St. John's is closing in on the hiring of Chris Mullin as its next coach, but not before another alumnus at the school who found success in the NBA -- Metta World Peace -- formally registered his interest in the job.
In an interview from Italy on Sunday night with the NBA Insiders show on ESPN Radio, World Peace confirmed that he and his representatives contacted school officials to let them know that his interest in the job was genuine.
Known as Ron Artest in his St. John's days, World Peace is scheduled to make his on-court debut Monday with Pallacanestro Cantu after signing with the Italian League club earlier this week. Yet he insists he is "totally, totally ready" to make the jump to coaching and described the St. John's opening as "the only thing I would stop my pro career for."
World Peace also promptly sent his congratulations Sunday as word spread about Mullin's impending hire, tweeting: "Go st.johns. Go chris mullin. This will be awesome."
In his interview with ESPN Radio, World Peace acknowledged he would undoubtedly face skepticism about his ability to coach effectively, given the various controversies that swirled around him throughout his 15-year NBA career.
But he quickly pointed to the fact he has been coaching boys and girls high school basketball for the past year-plus as evidence of his seriousness in transitioning to a bench career.
"This is not something that I'm not prepared for," World Peace said of coaching. "It's not something I'm afraid of.
"If we're talking about basketball intelligence, you're talking to one of the best. If you're talking about my past ... you can't take away the past. It's impossible. If I could erase some of the things I did, I would. I would go on Google and actually erase the [Pacers-Pistons] brawl [in 2004] and erase things that I've done in my past, but I can't.
"I'm not afraid to address anything ever. I'm also not afraid to focus, lock in, and if I did have an opportunity to coach [St. John's], I would be in a zone, totally focused on the task."
In explaining his motivation to pursue the job, World Peace said his "only goal" and "only reason" was to lead the Red Storm to an NCAA title and added that even a Final Four appearance, in a city like New York, "would be a failure."
The 35-year-old told Italian reporters this week upon his arrival at Cantu that he intends to play "five more years" until he turns 40. World Peace began the 2014-15 season playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales, appearing in just 15 games thanks to persistent knee trouble but quickly making himself available again as a free agent after the Chinese season ended in February.
And he might have found a perfect match in terms of eccentricity with his new team in Italy, where team officials have described the late-season signing of World Peace as "the coup of the century."
After making his interest in the St. John's job public, World Peace weighed in via Twitter.
Leave the past in the past.Yes I am colorful and different.I love exactly who I was and who I am.No regrets.My future as a coach is diamond.— MettaWorldPeace.com (@MettaWorldPeace) March 28, 2015
Via both Twitter and his interview with ESPN Radio, he cited numerous coaching role models, including his former NBA coaches such as Rick Carlisle, Phil Jackson, Rick Adelman and Mike Brown, Italian coaching legend Ettore Messina (now an assistant in San Antonio who coached World Peace under Brown with the Lakers) and ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, his former coach at St. John's.
"I've had so much great teaching and I'm one of the best defensive players to ever play the game on the wing," World Peace said. "This is a job I'm totally capable of doing. You can't question that. Now, you can bring up the past, but anybody can bring up the past. Even my daughter brings up the past sometimes. She makes a lot of jokes about the things that I've done."
As for his desire to try to play his way back into the NBA after last appearing in the league last season with his hometown Knicks, World Peace said: "I could play in the NBA if I wanted to. I'm not washed up yet. ... By my second or third game [in Italy], I'll be amazing."