April 13, 2004
Miami and St. John's finally have made their head-coach choices, and both schools picked new leaders who are young, aggressive, ambitious and proven recruiters. Both tabbed assistants from the Big 12 conference to run their respective programs.
Miami picked Frank Haith from the hot Texas program. He has been the associate head coach under Rick Barnes. Haith also gained valuable experience on the Wake Forest staff.
The time has come for Haith to run his own show, and the Hurricanes have a good future in the ACC with their new leader. Miami makes the move from the Big East to the ACC starting with the 2004-05 season (along with Virginia Tech).
Meanwhile, St. John's opted for Norm Roberts, who had great success as an assistant for nine seasons under Kansas coach Bill Self. Roberts went with Self from Oral Roberts to Tulsa to Illinois to Kansas before accepting the head-coaching job at St. John's.
Both new head coaches have had recruiting success. The key to building a solid program year in and year out on the collegiate level is getting blue-chip athletes. Ask any great coach -- like Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith or the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden -- and they'll tell you that it all starts with recruiting. You'd better have talent to help you get to the winner's circle.
Roberts and Haith clearly will have challenges. Neither St. John's nor Miami made the Big East tournament this past season.
In the past two seasons, Miami has been eight games below .500 -- not the kind of record desired for a school going into a new on-campus facility. Now Haith needs to bring in the talent needed to revamp the program and generate some enthusiasm down in Coral Gables.
At St. John's, Roberts inherits a program that really struggled in 2003-04, winning just one Big East game (over Georgetown) while finishing 6-21 overall. The Red Storm program was rocked by an off-court scandal in Pittsburgh which led to several suspensions and expulsions.
Both new head coaches have had recruiting success.
Haith and Roberts have been waiting for the opportunity to build their own programs and make their own marks. Now they have been afforded the chance, and hopefully they will take advantage of it.
Just ask Kansas fans about the time athletic director Bob Frederick showed true guts. He gave a young North Carolina assistant named Roy Williams the opportunity to take over the Kansas program!
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.