By Dylan Butler
But I don't see it, I don't see things getting better, not to the extent of being in the upper echelon of the Big East conference, where the program once proudly was.And really, the job is nearly an impossible one for Roberts. He inherited a program that was at its lowest, that was reeling from the Pittsburgh sex scandal and self-imposed sanctions for paying former player Abe Keita.The winning has come in dribs and drabs, but Roberts has formed an identity in his 22 months at the helm. Norm Roberts' Red Storm plays hard and it plays defense. They might not win, they might not score but they will defend and make you earn the victory. Unless, of course, they have an identity crisis, which has happened way too often this year.So Norm Roberts is a coach with integrity, whose team has improved and has formed an identity. And I don't think he's the right guy for the job?No. Because while all those things are commendable, it's not enough. Not in the Big East. Not in New York.When Roberts was hired, he was lauded as a city guy who would help keep city guys home. He would re-establish relationships with high school and AAU coaches that his predecessor – Mike Jarvis – abandoned.And while he landed Dexter Gray, who has since transferred to Iona, from Mount Vernon and Ricky Torres from St. Raymond's, Roberts also needlessly damaged a relationship with Ron Naclerio.In addition to coaching Cardozo and knowing just about every basketball player in the city, Naclerio is the New York City editor for Hoop Scoop, a national recruiting Web site.For years, Naclerio had a season press pass for St. John's home games, but this year his credential was pulled. Was it Roberts' doing, perhaps upset over Naclerio's negative comments toward Roberts after the Cardozo coach was passed up as a potential assistant? Whatever the reason, it was a very bad PR move and one that might have cost him a local recruit.With a scholarship to give and a need for a guard, Hofstra assistant coach David Duke phoned his former high school coach asking if there were any available players in the city.Naclerio told Duke about Charles Jenkins, a strong, underrated guard at Springfield Gardens, Norm Roberts' alma mater, a player St. John's was recruiting.By now, I'm sure you know how this story ends. Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora swoops in and shortly thereafter Jenkins commits to Hofstra – over St. John's.Those three words should never be uttered: “Hofstra over St. John's.” It shouldn't happen on the court and it shouldn't happen in the recruiting wars. But it did, both times this year.And maybe that's why Tom Pecora would be the perfect guy to take over. Yes, Roberts would leave St. John's in better shape than when he took over, but they need a guy who can take them to the next level. They need a guy who can compete with Connecticut, Villanova and Pittsburgh for city recruits.They need a guy who has established himself as a winning head coach, not just someone who has had success as an assistant – and believe me, speaking to coaches, it's a whole new world when you move down one seat on the bench.They need a guy who can run a clean program and who can win in the Big East. They need a guy like Tom Pecora.And, hey, he's from Queens too.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.