In what he called a difficult decision, St. John’s Director of Athletics Chris Monsach announced Friday that the University had dismissed men’s basketball coach Norm Roberts, relieving him of his duties after six seasons on the Red Storm’s bench.
“The University’s decision to part ways with Coach Roberts was difficult,” Monsach said, “particularly because as an administration, we recognize the efforts of Norm and his staff over the last six years.”
“Norm restored a great deal of integrity and respectability to our men’s basketball program.”
Roberts was hired in April 2004 to replace former Head Coach Mike Jarvis, who had been fired following multiple off-the-court incidents involving players, two of whom were arrested.
Following Jarvis’ dismissal, further scandals came to light, such as payments to ineligible players, which forced St. John’s to take a two year absence from post season play and forfeit its 2003 NIT championship.
“We were at a low point in our program’s history,” Monsach said.
Roberts, a Springfield Gardens native and former coach at Queens College, was brought as much to return the team to good moral standing as he was to win games, and a general consensus was that he succeeded in that regard. However, victories turned out to be much harder to come by.
In six seasons, Roberts posted an 81-101 record and failed to reach an NCAA tournament. The Red Storm did earn two postseason berths under Roberts, reaching the College Basketball Invitational last season and the NIT this season. However, St. John’s lost in the first round of both tournaments.
While the basketball program improved markedly from where it was six years ago, fans had grown frustrated with the team’s lack of competitive play in the Big East. Roberts was serenaded with chants of “Fire Roberts” at times this season, and some fans started an anti-Roberts website, Fire Norm Now, in January 2004.
Roberts said he appreciated his time at St. John’s.
“My wife [Pascale] and I appreciate the great opportunity to have coached at St. John’s,» he said.
“Having grown up in Queens, I never could have imagined being afforded the opportunity to coach at one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country. I do believe the program is in a much stronger position than when I arrived, and is poised to take a major step up both in the Big East and nationally.»
Monsach said that the University will immediately begin searching nationally for a replacement. Several names that have been mentioned in consideration for the job include Billy Donovan, the head coach at Florida, Rick Pitino, the head coach at Louisville and a former coach of the New York Knicks, and Seth Greenberg, the head coach at Virginia Tech.