SOUTH ORANGE, NJ- The youthful appearance does a good job of masking the years - specifically, the years in coaching.
From the high school ranks straight up to Division I assistant and finally, the pinnacle: head coach at the vaunted DI level.
Joe Tartamella is in his second year of directing the St. John's women's program. When head coach Kim Barnes Arico left the Big East school for Michigan following the Sweet 16 season in 2012, Tarmatella was promoted.
Through his years as an assistant he gained the necessary experience - not just ‘gained' it, but excelled in it.
As a recruiting coordinator the 2009-10 class he brought to St. John's was rated by ESPN.com as number 10 nationally and the best in the Big East. Given the charge of advance scouting and breaking down opposition tendencies, Tarmatella helped prepare reports instrumental in wins over nationally ranked Notre Dame in 2006 and 2007-08. Then a crowning achievement as scout to prepare the Red Storm for an upset of #2 UConn two years ago - that broke the Huskies' 99 game home win streak.
Despite thorough preparation, Tartamella still admits last season took adjusting. His first year running the show saw St. John's advance to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. A first round loss to Dayton in overtime ended the campaign.
"It is something you plan for but must experience," Tartamella said of that first season calling the shots. "Some say it is like drinking out of a garden hose. Don't know if I would use that analogy but in a way it is accurate. You are hit with an overflow of information."
Information and detail. The job goes beyond practice, preparation, game planning and recruiting. Off the floor activities, reaching out to alumni and boosters can be demanding of one's time. Tartamella will quickly admit, year two seems so different and easier to process than that first whirlwind season. Then again, his group, whom he largely recruited, makes things go smoothly.
"These kids are great," he said. "We know each other and they have made that transition from assistant to head coach an easier adjustment."
The UConns, Louisvilles and Notre Dames of the world no longer live here in the Big East. Regardless, the St. John's mentor sees a challenge and demanding group of teams in the reshaped conference these days.
"Every game is competitive and you have quality teams top to bottom," he said. "What the women's side in this league needs is more exposure. Come out or tune in to see what we have. We have a good product that must be put out there."
Tartamella is certain the fans, given the chance to see for themselves, will be pleased.
"I've been in this league a number of years," he said. "It has always been and still is a tough league."
Yes, a ‘number' of years - as stated, don't let the youthful appearance fool you: Tartamella is a veteran on the Big East sideline.
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