Like the city he was born in, lives in and coaches in, St. John's head coach Norm Roberts is always on the move. A coach that personifies the qualities of hard work, passion and "doing things the right way," Roberts' determination, knowledge and fervor has St. John's poised to take the next steps toward success.
A local product, Roberts was born in Queens, N.Y., and attended Springfield Gardens High School before starring on the hardwood for Queens College. While some college basketball fans grew up following Duke and North Carolina, Roberts grew up "always dreaming of St. John's."
That dream became a reality as Roberts was named the 18th men's basketball coach in St. John's University history on April 13, 2004. Over the last five seasons, Roberts' attention to detail and mind for the game helped the Red Storm regain recognition and respect on the national scene.
Highlighted by a return to the BIG EAST Tournament in 2007 after a three-year hiatus, St. John's steady progress under Roberts has been evident. The program reached several milestones in 2006-07, in addition to appearing in the postseason: St. John's notched its first winning regular-season record since 2002-03, amassed the most victories since its 21-13 campaign that year, and compiled its best conference record since that season as well. The Red Storm also saw its first player since 2003 be named to the All-BIG EAST first team in senior Wooden and Naismith National Player of the Year candidate Lamont Hamilton.
One year later in 2007-08, Roberts put the pieces in place to make St. John's a BIG EAST power once again. Featuring eight freshman, the youngest team in America was led by honorable mention all-conference selection Anthony Mason Jr., and the Red Storm posted key league victories over BIG EAST foes Cincinnati, USF, Rutgers, Providence and Seton Hall.
The following season in 2008-09, the Red Storm slayed its biggest giant of the Roberts Era in then-No. 7 Notre Dame, and posted a pair of landmark victories over traditional BIG EAST rival Georgetown. St. John's won three of its final five games during the regular season and was selected to participate in the postseason College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
In his first season on the Red Storm sidelines in 2004-05, Roberts revitalized the basketball program and made St. John's once again a formidable competitor. First-year accomplishments for Roberts and his staff included victories over then No. 17 NC State, then No. 21 Pittsburgh and the championship of the 2004 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm also defeated longtime conference rival Georgetown, as Roberts and his staff - made up almost exclusively of New Yorkers - began to return the luster to St. John's storied men's basketball program.
During Roberts' second year in 2005-06, it was onward and upward for the Red Storm, as St. John's improved its overall and conference record and captured its second-consecutive Holiday Festival championship. Two of the Red Storm's 12 wins came against ranked opponents: a 55-50 win over then-No. 9/9 Pitt (Jan. 21) and a 68-56 victory over No. 17/15 Louisville (Jan. 17).
After Roberts' pair of signature wins over ranked opponents during the week of Jan. 15, 2006, the accolades came pouring in for the St. John's men's basketball team. The AP sportswriters gave St. John's votes in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2001-02 season on Jan. 23. ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale named the Red Storm his "Team of the Week" on his website, and ESPN.com's Andy Katz bestowed the same honor. Roberts was named the national coach of the week on FOXSports.com. Also, the BIG EAST Conference selected forward Hamilton to its honor roll, and the New York Metropolitan Sports Writers Association (MBWA) named Hamilton its PrestoSports/MBWA Player of the Week.
In a short amount of time, Roberts has begun to make his mark in the annals of one of the proudest programs in NCAA history. For example, by capturing the 2004 and 2005 Holiday Festival championships, Roberts became the first coach to win back-to-back titles in that prestigious event since St. John's Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca in 1986 and 1987.
Up Through The Ranks
A longtime assistant under current University of Kansas head coach Bill Self, Roberts arrived at St. John's after serving one year as the associate head men's basketball coach for the Jawhawks. Kansas posted a 24-9 record during the 2003-04 season and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Roberts served under Self at three different institutions, with one year at Illinois as the associate head coach (2002-03) and two years as an assistant coach (2000-01 to 2001-02), three seasons on staff at Tulsa (1997-98 to 1999-00) and two years at Oral Roberts (1995-96 to 1996-97). During his Division I coaching career, Roberts-assisted teams compiled an overall record of 215-76 for an impressive .739 winning percentage.
At Kansas, Roberts' primary duties included recruiting and scouting, as well as perimeter player development. The Jayhawks signed New York City and Rice High School star Russell Robinson the year Roberts was with KU.
During his time in Champaign, Ill., Roberts and Self led the Fighting Illini to three NCAA appearances, including the 2001 Elite Eight and a 27-8 record that season. Reputed as one of the top recruiters in the nation, Roberts was the driving force behind a Top 10 recruiting class in 2002 that included McDonald's All-American Dee Brown, James Augustine, Aaron Spears, Deron Williams and Kyle Wilson.
At Tulsa, Roberts was part of two NCAA Tournament teams, including the 1999-2000 squad that posted a 32-5 record and made an improbable run to the NCAA round of eight. Tulsa posted a combined record of 74-27 during Roberts' three seasons on the bench.
His tenure with the Golden Hurricanes followed a two-year stint with Oral Roberts, during which he helped lead the Golden Eagles to an appearance in the 1997 Postseason NIT. With Self, Roberts helped guide Oral Roberts to a combined 39-16 record over two seasons.
Big Apple Roots
A 1987 graduate of Queens College with a bachelor's degree in health and physical education, Roberts is the local school's third all-time leading scorer with 1,719 points. He also is the career leader in steals (253) and is second in assists (460), and had his number (15) retired by his alma mater in 1993.
Roberts attended Queens College after commencement from Springfield Gardens High School, where he led his team to the PSAL Championship as a senior in 1983. Former New York Knicks standout Anthony Mason Sr. was a part of that team as well, one year behind Roberts.
Roberts' first job out of college was under legendary high school coach Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, where he spent three years as the head freshman coach and an assistant on the varsity squad. While at Archbishop Molloy, he had the opportunity to coach many noted New York players, including all-time New Jersey Nets assist leader Kenny Anderson.
Roberts went to Oral Roberts following four years as the head coach at his alma mater, Queens College. Roberts was the NCAA Division II Knights' mentor for four seasons, from 1991-92 to 1994-95.
Roberts was born on July 21, 1965. He and his wife Pascale have two sons, Nicholas (17) and Justin (12).