A lot of people feigned surprise on Thursday when Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt turned down a job offer from St. John's to stay in Atlanta. Hewitt might be from these parts and he might even harbor dreams of coaching in the Big East one day, but no one in their right mind would have thought he'd pay $3.5 million for the chance to do it.
That was the buyout in his contract, and it's a figure that's about what the Red Storm spend on basketball each season. In other words, they weren't really in a position to help Hewitt out and, even though things haven't gone as well as hoped for the Ramblin' Wreck recently, Georgia Tech was in no hurry to negotiate a lower fee and let him go. You see, they didn't have a plan in place to replace Hewitt.
It's important to have one of those, something St. John's is making it quite clear that they didn't learn before firing Norm Roberts. When you have a plan, a realistic plan about what your school needs and what it can get, you don't waste time calling Billy Donovan and asking him to take a pay cut so he can work in a more difficult conference. You don't dilly dally around with Hewitt unless you know you can actually work your way around a buyout clause or whatever other obstacles might be in your way.
You don't do those things for a couple of reasons. You don't do them because it lets coaches like Tom Pecora slip away before you have a shot to even interview him and because it makes your school look worse every time a coach slams the door in your face. Outside of a couple of delusional alumni, no one thinks of St. John's as an ideal landing spot and the Donovan offer just made that even clearer.
The school seems obsessed with the idea of hiring a Top 25 coach or, judging from reported interest in Al Skinner of Boston College, a coach who loses to Top 25 teams. That's silly and it shows that they've put no more thought into the process than any dope perusing the morning paper the day after the voters weigh in on that week's poll.
It's fine to have champagne wishes, but not when you can only afford malt liqour. By chasing pipe dreams, St. John's has opened the door to a skunked keg reaction when they finally make their hire. That's not what this coaching search should have been about, not after Roberts bailed out a sinking ship and got it back in working order.
Firing Roberts was supposed to be a move toward future success, but there wasn't any point of firing him if you din't actually know how to take that step.