Commentary

St. John's needs prominent coach

Updated: March 19, 2010, 5:30 PM ET
By Dick Vitale

St. John's needs to hit a home run in its next coaching hire.

Norm Roberts was a good guy who simply did not win enough. In his six years at the school, he did everything he could. Roberts turned around a program that was in shambles when he arrived.

The image of St. John's has improved dramatically. Unfortunately, the bottom line is W's and L's: college basketball is now a big business.

Roberts' club won 17 games this season and lost in the first round of the NIT, falling in a Maalox Masher at Memphis. That was not good enough. This is a program that needs to create a buzz. A new coach must bring electricity and excitement to Madison Square Garden. There are so many good players out of the Big Apple and St. John's needs to keep some of them home, like the school did with Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Walter Berry.

Right now, people in New York City are simply not that excited about the program. They miss the days of Looie Carnesecca, when St. John's was more relevant and interesting to the New York sports fan.

I really feel that the school should try to put together a big-time package -- try to wow a prominent coach. Guys like Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, or P.J. Carlesimo could create some excitement and it could happen if a big offer is part of the equation.

If not, St. John's can go back to the same mediocrity it has suffered through for several years. I believe there is potential to make some noise, like the program did when it made the Final Four in 1985. The Garden was rocking and rolling back then: recruits were excited to play there!

New York City is a hot bed for high school basketball and keeping kids home is a must. Having a coach to generate that buzz could help in that area, but in the competitive Big East conference, it will not be easy.

I'm interested to see what happens.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.