Brian: Throughout the course of the weekend, things have gotten a little more interesting in the Al Skinner to St. John’s saga. Fran McCaffery, considered by some to be the frontrunner to get the St. John’s head coaching position, was hired by the Iowa Hawkeyes. McCaffery will replace fired coach Todd Lickliter, with an official announcement expected as early as tomorrow. That takes McCaffery out of the running for both the St. John’s and Seton Hall positions.
With McCaffery out of the picture, however, it’s not a done deal that Skinner is leaving. Skinner faces some new competition for the Red Storm's coaching vacancy. St. John’s is also reportedly courting former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, who has now emerged as the frontrunner for the position. Other names mentioned in the Red Storm's coaching search include Temple’s Fran Dunphy and Rhode Island’s Jim Baron.
How do you see this whole coaching carousel playing out?
Jeff: There are way too many variables right now too make a very educated guess. St. John's clearly wanted Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt and since they were unable to get him they are willing to spend a little more time on their search. I was as surprised as anyone that Skinner's name was coming up in the conversation for any openings and that Skinner was willing to go talk with them. This means that Al is interested in coaching longer than 1-3 more years which I think many people previously doubted. Ultimately, I do not think that Skinner will be the next coach at St. John's because I do not think he will be offered the job. Who will be St. John's next coach? I do not know.
Brian: I’m guessing many BC fans, when they first heard of Skinner flirting with the St. John’s position, questioned the move as a lateral one at best. Today the Globe’s Mark Blaudschun shed some light on Skinner’s motivation:
"Skinner’s agent, Dennis Coleman, talked to St. John’s officials Friday and an announcement could come as soon as tomorrow. But there is a twist. Normally, a coach of Skinner’s credentials — winningest coach in BC history, former Atlantic 10 and Big East Coach of the Year — would handle job inquiries with a simple, "If you want me, offer me the job and we will work out the details.’
But when St. John’s called Friday, that didn’t happen, because Skinner’s support at BC has been eroding steadily. According to sources familiar with the situation, Skinner understood that. He also knew that BC was not willing to talk about an extension of his contract, which has three years remaining, and that an NCAA Tournament appearance next year was essential."
Given that Skinner understands that he may be on unsteady ground in Chestnut Hill, and that the NCAA Tournament is likely a minimum requirement for the Eagles next season, does this move make a little more sense? Odds Skinner takes the St. John’s job?
Jeff: The move makes plenty of sense for Skinner, but does it make sense for St. John's? St. John's needs to find this year's Bruce Pearl who can take a team that doesn't sell a lot of tickets and is not really a factor in their conference and immediately turn them into a 20+ win per season team. Just like Tennessee, St. John's is in a major conference and has qualities that can easily be sold to fans and recruits but it hasn't been done for years. If St. John's thinks Skinner can turn them around and therefore offer him the job, I absolutely think he will take the job. If Skinner wasn't going to accept an offer he would not currently be in discussions with St. John's.
Brian: Steve Lavin seems to make a lot more sense than Al Skinner for St. John's. As you said, the pair seem to fit much better together. Lavin is a much younger, more energetic coach that has had much more success recruiting than Skinner. He was fired from UCLA after his only losing season in 2002-2003, and had gotten the Bruins to the NCAAs in each of his first six years. My money at this point is on Lavin taking the St. John's position and Skinner returning to BC.
Here's the most recent update. Blaudschun is reporting that a sticking point in negotiations with Al Skinner revolved around AD Chris Monasch's desire to have a coach on staff with ties to AAU hoops in New York City. Skinner reportedly wanted to bring along his current coaching staff that includes Pat Duquette, Mo Cassara and Bonzi Colson. Lavin, on the other hand, has no problem bringing on coaches familiar with the NYC basketball pipeline, and is rumored to be bringing along Dave Leitao if offered the job. It's sounding more and more like Lavin is the Red Storm's man, which would bring Skinner back to the Heights.