Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kentucky’s Slice Faces Tough Decision, But Prefers the Pizza in New York
INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky’s Barry Rohrssen may face a tough decision when this college basketball season ends, but when it comes down to pizza, the man known as “Slice” prefers New York City over Lexington, Ky.
“You know what, I’m not sure if anyone other than the people who own pizzerias in Lexington dispute me on this, or even [would] be upset if I told you Yew York City,” Rohrssen said outside the Kentucky locker room on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Some of the favorite spots would be Totonno’s out in Coney Island, Patsy Grimaldi underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in my home borough. Grimaldi’s is very good. Obviously you got Lombardi’s down on Spring Street, which is the very first pizzeria in the history of the United States of America.”
Rohrssen, a Brooklyn native who still owns an apartment in Riverdale, N.Y., then waxed nostalgic for several more minutes about his favorite pizza spots in the Big Apple.
When this season ends, Rohrssen, 54, will likely face a tough decision about whether to return to his beloved New York City and join Chris Mullin’s staff at St. John’s or whether to remain with coach John Calipari at Kentucky.
The rumors are flying fast and furious here at the Final Four, with some folks believing it’s already “done” that Rohrssen will join Mullin’s staff and help to revive St. John’s, and others saying they can’t imagine Rohrssen leaving Kentucky, where he reportedly earns a base salary of $375,000 and more with bonuses. His contract reportedly runs through June 2016 and he must notify Calipari if he intends to leave for another job.
St. John’s, which is reportedly paying Mulling more than $2 million, would have to get close to Rohrssen’s current salary to draw him home.
Mullin has already hired former Iowa State assistant Matt Abdelmassih and may need an Xs and Os guy to help him adjust to coaching for the first time in his life.
Still others believe that if Kentucky fulfills its mission of going 40-0 and cutting down the nets here on Monday night, Calipari will have nothing left to prove and will head back to the NBA. In that case, Rohrssen, who once served as the NBA D-League coach for the Portland Trail Blazers, could potentially follow Calipari to the NBA or go his own way.
For the next few days, Rohrssen is just focused on the mission at hand, trying to win an NCAA championship in historic fashion.
“Personally I feel blessed,” he said. “Professionally it’s special.”
Rohrssen has paid huge dividends as a recruiter from Pittsburgh to Kentucky.
As we wrote earlier this year, Rohrssen is widely respected by high school and AAU coaches and was instrumental in helping Kentucky land Roselle (N.J.) Catholic point guard Isaiah Briscoe, who picked Kentucky over St. John’s in November.
“I think Slice did a nice job [with Briscoe],” RC coach Dave Boff told SNY.tv in the fall. “He was definitely in our gym a couple of different times after Kentucky really started to come after Isaiah hard so I thought he did a job.”
He added: “The thing that Slice did was, he made sure that he was a presence at the school. Other coaches were also, but I thought that he made sure that he was a presence at the school toward the end of the school day, meeting with some Roselle Catholic people. Talked to the President of the school, the principal, it seemed like he made an effort to talk with them about Isaiah off the court and stuff like that.”
Of course, recruiting to Kentucky is one thing, and recruiting to St. John’s would be something altogether different.
Kentucky’s history and tradition speak for itself and makes it easier to land a parade of McDonald’s All-Americans, while St. John’s is attempting to return to its former glory by reaching back to the Mullin Era.
Sometime after Kentucky plays its final game here, Rohrssen may have a tough decision to make.
If it comes down to pizza, his choice is clear.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.