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Mike Cragg’s Unpleasant Search Continues

People should back off and let him do his job. He’s a smart guy and can find a great coach - if it’s not a circus.

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NCAA Basketball: St. John at Seton Hall
 Dec 29, 2018; Newark, NJ, USA; St. John’s Red Storm head coach Chris Mullen calls out during the first half against the Seton Hall Pirates at Prudential Center. 
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When Duke assistant A.D. Mike Cragg took the St. John’s A.D. job, it seemed like a relatively normal situation.

No more.

Cragg, a capable and decent man, is being buffeted by the winds of discontent around St. John’s basketball.

His search is going slowly which isn’t a huge surprise, nor is it necessarily a huge problem. Hiring Chris Mullin which Cragg’s predecessor did, was in retrospect probably a mistake. Mullin had no college experience and reportedly wasn’t interested in working too hard.

Why would he be? He’s made a ton of money in basketball and as much as he might have liked the idea of coaching St. John’s, his alma mater, he wasn’t well suited to it.

So far Cragg has reportedly pursued Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley (he passed), Loyola’s Porter Moser (he also passed) and Iona’s Tim Cluess (he passed Thursday morning).

Those were all reasonable efforts. Hurley and Moser are both highly promising young coaches - a good instinct on Cragg’s part - and Cluess, older at 60, knows the area perfectly well and has done well at Iona (Cluess issued an elegant statement, touching on the death of two brothers who both played for St. John’s and how he ultimately realized that taking the job wouldn’t allow him to feel any closer to them than he does now).

People are needlessly freaking out though, including major alum Mike Repole, who wants to fire the entire administration.

Repole invokes Dean Smith’s old adage that athletics is the front porch of the university and says the porch is a mess so inside must be a disaster.

Well maybe. That’s way beyond what we know.

What we do know is that Cragg is talking to good coaches including now, apparently, Yale’s James Jones.

Anyone who has watched Yale play in recent years will understand that Jones is a heck of a coach and recruiter and it’s not easy doing either at Yale.

Academics are highly restrictive and while people are discounting his success as an Ivy League coach, that league has been seriously upgraded in the last decade. We’ve seen Yale at Duke and in the NCAA tournament and that team can play with just about anybody.

If he can do that at Yale then he can do a great job with the Johnnies as well. We’d be keenly excited, based on his utter transformation of Yale.

Whatever Repole’s problem is he should relax a bit. The search is hardly over and as he rightly says St. John’s is St. John’s. Mike Cragg will find a good coach. Making the search more difficult is not a great move for anyone and even a wealthy booster like Repole should understand his role and it’s not to be an arsonist.

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