After a nasty parting of ways with Chris Mullin earlier this week, St. John's is on the clock to hire a new head men's basketball coach. New athletic director Mike Cragg needs to make the right hire, but he also needs to get someone in place relatively quickly.
The NCAA spring recruiting period starts April 26-28 and St. John's will need to have a staff out recruiting. There has already been a mass exodus off the current roster which is composed mainly of transfers.
Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon declared for the NBA Draft, L.J. Figueroa and Bryan Trimble are expected to transfer and Class of 2019 commits PG Cam Mack and F Valdir Manuel have already decommitted.
Here are five names in the mix at St. John's. Whoever gets the gig will have a lot of work ahead to rebuild the program, which is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
Cluess, 60, played at St. John's from 1979-81, and four of his siblings -- three brothers and one sister -- who all played at the school, too. Cluess is one of the most highly respected coaches in the New York metropolitan area, and was named the 2018 All-Met Coach of the Year.
In nine seasons at the MAAC school, he has led the Gaels to six NCAA Tournaments and gone 19-4 in the MAAC Tournament. He has never won an NCAA Tournament game, but Iona is often a bottom-tier seed because of its conference. After a 2-9 start this season, Iona went on to win the MAAC Tournament title and was given a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing to North Carolina in the first round.
Cluess would likely need to hire a couple of ace recruiters to replicate his success at Iona. NY Rens coach Andy Borman, a Duke product, and Queens native Marc Hsu of Western Kentucky are two excellent names.
"Tim is a winner on every level he's ever coached and he will find a way to win at St John's because that's what winners do," Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello told ZAGSBLOG: "He'll assemble the right staff. To me, he's a coach's coach."
Pitino, 66, is currently coaching in Greece and is anxious to get back into coaching in the States, but realizes his most likely shot is probably in the NBA.
He is a Long Island native who owns property in Manhattan and knows St. John's well. He has led three NCAA programs to the Final Four and won NCAA titles at Kentucky and Louisville, although the latter was vacated. Pitino was fired at Louisville in the fall of 2017 after several scandals, including the Brian Bowen-Adidas pay-for-play scandal, and Strippergate, where former staffer Andre McGee brought prostitutes and strippers into the Billy Minardi Dorm to provide sexual acts to players and recruits.
"I would bring St. John's to the Elite level not seen since Louie [Carnesecca] roamed the sidelines," Pitino told ZAGSBLOG Tuesday. "But before that could ever happen, the Southern District of New York would have to apologize for ruining an innocent man's reputation by putting his name in a complaint. So good luck to my hometown University because that's not happening."
Scheyer, 31, is the current associate head coach under Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, which could be appealing to Cragg, a former Duke guy. A former McDonald's All-American and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, Scheyer won an NCAA title at Duke in 2010 and has helped recruit some of the top players in the nation.
Still, he's never been a head coach at any level and thrusting him into the Big East with the Jay Wrights, Kevin Willards and Ed Cooleys of the world might be a tough ask. He also doesn't have any natural connections to the New York City area and would be facing several obstacles, including ingratiating himself with the local high school and AAU coaches and the New York media. If Hurley rebuffs Cragg and the AD still wants a Duke guy, Scheyer might be the option.
Greg St. Jean
Since Mullin has been away from the team, it is St. Jean who has been running workouts and trying to hold things together as the team splinters apart. Before spending four years under Mullin, St. Jean spent the previous two years working for the Sacramento Kings, serving as the assistant player development coach during the 2014-2015 season. He's regarded as an excellent strategic and tactical coach and could often be seen advising Mullin in huddles and on the sidelines.
If Cragg wants to keep the remnants of the current squad together, he may opt to keep St. Jean on as head coach (or as an assistant with the next coach). Still, for a new AD looking to make a splash, promoting an assistant might not be what he's looking to do.