St. John’s picks KU hoops assistant Roberts

It appears Kansas University associate head coach Norm Roberts has landed his first major college head-coaching job — at St. John’s University in Roberts’ hometown of New York.

“St. John’s chooses Roberts,” was the headline in the New York Post today.

Roberts reportedly beat out former KU assistant Matt Doherty for the job.

Roberts was to be introduced at a news conference in New York sometime today.

“I think he’s a great fit,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt told the Post. Hewitt recommended Roberts for the job.

“St. John’s needs a guy who will mend fences with the high school and AAU coaches. Everyone who knows Norm likes him. He doesn’t put himself above anyone,” Hewitt told the Post.

Roberts met with St. John’s President Donald Harrington and former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca on Monday night in New York, becoming the only candidate for the vacancy to meet twice with Harrington.

“It’s a done deal,” a Big 12 Conference source told the New York Daily News.

The other finalist, Doherty, was not in New York on Monday.

“I hope it’s the case,” KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World of Roberts’ imminent hiring. “I think he’d be a great hire for St. John’s. Obviously it’d be disappointing for all of us who have worked so closely with Norm throughout the years, but it’s an opportunity he deserves. Norm’s a great choice. It’s a great job, and he is a great coach.”

Earlier Monday,’s Andy Katz said sources told him Roberts was not offered the job during his second interview Monday, but could be named the next Red Storm coach today. Katz said that Doherty had been told by St. John’s officials a decision was due today.

Self said he’d have “multiple scenarios” to look at and would be in no urgent rush to name a replacement. Roberts would be the sixth Self assistant in the last seven years to land a head-coaching job.

DePaul coach Dave Leitao withdrew his name from consideration for the St. John’s job Monday, usually a sign that somebody else has received an offer.

“I am looking forward to continuing to build the foundation which will enable DePaul basketball to enhance the recent success on the national level for many years to come,” Leitao said.

St. John’s fired Mike Jarvis back on Dec. 19 and has been looking for a coach ever since. For several months, St. John’s appeared content to let the season run its course, with rumors that big-name coaches like Rick Pitino perhaps were interested in coaching in a major market like New York.

But in past weeks, the favorite for the job became former North Carolina head coach Doherty, who has some big-time St. John’s boosters in his corner, but has not won over some who are concerned about Doherty’s stormy dismissal from Carolina after last season.

Roberts reportedly was recommended by Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who was approached about the job.

Roberts, a 38-year-old Queens native, worked as head coach at Queens College from 1992 to 95. He is known as a stellar recruiter, helping KU land New York Rice High point guard Russell Robinson and Illinois net Bronx native Charlie Villanueva, who switched his allegiance to UConn after Roberts and Self moved to KU.

Roberts was a finalist for the SMU job and also interviewed at Miami. Those vacancies were filled by Oklahoma assistant Jimmy Tubbs and Texas assistant Frank Haith.