St. John's hasn't quite entered UCLA territory in its basketball coaching search, but it's getting there.
After Porter Moser turned down the Big East school on Tuesday, St. John's fell to 0-2 in its search, having previously swung and missed on Arizona State's Bobby Hurley.
"St John's has turned into UCLA... nobody wants it," one NBA coach said by text.
UCLA flirted with several candidates, including Virginia's Tony Bennett, Kentucky's John Calipari, TCU's Jamie Dixon and Tennessee's Rick Barnes, before settling on Cincinnati's Mick Cronin as its new coach.
St. John's remains the only high-major Division I basketball program without a head coach after it reportedly offered Moser, 50, an eight-year deal to succeed Chris Mullin, who officially stepped down as coach on April 9. Porter is making $900,000 at Loyola Chicago but was expected to earn more than $2 million annually at St. John's, as first reported by Andrew Slater of The Athletic.
Instead, Moser, who is under contract at Loyola through the 2025-26 season, said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
"People in business say I'm crazy for passing up opportunities and the money," Moser wrote in a statement issued by the university on Tuesday. "But what they don't know is the amazing young men I coach and the culture we have built. What they don't know are the amazing young men who are committed to come to Loyola and wear the Maroon and Gold. What they don't know are the people and friends that make up the Loyola community. And what they don't know is what makes me tick."
ZAGSBLOG reported Tuesday that Moser was wavering on taking the job after meeting Monday with St. John's officials.
Moser is 246-226 (.521) in his career with just one NCAA Tournament appearance in 15 seasons as a head coach. In that one season, he led Loyola to the Final Four in 2018.
Iona coach Tim Cluess and Yale coach James Jones are also in the mix, but have not been formally offered the job.
Cluess remains the pick of many area high school and grassroots coaches, and others connected to St. John's players, but he also has a buyout believed to be in the $2-3 million range.
Cluess played at St. John's and Hofstra and is 297-131 (.694) as a head coach. He has taken Iona to six NCAA Tournaments in nine years, including the last four, but has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game. Iona is often a bottom-tier seed because it plays in the MAAC.
"Coach Cluess has proven he is a winner at every level and I respect that and many in the New York City community do as well," Archbishop Stepinac coach Pat Massaroni said. "He has had the ability to recruit players to Iona and win games. Whoever gets the job needs to make the Tri-state area and specifically New York City a priority."
Said Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello: "Tim is a winner on every level he's ever coached and he will find a way to win at St John's because that's what winners do. He'll assemble the right staff. To me, he's a coach's coach."
Meantime, Rick Pitino (who himself said he could bring St. John's back to an "elite level") Tweeted from Greece on Tuesday that St. John's should consider former player Mark Jackson to replace Mullin. Still, one NBA source said he thought Jackson would be reluctant to take the job because A) the school just parted ways with his old teammate Mullin; and B ) Jackson figures to be in the mix for NBA openings down the road.
I coached Mark Jackson and he is a basketball junkie. Hire him St Johns! He will get it done.- Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) April 16, 2019
St. John's has already lost several players from its roster, including juniors Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon, both of whom declared for the NBA Draft, while freshman Bryan Trimble and sophomore L.J. Figueroa have entered the transfer portal. Class of 2019 junior college recruits Cam Mack and Valdir Manuel have both re-opened their recruitments.
The NCAA late signing period begins Wednesday and the first live recruiting period is April 26-28, so the next coach will have to hire a staff and get to work immediately.