NEW YORK -- When he first arrived at St. John's 19 years ago, Brian Mahoney was still young enough and naive enough to believe he was destined to become the next Jerry West, not the next Lou Carnesecca.
Between then and yesterday's news conference in the President's Room at Alumni Hall, much had changed about Mahoney's aspirations. With Carnesecca at his side, Mahoney's altered vision materialized as he was named the 14th head coach in 85 years of St. John's basketball.
"Sometimes I felt I put myself in a corner," Mahoney said. "A lot of times you dream things that never happen. But I think I hit a home run today."
After a year of pro ball, Mahoney -- a former Manhattan College star -- served as an assistant with the Redmen for 16 years, interrupted by an unsuccessful three-year run as Manhattan's head coach. In recent years, Mahoney declined to pursue smaller Division I jobs he probably could have landed, and he brushed off suggestions from his wife, Barbara, that he should follow his friends to Wall Street. He would take his chances at St. John's.
"Sometimes you have to roll the dice," Mahoney said. "And I'm not a gambler."
The Rev. Donald Harrington, the St. John's president, received a unanimous recommendation of Mahoney from the nine-member search committee, and said he informed Mahoney of his promotion in a phone call Monday about 9 p.m. Harrington declined to offer details of Mahoney's contract, but it is believed to be a three-year rollover deal, with an annual compensation package of between $200,000 and $300,000.
"I feared that if we didn't have a contract, that would be seen as a lack of confidence in Brian and that I could drop him after a year," said Harrington, who noted that Carnesecca didn't have a contract.
Harrington said that three candidates, including Mahoney, "were still in it until Monday morning." One of those candidates, believed to be Florida State's Pat Kennedy, eliminated himself from contention. The other, a coach whose name Harrington said never surfaced -- California's Lou Campanelli? -- was passed over by the committee.
Mahoney was the only coach to meet formally with the committee, but Harrington said that 10 coaches were contacted. "My understanding was that a formal interview would take place only when we were 99 percent sure that person was the person," Harrington said. "But there were serious conversations."