In a press conference yesterday, St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch said that the team would be prepared to spend whatever it takes to lure a marquee name to the head coaching position in Queens. With Rick Pitino intimating that he will most likely remain at Louisville after being rumored to return to his New York roots, fans of the Johnnies are now clamoring for one of his former players, who also served as his assistant coach for a time.
Like his mentor Pitino, for whom he played at Providence and with the New York Knicks before spending time on his staff at Kentucky, Billy Donovan is a local kid, hailing from Rockville Centre, located in the middle of Nassau County on Long Island. Donovan would bring a wealth of success to the position should St. John's back up their word and spend the sum of close to $4 million it would take to lure him from his current perch at the University of Florida, having led the Gators to consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007, not to mention a proven track record of being able to recruit New York-area high school players, something former head man Norm Roberts was frequently criticized about during his six-year tenure. Like Roberts, Donovan is also just 44 years old, which gives the Red Storm another young leader, albeit with a higher standing in the national landscape than where the program stood with Roberts.
In an interview with WFAN's Mike Francesa yesterday, Roberts remained the class act that I and many others had come to respect, praising the program and his head coaching job as being "better than when I got here in all aspects." Roberts also commented on the perceived difficulty of his position in the interview. "I don't think anyone knows how the job is until they're officially in it," said the outgoing coach, who will have no problem finding work given his integrity and demeanor.
Other candidates to succeed Roberts include Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg, both of whom are Long Island products like Donovan. Siena's Fran McCaffery and Hofstra's Tom Pecora are also logical choices, but if Monasch and university president Rev. Donald Harrington are looking for the big name that will draw recruits, fans and revenue to the program; while simultaneously restoring its status as one of the nation's elite, then there is only one man they can turn to should Pitino opt to stay in Louisville.
Billy Donovan can be that guy.