If ESPN commentator Steve Lavin gets the St. John's job, as reportedly might happen, then that is a commentary on how poorly prepared Red Storm athletic director Chris Monasch was when he fired Norm Roberts.
It's difficult to recall when a job search for a major position has been as ill-managed as this one. It speaks to the reasons for the decline of St. John's basketball as a force on the New York scene. If it were handled well, St. John's could blow up big-time on the metropolitan scene.
But it's turning into a circus now. First, Monasch, through an intermediary, offers Florida's Billy Donovan less than he's already making. Then, he once again pursues Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who apparently was the favorite of Rev. Donald Harrington, the university president who was turned down by Hewitt the last time St. John's had a coaching vacancy. That was followed by the Seth Greenberg turndown because he got a better deal to stay put at Virginia Tech.
Next thing we know, Monasch is interviewing Boston College coach Al Skinner. Now, Skinner can coach a little bit, but anyone who knows anything about college basketball will tell you he is not an avid recruiter. What's more, Skinner lost his best staff recruiters to other jobs.
Check Boston College's roster, and you'll find one freshman recruit, a point guard named Brady Heslip from Ontario. Heslip didn't play a game for a 15-16 Eagles team. Is that the monster recruiter St. John's needs?
So, now St. John's is looking to make a splash after striking out with Donovan, Hewitt and Greenberg. Lavin comes with the ESPN imprimatur. He did a good job at UCLA in the past. But how does Lavin fit the profile outlined by Monasch at the beginning? You know, a guy with New York recruiting ties.
Siena's Fran McCaffery should have been at the top of any list. But now he's taken the Iowa job. In fairness, McCaffery had indicated to others in the business that he might want to head to the midwest for family reasons, so, St. John's might not have gotten him anyway. But the Hawkeyes got themselves an accomplished coach in his prime.
Cornell's Steve Donahue did a great job with this year's team, but he's been in the Ivy League for 20 years. If he had Big East aspirations, he should have left the Ivies long ago.
Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing St. John's go outside the box -- but for a working coach. I've mentioned UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who is aging but still very energetic in his approach. Rhode Island's Jim Baron is another coach who has done impressive rebuilding work wherever he's gone.
The important thing at this point is for Monasch to hone in on a coach who can recruit and who has ability on the sidelines. There are a million programs out there. There's no excuse for not having a long list of qualified candidates at this point. Monasch has to have confidence that St. John's still is an important job in the eyes of enough coaches that he doesn't have to reach for someone from a TV booth to bail him out.
I wonder if St. John's ever contacted Gonzaga's Mark Few. After the sub-regional in Buffalo, I cornered Few and, presuming he's married to the Pacific Northwest, at least inquired about his interest in moving to New York.
Few said he still believes he can reach the Final Four at Gonzaga. He grew up in Washington, has four kids and said that, given his love of the outdoors, "I'd be a fish out of water in New York."
I think he was being truthful, but maybe that's just what he says to reporters. Why not at least contact the most successful coach of a private Catholic university outside the Big East?
Is Steve Lavin really the best commentator, excuse me, coach for the job?