03/08/2010 12:16 PM ET
Futures on the line for Hill, Roberts
Big East tournament performance could be decisive
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Norm Roberts is 80-99 in six years at St. John's, with a 32-70 mark in the Big East. (AP)

Norm Roberts and Fred Hill will be coaching for their futures when they step on the Madison Square Garden court Tuesday for the first round of the Big East tournament.

Roberts, the St. John's coach, and Hill, the Rutgers head man, are both on the hottest of hot seats and face highly uncertain futures.

St. John's (16-14) is the No. 13 seed in the tournament and drew a tough first-round opponent in No. 12 UConn (17-14), which hasn't won a Big East tournament game since 2005. The Red Storm and Huskies tip at 2 p.m.

No. 14 Rutgers (15-16) faces Lance Stephenson and No. 11 Cincinnati (16-14) at 9:00 p.m., after No. 10 Seton Hall (18-11) takes on No. 15 Providence (12-18).

Roberts is 80-99 in six years at the Queens school, with a 32-70 mark in the Big East, including a 6-12 record this season.

His record of Big East finishes looks like this over the last six years: 13th, 13th, 14th, 11th, tied for 13th, 13th.

St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch has been publicly supportive of Roberts but has maintained the position that he will not comment on the coach's status until the season ends.

"You look at all your coaches at the end of every year, and I don't mean that to sound cryptic and non-supportive," Chris Monasch said recently. "We expect Norm to be our coach for the long term."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins and Hofstra coach Tom Pecora have all been mentioned as possible replacements, should the school opt to buy Roberts out.

Former St. John's stars Mark Jackson and Chris Mullin have also been discussed.

Mullin, the star of the 1985 team and a former executive vice president of basketball operations with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, said he was keeping his options open.

"I don't know what I'm going to do right now," he said. "A lot of basketball jobs are intertwined to a degree, college being a bit different. I'm just taking time off right now. I'm just enjoying kind of de-stressing."

Ultimately, Roberts' fate appears to rest in the hands of one man, St. John's president Father Donald J. Harrington.

While Roberts has not won at St. John's, he is generally regarded as a nice man who has kept the school scandal-free during his tenure.

The team technically remains NIT eligible but would likely need to make a run at the Garden for that to happen and, perhaps, for Roberts to save his job.

At Rutgers, Hill's future rests in the hands of first-year athletic director Tim Pernetti, who must decide whether to buy Hill out for $1.8 million.

Pernetti said before the season he expected to see serious improvement from last years 2-16 Big East mark.

Is 5-13 in the conference considered "serious improvement"?

Hill seemed to help his situation in January and February when he rebounded from an 0-8 Big East start to win five of six games, including league wins over St. John's, Notre Dame and Georgetown.

Since then, Rutgers has lost four of five, including back-to-back losses to in-state rival Seton Hall and a 29-point blowout Saturday at Pitt.

The sight of Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez holding up his arms in triumph and pointing to the Seton Hall student section after last Thursday's victory could not have helped Hill's cause.

Although Hill did land the programs only McDonald's All-American in Mike Rosario and recruited Dane Miller, a member of the Big East All-Rookie Team, numerous players have also transferred out under his watch, most notably sophomore big man Greg Echenique, whose family was upset with the way his detached retina was handled by the school's medical and coaching staff.

In his four years at Rutgers, Hill has compiled a record of 47-76, including a 13-57 mark in the Big East.

His Big East results look like this: 14th, T-14th, T-15th, 15th.

Siena coach Fran McCaffery, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, Iona coach Kevin Willard and former Providence and Iona coach Tim Welsh are among the names that have been mentioned as possible replacements for Hill.

Pernetti has already shown his willingness to make changes, having replaced longtime soccer coach Bob Reasso.

Now Hill's fate rests in the young AD's hands, as well.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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