby Knight graduates players as a positive metric for him, we have to do the same for Norm Roberts. Of course, Roberts’ results are much less impressive.

I think Coach Roberts will be a fine head coach at another school; he is a decent recruiter, and has gotten some players to St. John’s. he knows the recruiting hustle. But the losses—and probably the inconsistent style of play— will deter the 4 and 5 star recruits from the school no matter what. At a lower level school, the coach can improve on his game coaching and training chops; the Big East is making him look like a worse coach than he actually is.

A telling line in the article is this:

"(My players) ask about (Roberts') future because they hear rumors," said one prominent Catholic league coach. "I'm not bringing it up with them, but they wonder and that can't be good for recruiting."

Said [St. Raymond’s coach Oliver] Antigua: "If the president or AD back him publicly ... rumors would go away."

It is telling that the Athletic Director Chris Monasch or President Father Harrington—or even Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca— have not come out to publicly defend Coach Roberts, or to give him the "vote of confidence" (which often means the coach is near firing, like LSU coach John Brady).

And from the possible NYC recruits:

Last week, the Johnnies had four high-school recruits attend their game at the Garden against Villanova, including Lawrence. St. John's scored a season-low 13 points in the first half of an 18-point loss.

"A game like that makes it hard to consider them," [Omari] Lawrence said. "They didn't stay energetic. They got stagnant. Maybe it's just too early in the process for things to be different. I want to produce and play and win on a high stage. They are on a high stage, but don't win."

"I keep St. John's in mind, but I don't know about them," said Keith Spellman of Jefferson, who counts St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova and Rutgers among his many suitors. "I want to go someplace where I can continue to win. I don't want to have to catch back up with everyone else."