Monasch, '81 grad, inherits troubled program

Updated: February 1, 2005, 11:40 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- St. John's grad Chris Monasch was hired Tuesday as the school's athletic director, taking control of a sports program still dealing with an NCAA investigation of its men's basketball team.

Monasch, who graduated from St. John's in 1981, replaces interim AD James Pellow. He took over in August, when Dave Wegrzyn resigned.

"It's a great honor as an alumnus," Monasch said. "It's great to be back here as a New Yorker."

Monasch served as commissioner of the America East Conference the past eight seasons, and will take over at St. John's on March 12.

"I trust in his abilities, I trust in his knowledge of St. John's, and we'll walk this path together," school president Rev. David J. Harrington said.

Monasch's top duty will be restoring the tradition-rich men's basketball program, which returned only three scholarship players a season after finishing 6-21. In November, St. John's imposed two years of penalties -- including a postseason ban for 2004-05 -- after an investigation revealed former player Abe Keita was given cash by an athletic department employee.

The NCAA is continuing its investigation into the matter and will decide if the self-imposed penalties are enough.

"I think the process has been handled quickly and appropriately by the university," Monasch said. "That really is behind us."

Keita was one of six players suspended from the program last February for visiting a strip club in Pittsburgh. Forward Rodney Epperson was suspended indefinitely in December, pending a review of his transfer from a junior college two years ago.

Monasch doesn't anticipate making any changes in the basketball program, endorsing coach Norm Roberts during Tuesday's conference call.

"I'm very comfortable with it," Monasch said of Roberts' hiring. "I met him on a couple of occasions. He's obviously a quality human being."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press