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Monasch, '81 grad, inherits troubled program

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."