NEW YORK -- Joe Tartamella has helped build the St. John's women's basketball program over the past nine seasons. Now he'll get a chance to lead it.
"I'm excited and humbled, it's one of the best moments of my coaching career," said Tartamella, who was hired as the school's new head coach on Friday. "This has been my home. This is why I want to continue to stay here."
Tartamella offered a familiarity to a team that has been on the rise the past few years.
"That was the biggest piece I was able to talk about throughout the process," Tartamella said. "My comfort was I knew the terrain, knew the landscape, knew what we had done. I didn't want to see any steps taken backwards from where we had been. I can bring that continuity, trust that we need to stay where we are and maintain the level of our program right now."
St. John's is coming off a 24-10 season that saw the Red Storm finish second in the Big East and advance to the NCAA tournament regional semifinals for the first time in school history.
The 32-year-old's promotion was a huge relief for the players, who were still reeling from the departure of former coach Kim Barnes Arico. She was the architect of the team's success, building St. John's from an also-ran to a perennial NCAA tournament contender. Barnes Arico took the head coach job at Michigan last week. She left St. John's as the school's winningest coach.
"I have watched Joe grow over the past 10 years and I know he is ready for this new chapter in his life," Barnes Arico said. "He will be an outstanding head coach and I am looking forward to seeing him on the sidelines."
While athletic director Chris Monasch said the school looked at a few other candidates, Tartamella was the No. 1 choice.
"Joe was our top recruiter and the person on Kim's right arm during games. He really had already done from A-to-Z running the program," Monasch said. "Our program wouldn't be where it was today without Joe. Joe pulled away from the rest of the field. He is the man we wanted to run our program."
St. John's returns four starters and has high expectations for the upcoming season. The Red Storm will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The players couldn't have been more thrilled when they heard that Tartamella was going to take over.
"It definitely was who we wanted," Shenneika Smith said. "Joey T recruited us when we were in high school and has been a huge part of our success. He knows all about us and we can keep this going."
About the only change that Smith may have to get used to is calling Tartamella "Coach" instead of "Joey T". She admitted it might take a little time getting used to that.
"He's always been Joey T to us and I really think that won't change," she said smiling. "But I can't think of anyone else who we would rather have coaching our senior year."
Tartamella is following a similar track to St. John's men's coach Steve Lavin. Lavin got his start at UCLA as a volunteer assistant before getting his first head coaching job for the Bruins.