The first thought when you hear that St. Joseph’s may be interested talking to Jameer Nelson about the job of head basketball coach on Hawk Hill is, stop, c’mon. He’s never coached.
Then you hear his name again. And you start getting past, why not? … fairly quickly arriving at, could potentially really work out. The school’s greatest hoop icon, 2004 NCAA player of the year, a year out of the NBA, known to be looking to want to work in basketball, has expressed interest in coaching. Makes sense for St. Joe’s to kick the tires on this. If there’s a man who could make this transition, this would be the man.
Icons returning to campus have become trendy lately, with mixed results. Penny Hardaway at Memphis — so far, so good. Patrick Ewing at Georgetown — so far, so good, but Ewing was an NBA assistant for years. Chris Mullin at St. John’s? To be determined.
If you’d assume Nelson would be smart enough to do what Aaron McKie is doing as he takes over at Temple, hiring a former college head coach to join him — in this case, former Hawks assistant Monte Ross joining McKie, as it happens — then you could see it happening on Hawk Hill. Still, the risk factor is obvious.
One tricky part here would be that Nelson and Phil Martelli, relieved of his duties this week after 24 seasons, aren’t merely forever linked to 2004 heroics, they remain beyond close. Nelson could not be reached for comment; his interest level can’t be determined. But let’s not rule this completely out.
We don’t know how much they’ve narrowed the field on Hawk Hill. We have heard other names being mentioned seriously, including Colgate head coach Matt Langel, the former Penn and Temple assistant who has his school in the NCAA tournament. A Langel hire, at St. Joe’s or elsewhere, would be a home run going over the wall. Former Owls players held him in the highest regard. Basketball people rave about his hoop intellect. If Steve Donahue hadn’t been available, Langel would have been the obvious person to return to his alma mater. Again, home run. Wins and good basketball to follow.
Because St. Joe’s athletic director Jill Bodensteiner came from Notre Dame, it makes sense that the names Martin Ingelsby and Ryan Ayers have come up. Both are considered top-shelf. Ingelsby, Archbishop Carroll, finished his third season at Delaware. Ayers, a Germantown Academy graduate, is an assistant under Mike Brey, as Ingelsby had been. Hard to discount either. Proximity is knowledge.
When it comes to those with St. Joe’s ties, two former Martelli players now work as assistants for the Sixers. John Bryant and Dwayne Jones are smart men, leaders. Both warrant discussion. But if you’re looking at the Sixers, there is top Sixers assistant Billy Lange, who has worked as a college head coach at Navy and as Jay Wright’s top Villanova’s assistant? Do not rule Lange out. Also in the NBA, Micah Shrewsberry of the Celtics is a proud member of the Brad Stevens coaching tree back to Butler.
Another name certainly not to be ruled out: Patrick Beilein, John’s son, now coach at Division II Le Moyne, is a hot commodity, white hot, ticketed for DI, and several sources said St. Joe’s is acutely aware of Beilein.
One more name, a very interesting one. John Thompson III. The former Georgetown coach is looking to get back in coaching. Could there be mutual interest with St. Joe’s? We may be about to find out. Could Marquette assistant Dwayne Killings, formerly at Temple, get in the mix? Dane Fife from Michigan State?
With all those names, you can see we’re still in the speculation phase of all this. We’ll assume St. Joe’s has begun to get past that, beginning to look to talk to at least some of these men.
We’re not trying to steer you too far on what St. Joe’s is thinking, especially about Jameer Nelson. The risks are obvious, the potential rewards just as obvious.