I got a chance recently to speak with ranked (14 AP, 13 USA Today) St. John’s Red Storm’s new Head Coach Joe Tartamella about the challenges of replacing a very successful Head Coach in Kim Barnes-Arico who was wooed away by Big 10’s Michigan.
Tartamella, 32 years old, has progressed at SJU from a graduate assistant to assistant and finally for the past four seasons as associate head coach. While some thought he would be a logical assistant for Barnes-Arico at Michigan, instead he was offered the head coaching job in Queens, NY.
On replacing Barnes-Arico
“I believe that there will be pressure in this job just as it would be in any job for a first year head coach. Obviously there are additional built in pressures because you have such a veteran team. We welcome the pressures and expectations. Our players understand it as well. Many of them have been told that they weren’t good enough, they’d never make it, and St. John’s would never make it. But we proved ourselves over the past couple of years”.
“The players and the coaches have a real clear understanding of what is going on here. They know what their position is, what our collective goals are. They don’t have any fear – they’ve been through enough – they’ve been battle tested, they’ve played the very best teams in the nation. We’ve been successful in the postseason for the past three seasons. They have a goal to leave a very special legacy behind. They want to finish it off. I told them we cannot have a letdown at either side of the ball, and they understand that”.
“Obviously it helps when you’re winning, when you’re making post-season appearances, it becomes easier. The experiences that players see when watching us helps our recruiting. St. John’s has done a really good job of supporting our program. We have St. John’s TV which will televise seven games for us this year which is the most for us in our program’s history. I think that with our platform being in New York, we are a team people want to see, players want to play at. We have Madison Square Garden to play at, and we will be there for two games. There are a lot of things here that have helped us on the recruiting front. The biggest thing is having the very fertile recruiting front in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and that is what we have built our program on.”
* * *
Tartamella is correct about the geographic makeup of his roster. Nine players have tri-state area roots including last season’s top three scorers: Shenneika Smith (12.5), Nadirah McKenith (12.1), and Eugeneia McPherson (11.8). These three seniors will be called upon to provide the veteran leadership needed to compete in the BIG EAST and eventually the post-season.
Credit: St. John’s University Athletic Communications
With a highly regarded recruiting class already in uniform for this season, Tartamella can set his sights on a season with several good tests along the way. At the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden, they’ll face a Duke team expected by many to be a Final Four team. Elena Delle Donne and her (#17) Delaware teammates will usher in the New Year before the always brutal BIG EAST schedule dots the January/February portion of the calendar. Then the BIG EAST Tourney rolls around followed by the second season: March Madness – the NCAA Tournament.
While St. John’s is ranked 14/13 in the polls, they are picked for no better than 4th in the Conference. Connecticut is followed by Notre Dame and Louisville. The high quality of teams in the BIG EAST will well prepare St. John’s and their first year skipper for what lies ahead.
From the early signs, it appears that the Red Storm is in good hands.
Related Posts:Women’s Nat’l Basketball Report: Duke poised for a long, long runWomen’s Nat’l Basketball Report: Bear Encore?Women’s Nat’l Basketball Report: Around the nationBig East tempo: Keeping paceWomen’s Nat’l Basketball Report: Ogwumikes, St. Bonaventure & Lockdown Leanne