The transformation of the St. John's athletic department that began with the hiring of Chris Mullin in April continued with the resignation Thursday of Chris Monasch as athletic director effective June 30, the school announced.
Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D'Alessandro, a Red Storm alum and a close associate of Mullin's, is a strong candidate to be named as Monasch's successor, according to sources.
Multiple sources said negotiations with Monasch for his exit began after the basketball season ended. Monasch was closely aligned with former basketball coach Steve Lavin and urged the school to extend his contract, but he was overruled by St. John's president Conrado "Bobby" Gempesaw, who hired Mullin and ultimately made the decision to replace Monasch.
"We appreciate the many contributions that Chris has made to St. John's University, particularly to our athletic program," Gempesaw said in a statement. "We wish him well in his future endeavors."
A St. John's spokesman said a national search for the sixth athletic director in school history will begin immediately. D'Alessandro, 46, a graduate of Connetquot High in Bohemia, immediately became the focus of speculation because of his close ties to Mullin and former coach Lou Carnesecca.
D'Alessandro got his start in athletics administration as a student at St. John's from 1986 to 1990, when he served as video coordinator under Carnesecca. He later earned a law degree and worked in politics before joining a Washington-based sports agency in 1997.
In 2004, he was hired as director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors by Mullin, who was executive vice president of basketball operations for the Warriors at the time. D'Alessandro reportedly has been supplanted by Vlade Divac as the Kings' top basketball executive.
If D'Alessandro is the choice for AD, it would give Mullin, who was working as an adviser in player personnel for Sacramento when he accepted the St. John's job, a trusted partner in overhauling the basketball program. Mullin previously was successful in luring top assistants Barry Rohrssen from Kentucky and Matt Abdelmassih from Iowa State to head up recruiting. Abdelmassih also is a St. John's alum and Rohrssen is a Brooklyn native who has been a long-time confidant of Mullin's.
In addition to being identified with the five-year Lavin era, Monasch didn't help himself when he alienated former PGA champion Keegan Bradley, a high-profile supporter of Red Storm athletics, by firing longtime golf coach Frank Darby, who coached Bradley. Gempesaw was said to be upset about the rift with a key donor in Bradley, but a source said that was not a factor in the ouster of Monasch, who was hired in 2005.
"I want to thank all of the coaches, administrators and staff for the support they gave to assist our student-athletes in achieving so much over the last decade," Monasch said in the statement. "I look forward to the next chapter in my career and wish my good friends at St. John's much success in the future."