Both Adam Zagoria at SNY and Zach Braziller at the New York Post report that Barry Rohrssen, the St. John's Associate Head Coach, is likely to leave the program. As the second-in-command, the veteran assistant and native Brooklynite Rohrssen enjoyed a salary greater than that of many low-level head coaches, and finally got to work at home, where he is well-known and well-respected by the high school staffs.
But Rohrssen has been rumored to be unhappy with his role. The recent reports indicate that he has been unhappy with less of a role than he assumed in in-game strategy and in recruiting.
On the strategy front, Greg St. Jean has been in Mullin's ear, as many assistants often confer with head coaches. On the recruiting front, the decision to take a pair of transfers instead of leaving scholarships open for 2017 was a conscious decision that plays to assistant Matt Abdelmassih's strategy.
Abdelmassih was also credited with the heavy lifting on many of the recruits on the St. John's roster. Rohrssen's skills would be in bigger play for the high-end 2017 and 2018 recruits; he played a role in the recruitment of Thon Maker, for example, but was unable to land the player, who is now waiting to hear his name called in the NBA Draft.
St. John's went 8-24 in Chris Mullin's first season, and 1-17 in the Big East.
The Red Storm are holding an elite camp starting today, featuring many of the top local players from the Classes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and even a 2020 player or two. And Rohrssen will, according to the Post, not be there.
Rohrssen's departure is not immediate; there's the matter of his buyout, given his long-term contract and high-end money.
There's a question of impact - will this affect the inroads the staff has made with New York players? Even if it does, Abdelmassih and Mullin seem to have forged decent local relationships - though besides 2016 top-40 guard signee Shamorie Ponds, we don't have evidence of them locking down many local prospects yet.
Mitch Richmond's name comes up in informed rumors about who will fill in the now-open assistant spot. Like Mullin, Richmond has no coaching experience, but is a hard worker with a long and consistent career, plus some years as Director of Player Personnel at Golden State.
Grad assistant Luca Virgilio could also slide over. He's been instrumental in making overseas connections to help the program's recruiting.
This could be an opportunity to address the team's needs - if we know what those are yet - in terms of staff.
Does the team need a different practice regimen and scheme? Do they need better instruction in the nuances of their offensive ideas? Do they need a different voice to guide the player development?
With that in mind, let's resurrect this quote from February in the Post:
"I don’t think it’s coaching," the Big East coach said of the Johnnies (7-19, 0-13 Big East). "They’re running good stuff [on offense]. They’re prepared. They’re playing hard. They hang in there, but with their lack of depth, they have lineups that are difficult to win with."...
The Big East coach equated the Johnnies’ roster to that of a low Atlantic 10 team, or perhaps a high-end CAA program. An assistant coach said it resembles a top-end MAAC program.
"They definitely inherited a bad roster," the assistant said.
The next move won't make or break St. John's, even if some fans - and ESPN jokesters masquerading as journalists and ESPN's actual pundits - think this is a major, major issue. Certainly, it puts St. John's in the news cycle in a negative light...
...but let's be real here. We're talking about a college basketball assistant. One with a big name, one with a lot of cred. The direction of the team - and the improvements St. John's needs to make to be relevant on and off the court - must come down to Chris Mullin in his second and third years.