John Calipari Would Be the Perfect Fit at St. John's

Kenneth WalterContributor INovember 19, 2008

There was a time when the NIT was considered a failure at St. John’s.

Those were the days.

There was a time where St. John’s would regularly pluck the city’s best high school players, like Chris Mullin and Ron Artest.

Those were the days.

There was a time when Lou Carnesecca patrolled the sidelines of a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Those were the days.

But those days are long gone.  These days, St. John's is a far cry from what it used to be.  The days of even competing in the Big East have passed, and now they are in a perennial fight to stay out of the Big East basement.

When Rutgers is able to recruit a McDonald’s All-American and St. John’s can’t, you know things are bad.

This once proud program has had its share of scandals, missed out recruits, and failure to adapt their facilities to really attract talent.  The fact is, there just isn’t a lot of talent on this team, and the future does not look very bright.

Look at this season.  The Big East is stacked and could send anywhere from seven to possibly 10 teams to the tournament.  St. John’s will most likely finish in the bottom fourth of the league, somewhere mixed with Seton Hall, DePaul, and South Florida.

There is really only one way to solve this mess.

Hire a big-time college coach.

It’s not that Norm Roberts is a bad coach.  It’s not even that he is a bad recruiter (although he has done a bad job in that department), but it’s more that this is a last ditch effort to stop St. John’s from becoming the Big East’s version of Northeastern.

This is what they need, what every struggling former powerhouse needs: a larger-than-life, recruit at any cost, disciplinarian.  Dare I say Bob Knight?

Knight would have been the perfect candidate for a coaching job in Queens.  The problem is that this is seven years too late.

Seven years ago, Knight would have been perfect for the Storm.  He was young enough to give himself to a full rebuilding process.  He also had a son who would be in waiting to take over when the old man stepped down.

But that never materialized.  When Knight was fired from Indiana, he landed in Lubbock, Texas and with Texas Tech.  He had moderate success until he stepped down in January of 2008 and Pat Knight took over.

There are whispers around college basketball saying that Knight isn’t done coaching.  Bringing in Knight would make some sense for St. John’s, but it wouldn’t make the most sense.

With his age, Knight needs a quick fix, and I doubt he has the patience to rebuild at St. John’s.  Also, Knight has spoken out against recruiting players who would leave after one year.  St. John’s is currently in an all-out attempt to receive a commitment from Brooklyn scorer Lance Stephenson.  Stephenson and Knight wouldn’t exactly be a smooth marriage.

St. John’s needs a Knight-type coach who is a brand name.  A few options that I think would work would be Gary Williams, Rick Majerus, or John Calipari.

Word is that Williams may be walking on eggshells in Maryland.

Williams has already won a National Championship and has recruited some highly talented players.  Steve Francis, Chris Wilcox, Steve Blake, and Juan Dixon have had fairly productive careers in the NBA.

While he has had a bad couple of years at Maryland, he is an accomplished coach who may need a change of scenery.

But Williams probably isn’t a better choice than Majerus.

Majerus has never coached in a power conference but has had uncharted success at places like Utah and Ball State.  He is a terrific X’s and O’s coach that can also recruit.  His one downfall is that he may not be able to have as much free will at a Catholic University.

At Saint Louis, which is a Jesuit school, Majerus spoke out about abortion, which did not go over well with the higher ups.

But if Majerus could control the politics of the job, then he could have a lot of success at St. John’s.

However, Calipari would be the perfect coach.  He has an established track record, aggressive recruiting style, and is young enough to give full effort to the job.  The thing that separates Calipari is that he is willing to recruit the “one-and-dones.” 

While recruiting a team full of players who are going to leave after their freshman year is not the soundest strategy, it has worked in Memphis.  Players like Derrick Rose have come into Memphis and had immense success.

Those types of players would be a step in the right direction for St. John’s.  They need a few legitimate star players to revitalize the passion in the program. 

Let’s point to Kansas State as our case study.  Kansas State is a perennial bottom dweller in the Big 12.  One year with stud freshman Michael Beasley and future recruits take notice.  They already picked up five-star Wally Judge and four-star Rodney McGruder for 2009.

That is what needs to happen in Queens.  This city loves basketball.  Between the Knicks and the college scene, New York has been void of good basketball the last few years.

That is why St. John’s needs to get this thing turned around, and Coach Calipari would be a start.