Wanted: Coaching Talent Willing to Move to NYC Area

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

Ryan Restivo is an RTC correspondent and contributor.  He writes for SienaSaintsBlog as well as RotoSavants.com in his spare time.

Norm Roberts and Bobby Gonzalez joined the unemployment line this past week after both failed at Big East jobs.  Roberts, a former Kansas assistant coach and player at Queens College, could not hold onto the local talent in New York City to win at St. John’s. The Red Storm barely missed out on Lance Stephenson, losing him to Big East foe Cincinnati, which combined with an 81-101 record in six years brought him to the firing line.

Roberts Was Let Go on Friday (AP/N. Wass)

Meanwhile, across the Hudson in South Orange, it was Bobby Gonzalez’s fiery personality that did him in at Seton Hall. After four years and no NCAA Tournament appearances, Gonzalez was shown the door.  The firing came days after former Pirate Robert Mitchell was arrested and charged with kidnapping, robbery, burglary and possession of a weapon. The Pirates didn’t show much discipline on Tuesday night either: star Herb Pope was ejected in Tuesday night’s NIT game for punching a Texas Tech player in the groin and Gonzalez receive his seventh technical foul of the season.

The Dean of Seton Hall Law School, Patrick E. Hobbs, who also oversees the athletic department, said the school decided to fire Gonzalez before learning of Mitchell’s arrest.  Now both will be in the search to find candidates to bring more energy, and most of all wins, to the New York metro area schools.  Hobbs said that the contract extension given to Gonzalez was no additional financial risk for a school that cut four sports in February to save $1.5 million. Sources have said Seton Hall is expected to be looking to pay around $500,000 or slightly more as an annual salary to its next coach.

Meanwhile St. John’s was paying Roberts approximately $650,000 annually and could be expected to shell out more money for the candidate they desire. St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch said the parameters of the coach they are looking for include NCAA Tournament appearances and good character. “We want to hire someone who has a record of success of getting into the NCAA tournament,” Monasch said to the AP. “In trying to find the right person, probably the safest choice is someone who has done it at this level, someone who believes in the mission of school and understands New York.”

Would Greenberg Entertain a Move to NYC?

No doubt the job that has better upside is St. John’s over Seton Hall. The Red Storm will return over 90% of its roster, nine scholarship rising seniors, and went 17-16 this year in Roberts’ highest win total. The Red Storm could be one big-time star New York City recruit away from being a Big East contender next year.  Here are some of the top names floating around as potential candidates for each of these two jobs.

  • The favorite for the Red Storm job has to be Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg. Greenberg, a Plainview, NY, native, has coached the Hokies to fourth place or better in four of Tech’s six seasons in the twelve-team ACC. The two-time ACC Coach of the Year has an overall record of 130-93 with the Hokies aftersuccessful stints at Long Beach State and South Florida.  Greenberg is coming off his best record at Virginia Tech this season and has a track record of success. Greenberg’s Long Beach State 49ers beat #1 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse and his Hokies have defeated ranked teams as high as #5 Duke, #1 North Carolina and #1 Wake Forest in the last few years.
  • A viable candidate for both St. John’s and Seton Hall will be Hofstra’s Tom Pecora. Pecora has been Hofstra’s coach since Jay Wright left for Villanova in 2001. Pecora has become a hot commodity, winning 155 games at Hofstra and is a local, graduating from Adelphi University in 1983. Pecora’s Pride have won 19 or more games in five of the last six seasons and beat St. John’s four straight years from 20004 to 2007 which is when the Red Storm stopped the series and began inviting the Pride to play in the 2007 and 2009 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden instead.  Hofstra will likely return a young core that can compete for the CAA title in 2011, however. CAA Player of the Year and rising Senior Charles Jenkins along with a young core of guard Chaz Williams, forward Halil Kanacevic and shot blocker Greg Washington comprise a championship caliber core and a tough mid-major opponent for teams in 2011. Fordham from the A-10 might pursue Pecora as well. Pecora said Seton Hall reached out to him already, but he prefers staying in New York if it comes down to the two Big East schools.
  • Siena’s Fran McCaffery will be mentioned with many of the jobs out there in major college basketball. His Saints have been to the NCAA Tournament each of the last three years, winning twice and pushing overall #1 seed Louisville last year to the brink in the second round. Siena has tried its best to keep him happy in Loudonville but this time there might be too many opportunities out there. He will be a candidate at Seton Hall, St. John’s, DePaul and possibly even Charlotte of the Atlantic 10.  McCaffery was an assistant at Notre Dame from 1988 to 1999 and knows the Big East fairly well. McCaffery has had a 100% graduation rate at Siena, has never had any program or discipline trouble develop, boasts a 112-51 record and has taken three different programs to the NCAA Tournament (Lehigh and UNC-Greensboro the other two). McCaffery came to Siena, lost two recruits who committed to the previous coach, and went out and signed guard Kenny Hasbrouck. Hasbrouck developed into a star and is now on a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat. The difference in money might be the same at Siena and Seton Hall might not have enough to lure McCaffery away, but St. John’s might make a run for McCaffery’s services.
  • Harvard’s Tommy Amaker will be considered for the St. John’s position. Amaker parlayed a long assistant coach tenure at Duke into big time jobs at Seton Hall and Michigan. In the 10 years combined at both stops, Amaker made the NCAA Tournament once: taking Seton Hall to the Sweet 16 in 2000. Six other times his teams made the NIT and his record in both the Big East and Big Ten was under .500 overall. Furthermore, after taking over at Harvard, Amaker has turned the program around in three years. Amaker has improved the Crimson’s win total in each year for a team that has never won an Ivy League championship culminating in a 21-7 season in 2009-10.
  • Iona’s Kevin Willard, a Long Island native, spent ten years under coach Rick Pitino at the Boston Celtics and Louisville and turned around the Iona program to a Top 80 RPI team this year. Willard was the MAAC Coach of the Year this season, posting a 21-10 record. Willard might be attractive to Seton Hall, since he has alumnus Shaheen Holloway as his top recruiter who would likely go with him. Willard has only been a head coach three years, has a 45-49 record and has never won a postseason game, however. His Gaels failed to win a game in the MAAC Tournament each of the last three years and have not been invited to postseason play.
  • Richmond’s Chris Mooney might be a dark horse at one of these jobs because of his style. Mooney is a disciple of the Princeton Offense but has won in the Atlantic-10, posting back to back 20-win seasons and leading the Spiders into the top 25 for the first time in 24 years. Mooney, the Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year, has coached at Air Force and at Richmond and has an overall record of 101-91 in six years as a Division I head coach.
  • Vermont’s Mike Lonergan will likely be a candidate for either position and could be a candidate if Pecora leaves Hofstra. A Maryland assistant for a year, Lonergan is 78-49 at Vermont and has won two America East regular season titles. Lonergan was head coach for 12 years at Catholic University, where the Division III school won the 2001 National Championship.
  • Cornell’s Steve Donahue has gone to the first round of the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons and beat his mentor, Temple’s Fran Dunphy, in their first round game this year.  After yesterday’s win over Wisconsin to go to the Sweet Sixteen, he may be sought after by bigger programs around the country. Donahue’s Big Red have dominated in the Ivy League over the last three years, going 38-4 in league play. In addition to the Sweet Sixteen (the Ivy’s first since 1979), the Big Red beat St. John’s earlier this year, which was their first win over a Big East team since 1969, and a win over Alabama was their first win over an SEC team since 1972. They climbed as high as #22 in the nation in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and  has notched a school-record 29 wins. Donahue is 146-137 overall at Cornell and could, potentially, be looking for another team to turn around after ten seasons with the Big Red.
  • Mike Rice’s Robert Morris near-upset over Villanova has big schools looking at him. Rice is a likely candidate at Seton Hall and is experienced recruiting the metro areas of the east coast when he ran a basketball camp in New Jersey for three years and currently recruits Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York for the Colonials. Rice also recruited the area as an assistant for St. Joseph’s and Pittsburgh. Rice won the Northeast Conference each year and has gone to the NCAA Tournament in the last two seasons. Of course Rice will likely be considered for the Fordham job, where he is an alumnus and got his first coaching job in 1991.
  • Current NBA analyst Mark Jackson has said he would like to come back to his alma mater at St. John’s. It is more likely that the Red Storm will pursue a coach with head coaching experience, which Jackson lacks.
  • A potential dark horse candidate for jobs that has shined recently might be Ohio University Head Coach John Groce. Groce was an assistant for four years at Ohio State, and followed Thad Matta from Xavier and Butler. Groce is regarded as one of the best recruiters in the nation and played a vital role in bringing Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. to the Buckeyes.
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One Response to “Wanted: Coaching Talent Willing to Move to NYC Area”

  1. Brian says:

    Both jobs are sleeping giants so to speak. If either school gets the right coach in there who can keep some local talent home, that school (or both) will rise up fast.

    I think Seton Hall is probably the better job for next season, not to mention SHU has been better than SJU for the vast majority of the past 10 years. The Pirates “should” (note the quotes), return everyone except Mitchell, Garcia and Harvey. That’s a very solid core coming back from a team that just missed out on the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s still has a ways to go in order to get to that level.

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