The St. John’s Red Storm are looking for a new head coach. However, how attractive is the vacant position for prospective candidates?
With Chris Mullin stepping down as the St. John’s Red Storm head coach, this means the school will be hiring its fifth different head coach this century. There are a variety of different candidates that the fan base wants to be the next coach. Potential coaches range from Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, Iona’s Tim Cluess, and even Rick Pitino in some cases.
However, the question that must be asked is this: How attractive is the St. John’s job? Keep in mind the school has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000 and is far from the glory years when Mullin and Mark Jackson were on the floor playing for Lou Carnesecca in the 1980s.
Now, this is still New York City and while St. John’s is on the backburner compared to other professional teams, a winning program can get the city buzzing in an instant. For example, even in a down year for the school in 2017-18, Shamorie Ponds was the talk of the town after the team pulled off upsets of Duke and Villanova in back-to-back games.
As you look ahead to next season, the roster is uncertain. Whoever takes this job is going to have to start from the ground floor just like Mullin did. That will make recruiting that much more crucial going forward. New York City is a great place to recruit with all of the basketball talent in the area, but it is not the easiest location to be a successful recruiter.
The roster deconstruction continued on Tuesday. Bryan Trimble Jr. and Justin Simon are both leaving St. John’s following the news. Trimble is looking to transfer somewhere while Simon will enter the 2019 NBA Draft.
St. John's guard Bryant Trimble has entered his name into the transfer portal, a source tells @Rivals. Sit one, play two
— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 9, 2019
Sources: St. John's Justin Simon will sign with an agent and enter the 2019 NBA Draft. Plans to stay in. #SJUBB
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 9, 2019
Mullin had a team that was filled with transfers like Simon. One of the criticisms fans had was the lack of development of some of the recruits including Greg Williams, Marcellus Earlington, and Josh Roberts. All three players showed flashes in the limited time they played, but never had a real opportunity to show what they can do. As a result, building depth is vital for the next head coach.
Of course, there is always the allure of playing select home games at Madison Square Garden and being on that grand stage. With that being said, a lot of the premier programs play at MSG at least once in the early months of the year, so that isn’t as attractive as it once was. But when the team is good, Carnesecca Arena can grow loud and create a brutal atmosphere for opposing teams.
One of the positives of the job is coaching in the Big East. While Villanova remains the class of the conference, it is wide open after that. The parity of the conference was on full display in 2019. With the right recruiting class, it is not out of the question the Red Storm could be back within three years.
On Tuesday, athletic director Mike Cragg sent out a statement once it was official that Mullin was stepping down and he mentioned that experience was going to be one of the leading factors in this search.
St. John's AD Mike Cragg in statement says: "We are committed to building a championship level program, so we will aggressively search for an experienced coach capable of running a high-level Division I team in New York City." #sjubb
— Roger Rubin (@RogRubin) April 9, 2019
Cragg is absolutely right that experience needs to be a priority. With the uncertainty of next season’s roster, a coach capable of grinding and battling during the transition period is a must.
Steve Lavin, a recent big-name experience hire, made two trips to the NCAA Tournament. Some might argue that Lavin’s tenure wasn’t as successful as it should have been. But two trips to the NCAA Tournament are still tremendous accomplishments.
In terms of the possible candidates, Cluess has consistently taken the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. As for Hurley, he’s only been Arizona State’s head coach for two years, but he’s taken them to the NCAA Tournament both times and this year’s roster was a lot younger than last year.
Pitino has the winning experience that any St. John’s fan would want. However, with the cloud of controversy around him from the scandals at Louisville, it is tough to see the Red Storm taking that chance at this time.
There is no slam dunk hire in this search, but the route to go is the mid-major route. Those coaches are used to building up a program from day one and turning it into something special. The problem with that idea is some of the top coaches from the smaller conferences are gone. Mike Young is going from Wofford to Virginia Tech and Eric Musselman is going from Nevada to Arkansas.
With all of the bad news St. John’s has had this offseason, this will not be an easy task to turn around this team quickly. It will be a tall mountain to climb. However, if the right coach does it, they can be the toast of the town. That alone makes this job valuable. Now, it is time to see if Cragg makes the right choice.