My Kind of Down

RECAP: Saint John’s defeated DePaul 78-68 Monday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena on Felipe Lopez bobble head day. It was a game they should have won – because DePaul is awful – and that they needed to win, coming into as they were on a four game losing streak and no gimmes on the horizon: of their next eight games five are on the road and three are against ranked teams and they may well be 3 and 12 ish come the end of February, so gird your loins. If there’s a bright side to all this it’s that I might have been right again, as usual. Regular readers will recall that after the Villanova game I postulated that Saint John’s was getting better but that it was hard to tell because of the competition they’d been facing. The way they won against DePaul might have been evidence of that: it was the first time in a while that Saint John’s imposed their will physically and mentally and where they looked almost as if they were toying with their opponent. It was the kind of effort you’d expect to see against Delaware State say or LIU – teams Saint John’s “should” beat and beat handily. Of course it could just be that DePaul stinks and there’s nothing to be learned either way, not even from a picture

If you looked at the box score you’d think the game was closer than it was: both teams shot forty ish from the floor; DePaul was plus six rebounds; and were 15 of 16 from the free throw line, where Saint John’s shot 65 percent (16 of 25). The difference was three point shooting – Saint John’s was 12 of 22 – and much of that the result of crisp and efficient ball movement: Saint John’s had 18 assists on 25 made baskets … One of the few enjoyable things about this year so far has been watching Mullin learn to become a head coach: he’s gone from last year wearing shorts and sitting on the scorer’s table and deferring to his assistants on the bench – I thought at the time that these things were no big deal and think so still but perception is often reality – to a guy in a suit and tie who’s clearly in charge of what’s happening on the court and fully engaged in the process. Yesterday there wasn’t a lot to do but at least he didn’t screw it up: he shortened the rotation appropriately and pulled guys when they messed up and ran a play here and there that actually worked. I know a lot of fans think the head coach’s job is to draw up epiphanic white board Xs and Os on the fly but that’s really the thing of bad sports novels by tortured dwarves like Mike Lupica. The fact is that if the coach has to do that during the game it’s because he hasn’t prepared his team adequately during the 20 or 40 hours he has them to himself during the week. So anyway Mullin has now increased last year win total by 10 percent and has increased his league wins by a whopping 300 percent. Three hundred percent! Imagine if your Roth IRA increased by 300 percent in a year, you’d blow your broker and at least give him a handy. So congratulations Chris, it seems your job is safe for a another month

PLAYERS: Malik Ellison had what was easily the best game of his career: 23 points and four assists, including 5 of 6 from three and even 4 of 4 from the free throw line, where’s he’s otherwise been awful … Everyone’s favorite whipping boy Bashir Ahmed had 14 points, and seven rebounds and three assists. Unfortunately he was 7 of 13 from the free throw line, where he’s at 65 percent for the year. I’ve never understood it when players who are obviously hungry for points don’t bother to learn how to collect the free ones … Ponds got hot late and finished with 14 points, including a couple of confident and very welcome threes. Among his six assists was a nifty behind the back pass to Ahmed on the break … Owens was one rebound shy of a double double, Williams made both his field goal attempts and Yawke took his man off the dribble and finished with a dunk. Stitch the three of them together and you’d have one pretty above average basketball player … Lovett was pretty much missing in action: three points and three assists. On the bright side he didn’t force anything and from what I could glean from careful examination of his facial expressions and body language it does not appear that his poor performance will cause him to transfer …. After all this time people write still wondering why I am so mean to poor Federico Missini: The answer’s quite simple: he stinks. And the truth is I wish he didn’t, because if he was better I wouldn’t have to spend so much time coming up with creative ways of describing his shortcomings. The good news is that on Saturday Missini played so adequately (eight points, three rebounds, two assists) that this morning I don’t have to. And what’s more I’m going to say something nice: they ran a play for him at the end of the first half and he got open and made the three, which that hasn’t happened in a long while …. The rest of them didn’t play, not even in garbage time, coach’s decision. I can’t say that I blame him

NOTES: Saturday was Martin Luther King Day, which frankly has always struck me as an odd holiday. Not because I’m a right wing troglodyte – although I am – and not because I think the struggle for civil rights is unworthy of commemoration – of course it is – and certainly not because Doctor King, martyred in the struggle for freedom, is unworthy of celebration. And not even because other than than genocidal Italian lunatic Chris Columbus he’s the only individual the US honors with his own holiday – and Columbus day isn’t even a real holiday anymore and neither is Saint Patrick’s. None of that. But what this holiday does – and I think unfairly – is ignore the sacrifices that so many other people made in the cause of freedom: starting with the five or ten million Africans murdered in the diaspora, to the half million woke white men who lost their lives in the civil war, to various individuals who dedicated their lives and sometimes gave them in the same way Doctor King did: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and even king hell crazy loon John Brown, who was hanged by the neck until very very dead after the raid at Harper’s Ferry. Nobody asked but I’d be much happier with a Civil Rights Day that celebrated the struggle for everybody’s freedom – blacks, women, LQBGTQWERTIES, everyone – and especially our liberties, with which we would have been endowed by our creator, if we in fact had a creator, which probably we don’t.

Although I have to admit that recently I’ve been having doubts about my atheism, the religion to which I converted at the age of 12 or so, having been before that raised a papist. It seems to me that if this infinite universe is one of an infinite number of infinite universes as physicists postulate then there’s bound to be one created by a god. I just find it hard to believe it’s this one. I frankly find it easier to believe that we’re a neglected fish tank or perhaps characters in a children’s video game 10,000 years in the future than to believe that this mess was created knowingly by an omniscient merciful being. Fortunately I decided a while back that the examined life is not worth living, which eschewing of philosophy leaves me more time to watch television.

Anyway I don’t see that celebration of our collective rights and liberties coming to pass. Because we live today in an Orwellian dystopia in which a rapacious government works relentlessly to diminish our freedoms and personal autonomy, all in the name of public good, which fuck the public good. Because at the bottom of the slippery slope of utilitarianism is the rice paddy in which your children and grandchildren will be toiling to meet the quota imposed upon them as part of a five-year plan to increase agricultural production by 7.8 percent developed by some over achieving Harvard douche bag as an outgrowth of his slash her interest in the Cambodian economy that he slash she came to while getting his slash her post doctorate degree. You might think I’m making that up but there is in fact a dissertation entitled and I’m not making this up: Pol Pot Pie: Indigenous Cooking and Khmer Rouge: a survey of the literature. Okay, I did make that up. But I didn’t make these up:

Perceptions of Canadian Meeting Professionals of Environmentally Responsible Hotel Practices

Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus

Impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold

Sword swallowing and its side effects

Pressures produced when penguins pooh – calculations on avian defecation

Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage

Digital rectal massage, finally one we can use. Anyway, to cut to the chase, if you have kids, they’re fucked: they’re going to be slaves and they’re not even going to know it. They’re going to get up in the morning and go to work and every day donate 40 percent of their time, energy, labor and lives to a government, one of which we were once citizens, but are now subjects …. After one of my recent essays I reader wrote saying that what I had produced was very depressing. Shurg, that’s what happens when your inner monologue makes Pink Flamingos look like It’s a Wonderful Life. You can complain all you want but you people couldn’t spend 20 minutes in my head. Anyway for that reader I end on a cheery note about the slave trade: the European slave trade started more or less with Henry the Navigator in the 15th century. It was run for four hundred years in approximate order by the Portuguese, then the Spanish, then the Germans, then the Dutch and then finally the English, all under the auspices of papal authority. The practice generally was to sail down the western coast of Africa, trade trinkets and rum to African chieftains for their already enlaved peoples and then transport those slaves to the New World to work in the sugar cane field: white indentured servants, while ubiquitous, died too quickly, not being accustomed to the heat. Of the 10 million or so humans enslaved over those 400 years, 7 million were transported to Brazil, 2 million to Cuba, and a scant 500,000 to the United States: most US slaves were – as Jimmy the Greek astutely noted – bred domestically. So to recap: the slave trade comprised Hispanics purchasing black slaves from black slaveholders and transporting them to South America, where they were worked to death by Latino landowners. Which means that when the US gets around to finally paying reparations Gisele Bündchen is going to owe Pele a whole lot of Tom Brady’s money. Happy civil rights day.



Villanova Fudge

I considered taking a mental health day after Villanova defeated Saint John’s 70-53 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. It was all in all not a bad effort – considering how poorly they played in DC the other day and that they were playing a veteran team nine months removed from a national championship they in fact played pretty well – good enough to beat teams like LIU and Delaware State that they should have beaten early in the season but not yet good enough to compete at the highest or at least higher levels. Which is part of the perception problem playing in what I’m continually assured is the best basketball conference in the country: there might be incremental progress taking place but you need a lot of increments before the progress translates into wins when two-thirds of your games are against teams that are ranked in the top twenty, as has been the case since Saint John’s started league play. But anyway back to me – that’s why we’re all here, right? – where was I: oh yeah I considered taking a day off: there’s not a lot to write about what happened yesterday and there’s another one tomorrow that they should win and to the extent that this season matters probably need to win and there’s what looks like a long bleak stretch on the horizon in February when a sabbatical might just be what the doctor ordered … So anyway watching the two teams what really struck me, and this again is to me very much a youth thing: Villanova really values the basketball and Saint John’s has not yet learned to. And in basketball the basketball is really the most important thing. They’ve not yet learned to understand (that’s right, learned to understand) that every possession is, in a sense, sacred: that the way you win is that every time you have the ball you do something good with it and that every time they have the ball you make them do something bad with it. Whereas Saint John’s doesn’t need much help in doing something bad with it, they’re close to expert at stepping on the end line, and dribbling between their legs out bounds, and charging, and clanking threes, that they do all on their own; and they’re not yet skilled and experienced enough on the other side of the ball to make the other guy make mistakes and in fact much of the time they look like they’re trying to help the other guy not make mistakes. Which is not good strategy. It’s kind of a variation on what Savielly Tartakover said about chess, that “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.” In basketball the winner is the team that makes the fewest worst plays and Saint John’s is still making the most.  And as I said, a lot of that is youth. Like when you’re a kid and your tooth falls out, not only does a new one grow in but some ethereal tart visits in the middle of the night and leaves a dollar under your pilllow. Whereas when you get older you only lose a tooth after some sadist first gives you a root canal and then eventually when enough of them fall out you keep the replacements in a glass on the bedstand and pay for the privilege. That’s why kids don’t brush and adults floss twice a day: because grown ups have learned through bitter experience that even mundane actions can have consequences and that many of them are dire and tragic. Villanova knows that. Saint John’s does not …. Once again saving me the trouble of rehashing things, a picture:

So to recap: Saint John’s came out with energy, got ahead early and briefly, lost focus, fell behind, and never caught up. I have nothing to add to that. To the extent that there’s an illuminating number from the box score it’s rebounds: Villanova was plus 18. Everything else was even: both teams shot 40ish from the floor and 30ish from three; there were about 40 evenly distributed turnovers. On the bright side SJU had 14 assists on 20 made baskets, the black lining on that silver cloud being that they only made 20 baskets … Mullin was T’ded up for I think only the second time in his brief career for jawing at an official after an egregious charging foul on Ponds in the second half that cost Saint John’s a basket. I can’t blame him and was surprised that no one called a technical on me, because I screamed very loudly a bunch of curse words I didn’t even know I knew and I work blue like Modigliani worked in clay. Meanwhile Jay Wright went berserk before halftime and had to be restrained and afterwards one of the officials, I think it was Brian O’Connell, rewarded him with a handjob in the tunnel during halftime. Speaking of the officials, they were once again dreadful: they kept Villanova in the game early – VU was in the bonus in both halves, the third time in three games that Saint John’s opponents have been in the bonus in both halves – and then inexplicably stopped calling fouls about halfway through the second half. Still 30 fouls is a lot less than the 50 I had to sit through the last couple of games, so there’s that … Assuming they beat DePaul – yes that’s a big assumption – they’re three and four after seven league games. I’d probably have signed up for that three weeks ago

PLAYERS: Lovett had 12 points and four assists. The box score says he had only three turnovers but it seemed like more, including one where he dribbled the ball out of bounds in the corner in the midst of what appeared to be a pretty poor Curly Neal impersonation … Ponds had 13 points but only one assist: evidently he was not awarded one for a precision pass he made to a Villanova player under their own basket on a save out of bounds, which he should have been credited with … As usual Malik Allison was sublime and ridiculous. He made some acrobatic moves on drives to the basket – evidently Alibagowitz has been tutoring him on his patented eurostep, because he did that a couple three times – including a dunk that might have been sportcenter worthy depending on how slow the day was. On the other hand he stepped in bounds while inbounding the ball, which is the fourth or fifth turnover he’s had this year because he doesn’t understand how big a basketball court is … Ahmed hit a couple of threes early and then missed the rest of them. I don’t put much stock in body language and facial expressions but he’s nearly the only player who looks like he actually cares about the outcome of the game … Yawke won the tip for the first time I can remember. The way he jumps you’d think he’d win them all. Had a couple of nice pick and rolls with Lovett, but five points and one rebound just is not going to cut it … Missini made a couple of threes, none of them meaningful. On the bright side he got to see Donte DiVincenzo play, who’s just the sort of Italian American player all the Italian American Saint John’s fans pretend Missini is. Hopefully some of it rubbed off on Missini while DiVincenzo was blowing past him on his way to the basket … Owens had seven rebounds but zero points. Note to Tariq: scoring is important … Darien Williams tried a headband, it didn’t help. Blew an amazing feed from Ponds off an Owens out of bounds save when he gathered himself under the basket for so long that a player Jay Wright was able to clone, recruit and sub in was able to block his shot … Alibagoshit played two minutes, which was three minutes too many

NOTES: Usually I’m a Len Elmore fan. Yesterday I was not: he seemed very much in thrall to the defending national champions, which is understandable I suppose but not at the expense of what might have been his alma mater if Lou wasn’t such a dope. Dave Sims I generally run hot and cold about but this year I’ve noticed that he’s developed a habit of screaming about stuff that doesn’t deserve screaming – he reminds me of NYRA race caller John Imbriale, who calls every mule race over the inner track at Aqueduct as if it’s the Kentucky Derby, as opposed to a mundane parade ending at the glue factory. Yesterday Sims screamed in the first half “He lost it out of bounds” and and “He throws it away” with the same enthusiasm that I scream “Oh sweet dear Jesus God” in a Bangkok brothel … There’s a particular species of Saint John’s fans that love them some Jay Wright. Jim Boeheim they hate with a passion and Jim Calhoun as well but for some reason Jay Wright – who beats the shit out of Saint John’s year after year after year – is described in glowing terms, or what they think are glowing terms anyway, like “classy,” which every time I hear one of those dopes say “classy” I check to make sure I still have both of my kidneys. I think it’s because Wright is the one that got away, that in their fever dreams Wright in the antedeluvian past became Saint John’s coach and Saint John’s experienced all the success that Villanova has. You also hear a lot about Wright’s alleged sartorial splendor, that is what a snazzy dresser he is. I just don’t get it. Saturday he wore an off the rack gray pinstripe with a striped lavender tie that made him look like the caterer at Paul Lynde’s wedding. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) And what’s with that thing under his eye, I’d have that checked, it’s disgusting. Other than the back of Ed Cooley’s head – and that’s a high hurdle – it’s the most disquieting deformity in the Big East … I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to work in some obscure reference so that I can slap a pair of funbags at the beginning of this to drive web traffic, then I realized if I just mentioned tits that would work well enough. So: tits.

George Is Getting Upset

I’m going to half ass my way through this recap, much like Saint John’s half assed its way through Monday night’s embarrassing 83-55 loss to the Georgetown Hoyas Monday night in Washington. This is one of those games that just leaves me empty: the play was awful, the game deadly dull and turgid, and the production atrocious, so that I cannot even this morning find the energy to gleefully revel in the misery of big girl’s blouse Saint John’s forum fans wailing and gnashing their teeth about it: a month ago Mullin was a moron and two weeks ago maybe he wasn’t so bad after all and now again this morning he needs to be fired and Alumni Hall reduced to a salt strewn field of burned down ruins. Zzzzz. Usually that much of other people’s misery gives me a dangerous four hour schaden-boner that might require immediate medical attention but this morning finds me spent and flaccid … Things started out promisingly enough but as we can see from the following graphic which for the time being has become a regular feature

they quickly turned to shit. What was vaguely interesting is where exactly the game turned, because it’s one of those for want of a shoe deals: with just under three minutes left in the first half and the score 33-30, Jessie Govan missed two free throw. Someone – I didn’t notice who – failed to box out and after the rebound Bashir Ahmed fouled Jagan Mosely, who made both. Forty seconds later Georgetown was up eight and the game was over, I could feel it, and I was right: Georgetown outscored Saint John’s 50-18 the rest of the way – although not even a pathetic cynic such as myself could imagine the horror that awaited in the second half. Which second half I’m not going to bother discussing, except to say that Saint John’s had two points, six turnovers and seven fouls in the first five minutes or so while Georgetown’s lead ballooned to 10 and the bottom fell out … There is nothing interesting in the box score unless you are a connoisseur of shit on the bottom of your shoe in which case roll this around on your tongue: Saint John’s shot 25 percent from the floor, 16 percent from three, were outrebounded 50-30, had a meager seven assists, turned the ball over 16 times and committed 27 fouls … Speaking of fouls, there seems to be a point of emphasis this year among officials on getting me to hang myself from boredom and frustration. John Higgins, Les Jones and Mike Eades called 53 fouls Monday night, one every 45 seconds, which resulted in 60 free throws. That means in Saint John’s last two games there have been 100 fouls called and 113 free throws taken, in 80 minutes of basketball. As I noted after last game, Saint John’s barely plays defense and on offense they stand around the perimeter like statues until someone hoists up a three. This is not particularly physical basketball and certainly not the sort of physical basketball that resulted in Kevin Williams taking a swing at Pat Ewing and Bill Goodwin punching Reggie Williams in the head. I don’t mind losing the games and I’m at this point inured to bad basketball but I’m not so dead in my soul that I don’t still hate and resent authority figures. Next game I hope one of these dopes swallows his whistle and chokes on it, not to death, that would be needlessly cruel, but maybe until a little brain damage occurs and he has to have his ass wiped by a fat Honduran nurse for the rest of his life … Villanova next at the Garden, take the points

PLAYERS: If there was a bright spot and there wasn’t, it was the play of Kassoum Yawke. Yawke was aggressive on the offensive end early – before things fell apart he had a dunk on a pick and roll, an and one in traffic and made a nice bounce pass in the lane to Owens for a lay in – and on defense was seemed motivated by the presence of Jessie Govan, against whom he displayed similarly rousing play last year. He also drew two offensive fouls, although his proficiency at flopping for them leads me to believe he might be considering a transfer to dewk …. Ahmed was the only player who seemed troubled by the fact that his team was getting its head kicked in … Lovett had 10 points on only seven shots. Rumor is that he had the flu, in which case he had an excuse, as opposed to the rest of them …. Ponds was 3 for 11 from the floor, oh for five from three, and MIA on defense. To say that he mailed it in would be an insult to brave mailmen such as Newman, David Berkowitz, and Sam Drucker … Over his past 38 minutes Malik Allison has committed 9 personal fouls, which seems something of a stretch considering how few of those 38 minutes he spent playing defense. Oh for three from the free throw line, which makes him 21 of 41 for the year … Owens had six rebounds and two points in the 15 minutes he played before fouling out. He would have had more points but he blew two dunks in the first half … Alibegowitch’s missed three shots (all threes) in nine minutes and this is his line otherwise where the three is fouls: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 …. Darien Williams played although he might as well have stayed on the bench, as did someone called Brandon Lawrence, who I don’t think I knew existed before three minutes ago … Things were so bad last night that Federico Missini missed all his garbage time threes, whereas on a good night he’s good for a couple once they’re down 30 or so. The deadeye shooter was 1-6 for three and is now 4 for 14 in three losses since his return to the lineup. Take away his four best games where he was 16 of 25 (versus powerhouses Bethune-Cookman, Tulane, Fordham and CSUN) and he’s at 15 of 46 for the year, 32 percent, which is, say, just what he shot last year.

NOTES: If Tim Brando didn’t have too much wine at dinner he should consider a brain scan, because much of what came out of his mouth last night made little sense. I can’t be bothered to rehash it all and I realize that there’s not a lot to talk about in a game like that but it would be nice if tried to act professionally, he’s been in the business since the dinosaurs. Rather than basketball Fox Sports coverage of much of the second half featured a series of close ups of a seemingly demented John Thompson excoriating the officials for stealing his jello while Brando and Jim Jackson reminisced about what they had for lunch in 1987. If I hadn’t been so drunk myself I’d have had to mute them … Saint John’s recruit Zach Brown was arrested yesterday for the second time in the space of a year and I suspect – suspect, geddit? – that’s the last time we’ll hear his name until he turns up dead under a bridge somewhere. Evidently the 7’2” black man thought no one would notice if he reached across the counter in a Walgreen’s and stole cash from the register before fleeing in a car with a shattered windshield. So we’ve established that he’s not very bright. Some kind hearted souls are suggesting that considering his troubled history and the predilections of the baby Jesus towards those of us who have sinned that the university give him a second or third or whatever chance, but I suspect not. There are on the one hand various criminals who’ve gone on to successful careers as NBA players – Tyreke Evans for example, and Allen Iverson and of course original gangster Marvin Barnes – but there are many more cases where things don’t work out quite as well, the one that springs most readily to mind being Luther Wright, a similarly enormous and troubled center who was coddled through high school and college and played briefly in the NBA before ending up in a mental institution. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself while of course knowing it probably will.


Thank God Almighty I’m Free Throw At Last

GAME: Xavier defeated Saint John’s 97-82 Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, in a game so atrocious that I can barely bring myself to write about it. It wasn’t the game itself. I mean, sure, Saint John’s sucked but they’ve sucked before and in fact most of the time the more they suck the more entertaining I am. And Xavier put on a clinic that probably I’d have enjoyed if I was on the other side of it. They looked to me like the best team we’ve played all year even taking into consideration the competition. What made the game nearly unwatchable was the officiating. Pat Driscoll – who until recently earned nearly $130,000 a year as full time director of a youth program in Syracuse while simultaneously refereeing 70 basketball games between November and March which seems nearly impossible – and crew called 47 fouls – that’s a foul every 51 seconds for 40 minutes; combined SJU and XU took 57 free throws; and both teams were in the bonus in both halves, at the 12 minute mark in the first and the eight minute mark in the second. By way of comparison, last week versus Creighton Saint John’s didn’t take a free throw until 12:39 in the second half; today there were four offensive fouls called in the first two minutes. And it’s not like this was a particularly physical game: of the 100 or so field goals the two teams took combined about 50 of them were threes. There was no chippy play, there were no particularly hard fouls, and for their part Saint John’s barely played defense. So the game was essentially two hours of bird calls and commercials interrupted by the occasional dunk. Colorman Colorperson Stephen Brando noted that the head of officials was in the arena and maybe that had something to do with it but all in all it really was just stupid and disgusting and a big waste of my time. And I still have the Lion game to look forward to this evening. It’s a shame Aqueduct’s card got snowed out I would have hit the trifecta of suck … Last recap rather than rehashing the box score I used a graphic to demonstrate how lopsided the game was, which turned out to be a real time saver so I’m going to do it again.

Once again Saint John’s is the red line, and what you see is eerily like last game. Other than a 16-1 first half run that put them briefly in the lead they spent most of the game behind and by quite a bit. In fact no sooner had I written “SJU 16-1 run not going to last but fun while it does” in my notes Xavier went on a 12-0 run that turned into a 36-9 run that turned into a 45-21 run that might have been worse had not Saint John’s ended the half of a 7-0 mini run to pull within 15 at the break. The rest of it was dead even and dead boring except perhaps for those greedy optimists among you who took the 14 points … Xavier shot 60 percent from the floor and nearly 50 percent from three and frankly that seems a little low, because they did not seem to miss; Saint John’s was at 40 and 40 but if you take Lovett and Ponds out they were 9 of 40 from the floor and 3 of 13 from three and that’s not going to beat Xavier’s women’s team. The bright side if there is one is 15 assists on 26 made field goals and 20 of 25 from the free throw line … Nothing Mullin could do about it because SJU was just over-matched but there were some extremely peculiar line ups from time to time: in both halves for example Missini, Alibegiwitz and Freudenburgh were on on the floor simultaneously, which unless that’s supposed to be some sort of reenactment of the Axis advance into the Ardennes in the summer of 1939 does not seem like much of a good idea. Those three probably shouldn’t be on the floor at all, much less together. Maybe there’s a method in the madness or maybe it was the fouls but it was passing strange … So two and two sixth place and oh and four Georgetown up next on the road. I’m not sanguine but John Thompson III is the worst so anything is possible

PLAYERS: Marcus Lovett had a career high 32 points: 10 of 14 from the floor, 4 of 7 from three and 8 of 8 from the free throw line and Ponds had 21 points and seven rebounds, albeit mostly when the game was already over. The rest of them don’t deserve mention and yet I persevere … Owens had six points and four rebounds … Ahmed was 3 of 12 from the floor … The best thing Ellison did all day was foul out … Yawke scored no points. Again … Freudenburg also scored no points but he has an excuse: he stinks … Alibegovitch had six rebounds, which is six more than I thought … With about 5 minutes to go and Saint John’s down about a thousand I turned to long suffering Missus Fun and said: wake up toots, it’s Missini time. She scooted to the edge of her seat and was immediately rewarded by a dagger three that pulled Saint John’s within 997. Missini was oh for otherwise and made a spectacle of himself chasing Edmond Sumner around the court in what I can only imagine was intended as a parody of a college basketball player playing defense. For the record Saint John’s is now oh and two since his return … Forgetting someone, oh yeah Darien Williams

NOTES: I received not one not two but three messages this week from helpful readers informing me that all this time I’ve been spelling Saint John’s wrong: I’ve been spelling out the s-a-i-n-t bit whereas evidently the official name is St. John’s, that is capital S, small t, period. My initial reaction – as usual the uncharitable one – was first to wonder what sort of a fucking moron spell checks some else’s blog and second to wonder why if that moron was so concerned with spelling he attended a shitty commuter school in Queens. But as I said that was uncharitable. The truth is that I frankly had no idea. Upon reflection I’m surprised that a school that’s so bad at marketing that it has to refer to itself as STJ because Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia owns the online trademark rights to SJU would have the gall to even have an official spelling. So anyway I’ve decided to continue calling it whatever I want but what I won’t ever call it is St. John’s, because screw those guys … From the not the onion files and speaking of guys – or at least what used to be guys – Frederick Douglass High School in Fayetteville Kentucky announced this week that due to community pressure they’ll be replacing their team mascot, the stallion, because it’s not “inclusive enough.” The issue it seems is that not only “stallion” a term for a male horse that has not been castrated but is also slang for a “powerful and virile man.” So this is what we have come to in postmodern America: it is no longer politically correct to be a male with a functioning cock and balls, because testosterone is offensive. Fans of irony will appreciate that Frederick Douglass was himself something of a powerful man: he escaped from slavery and afterwards was amongst many other things influential in its abolition and if his five children are any indication he seems to have been able to maintain an erection. Perhaps soon the Musketeers – manly men brandishing phallic symbols – will become the Mouseketeers and the Providence Friars the Providence Nuns and Valparaiso Crusaders the Mamalukes lest we offend our Muslim friends. We can only hope, because only then will there truly be justice. Anyway some clever wag has started a petition to change the mascot’s name from stallion to scallion and I’d suggest you scurry over to sign it as I have several times

… This is the second year in a row where I’ve missed Lou’s birthday: he turned 92 two days ago. I grew up watching Lou coach and his unparalleled record of post season futility convinced me pretty early on that the game had passed him by – which it had – but at the same time that frustration blinded me to what an extraordinary career he actually had and considering the conga line of losers and buffoons who followed him it makes me wish I’d been a little more appreciative back then. So happy birthday Lou and returns on the day.

Am I Blue

GAME: After watching the interminable end of Wednesday night’s Butler upset of Villanova complete with court-storming and post-game interviews I thought to myself, self, if Saint John’s upsets Creighton tonight at Carnesecca Arena they’ll be in sole possession of first place in the Big East since I can’t be arsed to look it up. Which not looking it up is just as well because Saint John’s did not upset Creighton at Carnesecca Arena, instead they lost 85-72. That they did was entirely predictable because this was let’s face it a bad matchup: Creighton starts three upperclassmen, one of them a point guard senior that’s as quick as either of our freshmen and three times as fast as any of our sophomores; they have a dominating big man – Patton looked like a lottery pick Wednesday night although some of that was undoubtedly the competition and some of it was that the referees allowed him to stand around in the lane long enough to grow roots; and head coach Doug McDermott’s father is smart enough to take advantage of those advantages, which he did by forcing the pace on offense and packing it in on defense. You couldn’t create a team in the laboratory that was better designed to kick our teeth in. And yet the good news is that Saint John’s – and I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna here but – didn’t give up. There were a bunch of times they could have thrown in the towel like they did last year when they lost to Creighton by 40 on the road and instead they came back from an 18 point halftime deficit thanks to yet another amazing display of halftime adjustments by coaches Mullin and Saint Jean and cut it to ten a bunch of times where it seemed like they were just one big play or one lucky one away from making it a ballgame. But then one of Creighton’s upperclassmen would make a play or one of our cretin underclassmen wouldn’t and it’d be back to 14. Oh well … There’s no point in rehashing the game when a picture’s worth a thousand words, even a thousand of mine:



For those of you scoring at home Saint John’s is the red line. Similarly pointless is examination of the box score: CU shot 52 percent, SJU shot 40 percent; Saint John’s was 7-22 from three; rebounds were even at 40; turnovers were even at eight. The only vaguely interesting thing about the numbers is free throws: Saint John’s did not shoot a single free throw until 13:29 in the second half – by then Creighton had shot ten. In the next three minutes someone called Toby Hegner – who prior to that had played immaculate defense – committed three fouls in 2 minutes; in the next 10 minutes Justin Patton committed a foul every 2 minutes and fouled out. It was as if suddenly the heavens opened above the parted Red Sea and the whistles multiplied like loaves and fishes. What really happened is that SJU started attacking the basket a little more aggressively and the referees started calling things a little more aggressively because things were starting to get a little chippy. Of course probably things wouldn’t have started to get chippy if the refs had called things a little more squarely early on. Which is not to blame them for the loss because that would be a pussy move and Creighton is a much better team than we are but noticing it is something else altogether, especially when you have 2000 words to write.

PLAYERS: Lovett played 38 minutes and led Saint John’s with 23 points, including 4 of 5 from three … Tariq Owens had 12 points and five rebounds – four of his field goals came on face-up 15 foot jump shots which if that wasn’t an aberration that could be huge moving forward … Ponds had 17 points and five rebounds. Got T’ed up as part of a double technical late in the second half while the players were jostling for position on an inbounds play under the basket. Seems out of character … Ahmed had six points and seven rebounds. The refs did him no favors by ignoring contact on his drives to the basket – he shot three free throws in a game where he was the victim of six misdemeanors … Ellison had seven of Saint John’s 12 assists and also five rebounds but was 3 of 10 from the floor and one of six from three. Perhaps if he thought less about shooting he could spend more time concentrating on not passing the ball to the pep band … Darien Williams had four rebounds and no points but only played 12 minutes …. Yawke had one rebound in only ten minutes and bungled a bunch of chances under the basket. Seems to have reverted to November Yawke whereas I preferred December Yawke … Alibegowitz finally made a layup using that stupid eurostep he tries at least once a game and afterwards stood under the basket pounding his chest and howling at the crowd like he’d just scored the winning touchdown in the Super bowl in overtime. Whereas in fact he’d just drawn his .500 team – which has won three league games since March 2015 – within 13 points in what would prove to be a losing effort. Which is about like one of Napoleon’s infantryman pounding his chest over the corpse of a dead Russian peasant during the retreat from Moscow … A halfhearted cheer from the crowd greeted the long awaited return of Federico Missini from the mysterious infection that had sidelined him during Saint John’s three game winning streak. I note without postulating causation that his return coincided with that streak’s end. Missini made two threes, one to draw Saint John’s within 18 at the end of the first half and one to draw Saint John’s to within 19 at the beginning of the second half, so it’s good to know he hasn’t lost his ability to drain clutch shots. In my favorite sequence late in the second half he missed a three early in the shot clock that would have drawn SJU with seven, then turned the ball over on the break after a Creighton miss and then fouled the Creighton player who ended up with the ball, making him singlehandedly responsible for a seven-point turnaround. Those of you who continue to write accusing me of acting uncharitably towards Missini because he is slow, weak, and cannot cover or jump over a brick will be happy to hear that I ascribe that display of incompetence to rust.

NOTES: Once again not too much here. I went back and looked at what I wrote about Creighton over the past several years and the most interesting thing was a bit about Kelly Cuoco’s ass and that I only wrote so I could stick her picture at the top of the post in an attempt to tempt to my blog readers who cannot otherwise locate pictures of near naked broads on the internet. The rest of it was about how Nebraska is a big flat pile of nothing, behind which every word I stand – much like I’d like to stand behind Kelly Cuoco, or at least kneel – but there’s no need repeating it …. Breaking news from North Carolina: DooK Coach Mike Krswshrehy – who injured his back after falling from the top of a clock where he had taken refuge from the farmer’s wife – will undergo back surgery and miss up to a month of the season. Upon hearing the tragic news the NCAA immediately sprang into action and announced that Skrewshnski’s absence will be factored into Dewk’s seeding in the NCAA tournament because of course it will. Oddly I don’t remember any similar announcement when Jim Calhoun or Jim Boeheim missed parts of their seasons recuperating from cancer – and Calhoun is at this point more tumor than healthy tissue; and if missing time recuperating from surgery is a qualification for the NCAA grading on a curve our own Steve Lavin should be awarded a retroactive national championship. Meanwhile there’s been no action by the NCAA regarding allegations that no athlete at the University of North Carolina has attended a single class since Saint John’s own Frank McGuire headed the program. Don’t worry though the Thomas More College women’s basketball program is still on probation and facing the death penalty. And finally the repulsive Grayson Allen returned to action last night after an “indefinite suspension” which turned out to be one game because of course it did. Allen you may recall attempted to cripple a player from mighty Elon College in a meaningless preseason game a couple of weeks ago and was disciplined because there are more important things than winning. That this is happening in North Carolina a state the NCAA punished for passing a discriminatory law mandating that men should use bathrooms designed for humans with penises I find highly amusing, but not for the reasons you might think …




Phil Greene Is The New Black

Saint John’s defeated Depaul 79-73 Sunday afternoon in Chicago to move into a tie for first place in the Big East and are now two and oh in conference play for the first time since 2010. Anyone who expected that raise your hand so we can easily identify the liars among you … The game was the sort of exciting basketball that can sometimes occur between two not very good but evenly matched teams. Saint John’s came out flat and were down 12 midway through the first half but went on a 22-7 run after a Mullin time out to take a three point lead. Depaul answered with a 10-1 run of their own and were up seven at half time. Things went back and forth a bit until the middle of the second half when Saint John’s went on a 13-3 run to build a cushion that DePaul couldn’t get past, thanks in part to a leg cramp suffered by Eli Cain, who was in the process of killing us, and some timely for a change free throw shooting. Saint John’s ended up outscoring DePaul 46-33 in the second half which must have been the result of those half time adjustments everyone is always talking about. Congratulations Coach Mullin … The box score was about as even as the game: Saint John’s shot 47 percent from the floor to DePaul’s 42; both teams shot 40 percent from three; rebounds were DePaul plus four, turnovers also. Saint John’s ended up making 16 free throws to 14 for DePaul but most of those were towards the end when DePaul was fouling – before that DePaul got I thought the benefit of a bunch of calls and at one point were about 10 free throws ahead, without which things might have been a bit easier. (I thought the officiating was horrible but it would be mean spirited to call out Jeff Clark, Brent Hampton and James Breeding by name.) The one stat that jumps out is assists: Saint John’s had 18 on 27 made baskets, which might be more than they’ve had recently in entire seasons … Another nice job by the staff, which suggests they might know something about basketball after all. What a relief. Good game plan, solid use of time outs, solid rotation, and of course those half time adjustments. Mullin looks comfortable on the sidelines and energetic and engaged and is beginning to look like a head coach … Number ten Creighton and # 17 Xavier this week and then Georgetown and Villanova the week after that. Steal of those and we’re three and three and middle of the pack in the third week in January. Again, raise your hand if you thought that was possible. I Shirley didn’t.

PLAYERS: Marcus Lovett had the gaudiest numbers – 22 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds – but Darien Williams gets the game ball. His entry in the game in the first half coincided with a 22 to 7 first half run that got Saint John’s back in it and his energy in the second half was the catalyst that helped put DePaul away. Made one suspect play late where he walked away from an uncontested layup in hopes of burning some time off the clock but who cares: twelve points and nine rebounds is an impressive contribution from someone no one expected anything from ever …. Shamorie Ponds had a quiet 15 points and four steals … Fourteen points and 5 rebounds from Ahmed, including 4 of 6 from three … Nine points, five rebounds and four blocks from Tariq Owens. Committed a ridiculous foul on a three point shooter late in the first half with one second on the shot clock … Ellison: eight assists, seven points, six rebound and the box score says no turnovers but I remember yelling at the TV when he nonchalanted a touch pass into the first row so the box score is wrong … Yawke reverted to the fumbling Yawke I thought we might have seen the last of … Alibeoqwitch once again played 10 minutes without committing a personal foul. He did however commit euro-travel … Fredudenbergh played two minutes made a bone headed play and was not seen again … That’s three wins in a row with a certain someone missining from action. I’m not going to draw any conclusions because correlation is not causation but it is interesting and it’ll also be interesting to see what they do with him if and when he comes back because the team seems to be gelling nicely without him.

NOTES: Today of course is New Year’s Day and I trust you all spent last evening reveling into the late hours to the sounds of Guy Lombardo and have by this afternoon broken whatever resolutions you were foolish enough to make yesterday. Me, I went to bed early. To Catholics January One is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation that formerly celebrated the circumcision of the Baby Jesus. It’s a little surprising that two Catholic universities would schedule a game on so important a day – circumcision symbolizing as it does the covenant between Yahweh and His chosen people – but I guess anything is permitted since everything went to hell after Vatican II … 2016 was not a good year to be a star but was perhaps a boon for those of you sick bastards who participate in Celebrity Death Pools: fatalities last year included politicos Anton Scalia, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, John “Issue One” McLaughlin; mass murderers Janet Reno and Fidel Castro; traitors Tom Hayden and Daniel Berrigan; sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Pearl Washington, Nate Thurmond, Ralph Branca and Pat Summit, who towards the end of her life forgot more about basketball than most of us will ever know; novelists Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), WP Kinsella (Field of Dreams) and Pat “Great Santini” Conroy; musicians Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Pierre Boulez, Pete Fountain, alto tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Beatle producer George Martin; actors Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jon Polito, Patty Duke and Gene Wilder; and a slew of television personalities including Abe “Fish” Vigoda, Florence Henderson, Garry Shandling, Pat “Snyder” Harrington, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Man from UNCLE Robert Vaughn, Doris Roberts and my sainted old Italian grandmother’s favorite nun, Mother Mary Angelica. Congratulations winners …. Finally, thanks to all who wrote with feedback following last week’s Arrivederci by Subtraction post, wherein I was less than complimentary about Federico Missini. The gist of many of the complaints I received is that because I think Missini is small, slow, weak, has a bad handle, turns the ball over too much, has a low basketball IQ, and couldn’t cover a mannequin, I’m a racist who’s prejudiced against Italians. (Do you believe that? In this day and age? What the fuck is the world coming to – a Jew broad – prejudiced against Italians.)

The theory seems to be that since I don’t root for Missini because he is Italian I therefore have it in for the eye-ties. Now, never mind for a moment that Italian is a nationality, not a race, so at best I’m a xenophobe; never mind too that my maternal grandfather – who coincidentally was born this day, January 01, 1906 – came WithOut Papers off the boat from Sicily about a century ago and bred to a Gragnano mare from whose spaghetti loins I directly descend; never even mind that I’m a misanthrope who hates everyone equally without regard for race, creed, color or religion. Let us stipulate that that’s all irrelevant. Let us stick to the facts, which are these: what I find odd and ultimately inexplicable re Missini is the solicitude extended to a marginally talented basketball player who would not see the floor on a real basketball team and the rancor directed at those like me who are willing to say out loud that the emperor has no toga. Instead of reasoned conversation about his obvious myriad flaws as an athlete – about which I am happy to admit there can be disagreement, because we all of us have our prejudices – I hear instead how he came here when the program was at its darkest, how hard he works, how he played last year out of position, how he’s a good team mate, how well he represents the university and how he never whines or complains, which even if those things are true and who knows, similar things can be said about pretty much every basketball player who attended Saint John’s since Jarvae’s crew of rapists were expelled and anyway none of those virtues make anyone better at basketball. I’m happy to stipulate that if they did Missini might well be an all-American. But I don’t recall anyone saying that Durand Johnson was a good teammate who never complained, I recall hearing that he was selfish and a chucker. I don’t recall anyone praising Ron Mvouika for coming to Saint John’s when the cupboard was bare, I recall hearing how lucky he was to be able to take advantage of Saint John’s misfortunes to further his career aspirations. I don’t recall hearing that the third leading scorer in Saint John’s history was a good citizen, but I do recall reading a lot about how he was an angry negro with a mohawk and tattoos. There’s a long list of players who never received the credit Missini does for doing what is expected at a bare minimum of every student athlete in Division One – being a good citizen – and many of those guys came from places and circumstances that presented a lot more difficulties than did growing up in bucolic Reggio Emilia. But he’s the one who gets the benefit of the doubt and it’s so passing strange that I’m forced to question the motives of some – some, not all – of his supporters and especially those who find the questioning of their motives disquieting. Consider: I spent in this space three years absolutely clobbering Phil Greene, another one trick pony, gleefully savaging his play and chronicling his every misstep and mishap and blunder. It got to the point where even I thought I was being unfair. Well guess what? In three years not one person complained and no one wrote saying what a good team mate Greene was and not one person called me a racist and Greene’s black. You don’t think that’s a little odd? Because I do … Speaking of Greene, he favorited this tweet of mine from last summer so at least he has a sense of humor. Either that or he didn’t understand it, much like he didn’t know the meaning of the word rebound.



Arrivederci By Subtraction

As much fun as was Saint John’s win over Syracuse last week beating Butler 76-73 at Carnesecca Arena Thursday night was better: it was a league game at home in front of an energized crowd against a ranked opponent in a tilt game that could have gone either way. Outside of March college basketball does not get any better than this. I frankly had so much fun that I don’t even feel like writing about it, I just want to watch it again and probably will during happy hour, which at my house on Friday starts about 11 AM est … The game itself went back and forth – I almost said it was a nip and tuck affair which if I ever start writing like that someone please shoot me. For most of it Butler was up by a couple of baskets and they were actually ahead by ten with 10 minutes left. But each time it looked like things were slipping away somebody made a play – mostly it was Shamorie Ponds but credit also to Coach Mullin, who called three good time outs to stop the bleeding which his team responded, which is pretty good for someone who’s a horrible coach who doesn’t know anything about basketball …. The box score is pretty ordinary: Saint John’s shot 54 percent from the floor, Butler 46; Saint John’s took only 16 threes (that’s right only) and made just four but Butler was an atrocious 6 for 25; rebounds were even at 31; Saint John’s turned the ball over 16 times but had only three in the last ten minutes, as opposed to Butler, who had 6 of their thirteen when it counted with the game on the line in the same span in the second half of the second half. As I often do after a SJU win I popped into the losers fan forum and read the game thread. This morning over in the Dawg Kennel or whatever stupid name they call themselves they’re – besides calling Saint John’s “thugs” and “street ballers,” I mean just drop the N bomb already – they were whining about the free throw discrepancy – which was seven. That’s right, they’re this morning bitching about how they got screwed by seven lousy free throws and how that might affect their chances of getting a number 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. You can’t make this shit up. From what I saw last night if Butler is the 13th ranked team in the country well then I’m a monkey’s uncle I don’t know as much about basketball as I pretend

PLAYERS: Shamorie Ponds had a Big East coming out party 26 points, seven rebounds, two steals, 2 blocks and was 6 of 6 from the free throw line. I read somewhere that there were 12 NBA scouts at the game, hopefully it was not to watch him …. Bashir Ahmed had 19 points, 5 rebounds and three steals. He’s 13 of 23 with ten rebounds over his last two. Where’s that dope who said he’s a bust who needs to be benched, I’d like to rub his face in that … Lovett did not start again, not sure why. 10 points including 6 of 6 from the free line … Malik Ellison did start and did not play well:  Contributed 5 turnovers and airballed his only three … Yawke seems over whatever funk he was in early in the season. He finished impressively on a couple of pick and rolls, which is about all you can ask … Darien Williams played 22 minutes, the most he has all year. Displayed a nice little jump hook, which let’s face it immediately makes him our best big man … Owens had no points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes … The two euro-dorks played 16 minutes between them and managed 2 points and one rebound. Alibegovitz committed a career best no personal fouls, which I suppose is good but really the frequency and violence of his fouls is the only thing he brings to the table, so why stop now …. The team is now two and oh without Wally Pippini Federico Missini. Nuff said. If and when he comes back he should sit on the bench until April at which time they should put him on the first gondola back to Palermo or maybe the girl’s team needs a designated three point threat who’s not very good at shooting. His banishment won’t make the Sons of Italy happy, but I’m not here to make you happy, I’m here to rub your noses in your mistakes and disappointments. In this case it’s the mistakes and disappointments of anyone who thinks Missini is a basketball player.

NOTES: Last night’s game marked the season’s first appearance of Tarik Turner. Usually he’s awful but if he was last night the game was so good I didn’t notice. He even went so far as to make a good point when he compared Ponds to 6’1”, 170 pound Nick Van Exel, a lefty guard who led Cincinnati to the Final Four and went on to become an NBA all-star. Turner’s partner Brian Custer kept repeating that Saint John’s had not defeated a team as highly ranked as Butler since Chris Mullin was playing in 1983, which I kept thinking to myself that can’t possibly be right until I figured out that he meant at the Lou, which makes sense because why would you play highly ranked teams in a gym that seats 5000 people. Brian Custer by the way is a prostate cancer survivor, which you wouldn’t know because he didn’t mention it once during the entire broadcast … Speaking of Lavin I watched a couple of minutes of that bulbous headed moron during the halftime festivities and was rewarded when he praised some point guard’s “decision making or judgment.” Decision making or judgment, what a maroon …. Other than that I got nothing. I have in past recaps done Butler University, legendary Coach Hinkle, Hoosiers (both the name and the movie), Jeeves Lurch and other Butlers, Indiana the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and even a bit of a gambol about my favorite mass murderer Carl Panzram (“I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it!”). If you’re starved for fun go back and read that stuff, I did yesterday and it still holds up. PS Panzram’s papers recently were digitized and are now on line if anyone’s interested, it’s really marvelous stuff:



That pitter patter you heard Wednesday night after Saint John’s improbable 93-60 demolition of New York’s team at the Carrier Dome was not the premature roof-top clatter of Santa and eight tiny reindeer bearing a sled containing toys for all the good girls and boys. No. What it was was the sound of a pack of rats clambering back up the gang plank of the vessel they’d spent the last seven days deserting in a lurid and embarrassing the-ship-be-sinking circle jerk the likes of which we had not seen since year five of the Norm Roberts regime. When they weren’t posting pictures of the Titanic and creating from whole cloth phantasmagorical scenarios wherein every Saint John’s player on the roster save Elijah Holifield got hardship transfers to Rutgers they were firing off angry emails to the new university president threatening to withhold their annual $ 50 donations until things were put right again, tax right offs be damned. And then last night happened and suddenly Chris Mullin knows something about basketball and maybe even Mitch Richmond too and let’s not forget the young phenom Greg Saint Jean who designed the system that for two years now has dismantled Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone and all is right with the world and god bless us everyone as we all go happily to the grave. Because to truly appreciate sports you must either be top of the world ma or clutching your pearls and taking to the divan with the vapors – there can be no middle ground. All kidding aside there are Frenchmen I’d rather have in a foxhole with me than some of the alleged fans who post in various SJU forums. Which lack of middle ground is why there is this morning giddiness on the one hand and why on the other there’s still a few diehard haters and Lavin toadies and Iona fans who were not impressed by this fluke; to the extent that they point out that this is not a vintage Boeheim effort I agree but on the third hand beating even a shitty Orange team is better than loosing [sic] to LIU, can we at least find some common ground there? The irony is that both camps are bound to be disappointed, because this is what happens with young teams: some nights they bring it and some nights they leave it home. When they turn the corner and bring it every night, that’s when things will begin to get interesting. Undoubtedly we’re not there yet but you have to start somewhere …. Rereading that it was probably a bit over the top but it felt good and I’m not changing a word. If anyone asks tell them it was meta commentary …. This was the first game in a long while against a real opponent where Saint John’s put their foot on the victim’s throat early and went on to tear out the windpipe. They went into halftime up ten aided by some pretty good three point shooting and some atrocious and sometimes comical play by Syracuse that included 10 turnovers, most of them unforced. Syracuse got two quick baskets to start the half and my notes read quite clearly “and then the roof caved in,” which I and every other fan who’s watched this team blow leads in their last couple of games expected except it didn’t – Saint John’s scored six straight points and eight of ten led by of all people Kassoum Yawke, who had two FGs and an assist before hall of fame coach Boeheim used his final TO of the game with 17 minutes left. There followed a remarkable sequence: Syracuse was fouled and made one of two free throws, then they got the rebound and got fouled and missed both free throws and then they got the rebound and made a two and then missed a free throw and got the rebound and missed a field goal. I mean look at this


16:52             Foul on Kassoum Yakwe. 47 – 35

16:52             John Gillon made Free Throw.   47 – 36

16:52             John Gillon missed Free Throw. 47 – 36

16:52             Tyler Lydon Offensive Rebound.           47 – 36

16:51             Foul on Kassoum Yakwe. 47 – 36

16:51             Tyler Lydon missed Free Throw.            47 – 36

16:51             Syracuse Deadball Team Rebound.      47 – 36

16:51             Tyler Lydon missed Free Throw.            47 – 36

16:51             DaJuan Coleman Offensive Rebound.  47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III missed Jumper.         47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III Offensive Rebound. 47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III made Two Point Tip Shot.  47 – 38

16:50             Foul on Bashir Ahmed.     47 – 38

16:50             Andrew White III missed Free Throw. 47 – 38

16:50             Tyler Lydon Offensive Rebound.           47 – 38

16:48             Frank Howard missed Jumper.  47 – 38

16:48             Andrew White III Offensive Rebound. 47 – 38

16:48             John Gillon missed Three Point Jumper.


Syracuse took nine shots and got seven rebounds in FOUR SECONDS and the score went from Saint John’s plus 12 to Saint John’s plus nine. And that just broke their spirit. Saint John’s went on to outscore them 24 – 10 over the next five minutes and by 24 over the remainder of the game including a sequence of punks and dunks and alley oops the likes of which Saint John’s fans have not seen, well, maybe ever … Usually when I say there’s no point in looking at the box score it’s because Saint John’s was so awful but this time it’s because their opponent was: Syracuse shot 30 percent from the floor, 16 percent from three, 50 percent from the foul line and had 19 turnovers and 24 fouls. Saint John’s shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three and had a mind boggling 27 assists (that’s 15 percent of their season total) versus only nine turnovers. The only shit lining on the silver cloud is that they were 13 for 25 from the free throw line, which isn’t very good even if you factor in the walk-ons, who missed all their tries …. This was the 4th time this season Saint John’s has gone over 90 points, which some years it used to take them two games to do. One wag recently complained that what Mullin was bringing to the table was “not redmen basketball” to which I say halle-fucking-lujah. I’ve watched redmen basketball for 40 years. I want to watch winning basketball for a change … So the preseason is over and now the real games begin and where are we heading into conference play? I don’t know. On the plus side we’d be hard pressed to lose any that we’re supposed to win –  mainly because we’re not supposed to win very many – and on the other hand we have the talent to steal a couple when the other guy isn’t looking. On the minus side there are going to be those days when they just don’t show up and those days where they do show up but they show up as freshmen making dumb freshmen mistakes. Hopefully they play hard and stay healthy and steal enough wins to get a CBI bid and then wait till next year bums except next year might really be next year this time.

PLAYERS: Usually I do these profiles in the order in which the players played from best to worst which is why it’s so surprising that the first player up is Malik Ellison, who scored 16 points and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 31 minutes. Over his last two games Ellison is 8 for 11 from three, which if he shot even half that well you could overlook all the boneheaded things he does. He has the makings of a nice complimentary player although you get the impression by watching him that he thinks himself more than that. That will be a bridge to be crossed once and if his skills grow to match his opinion of his skills … Shamorie Ponds had 21 points – including a couple of threes he took from Rochester – six rebounds and seven assists … Batshit Ahmed, prior to last night a “bust” who “should be benched” had 20 points, 5 rebounds and three assists versus a single turnover. One astute observer (okay it was me) had observed earlier this week how much more effective he’d be posted up inside or on or about the foul line, where he wouldn’t have to dribble to get near the basket, dribbling not being his strong suit. You’re welcome  … Marcus Lovett, decried by some as a “shoot first” guard had nine assists and six rebounds versus only six shots. At one point came precariously close to letting a ball roll out of bounds in the back court while he was adjusting his shorts …. Yawke seems to be getting his sea legs under him after an atrocious start to the season: seven points and eight rebounds including a thunderous dunk where he took off just short of the free throw line … Freudeburgh made a couple of threes early and was pretty quiet after that but baby steps. Speaking of steps he nearly looked the fool when he grabbed a rebound and raced down court (for data sets where “raced” is defined generously) to euro step his way past the four SU players between him and the basket but fortunately he got fouled while fumbling the ball out of bounds and it was the other guy who was beclowned …. Four blocks and four rebounds for Tariq Owens, who managed not to foul out …Williams, Holifield and someone called J Cole got some run during garbage time …. Conspicuously absent and not missed one iota was Wally Pipp Federico Missini. If he is ill as has been rumored we wish him a speedy recovery. If he does recover speedily it will be the first thing he’s done speedily since he first donned a Saint John’s uniform.

NOTES: I’ve beaten Syracuse into the ground over the past several years and so would be left with no anecdotes with which to beguile my readers were it not for the serial malapropisms of color man Mike Gminski, a former college all American at DOoK University and subsequently an NBA first round draft pick. Those of you who are as old as dirt will remember that Gminski was the starting center on the number one DoOk Blue Devil team that lost twice to Saint John’s in the 78-79 season, first in the consolation game of the Holiday Festival and later in the Black Sunday defeat in the NCAA tournament, where Gminski got punked by chronic underachiever Wayne McCoy. Gminski went on to a respectable NBA career, as opposed to the conga line of buffoons first round draft picks Doook has sent the NBA subsequently: Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, Alaa Abdulallahakbar, Antonio Lang, Grant “Golly I seem to have snapped another bone” Hill, Cherokee Parks, Chris Carrawell, Shelden “Forceps Head” Williams, Jay “Look out for that tree” Williams, Josh McRoberts, Daniel Ewing and however many Plumlee brothers mother Plumlee squirted out and that’s not even the full list. Anyway Gminski called Saint John’s a “high school coaching job” when he described asking Mullin whether he would have coached anywhere else than Saint John’s, claimed that Saint John’s was coming off a 46 point loss to Penn State (it was 16 although it might have seemed like more) and in what may be the single stupidest sports analogy ever uttered stated that “waiting to take over from [Jim Boeheim] is like waiting for Castro to die,” which it is if Boeheim has a prison complex beneath the Carrier Dome where he tortures and murders his political opponents in the name of a failed and discredited ideology that was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th century and also if Boeheim had to die rather than just retire to Florida with his hot wife and spend his days drinking Mai Tais and fishing off his deck … Speaking of DoOk Grayson Allen – the poster child for the sort of smug entitled white piece of shit scumbag fuck heads that are treasured by Mike Schrewshrenski – for the third time in recent memory attempted to cripple an opposing player by sweeping the leg. Let’s go to the video tape:

So to recap: Allen attempts to seriously injure an opponent, acts like he was fouled while doing so, talks shit to the opponent afterwards and whines like a little bitch when he’s T’ed up for his behavior. Coach Rat face – who you may recall last year lectured Oregon’s Dillon Brooks on good sportsmanship after Brooks made a three late in Duke’s NCAA tournament loss – called Allen’s behavior “unacceptable” and “inexcusable” but also has no plans to discipline him beyond the couple of minutes he sat him down afterwards, which doesn’t seem like the appropriate punishment for something that’s inexcuseable, an adjective meaning too awful to be tolerated. If Ratty won’t do anything I’d hope the ACC steps in and metes out the proper retribution, which would be that he be taken to the place from whence he came and there be kept in close confinement until next Thursday and upon that day that he be taken to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until dead. And may God have mercy upon his soul.




Nittany Loins

When Saint John’s lost to Delaware State a couple of weeks ago I was surprised. When they lost to LIU a week ago I was disappointed. Sunday afternoon, when Saint John’s lost 92-76 to the Penn State Kiddie Fuckers at alleged home court Madison Square Garden in what is for some reason still called the Holiday Festival was the first time since the repulsive Steve Lavin was head coach that I can recall being disgusted … Things started out promisingly enough: Saint John’s took the same 7-point lead they did last week again LIU before the falling sky hit an iceberg and burst into flames. Penn State went on a 35-5 run to end the half – a display babbling idiot Ron Thompson called the “best nine minutes of college basketball” he’d ever seen, which means only that he didn’t watch the Kentucky North Carolina game yesterday – and led by 23 at the half. Despite some brilliant halftime adjustments by coach Mullin that allowed Saint John’s to outscore Penn State by nearly 20 percent in the second half Saint John’s never got closer than 16, and that after a 12 to 2 run …. There does not seem to be much point in mentioning the box score but I will anyway: Saint John’s shot 37 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers and that wasn’t even the problem. The problem is the defense, which once again was atrocious. When unguarded shooters were not burying 13 of 23 threes they were blowing by their defenders for drive and dumps: it was very hard to watch and almost embarrassing and I don’t embarrass easily. Suffice it to say that no one covers anyone. The ones who seem capable of playing defense – Owens, Yawke, Ponds, Lovett, Ahmed – don’t seem to be trying very hard and the other ones – Ellison, Mussini and Freudenburhger – are hopelessly slow, uncoordinated and lacking in awareness. It’s a difficult situation and one that needs remedying. Freshmen in general are horrible defenders and being charitable Mullin didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about defense in college or the pros. He’d best start thinking about it soon, because this season is suddenly beginning to look bleak.

PLAYERS: When the best player on the floor is Malik Ellison, well, let’s just say that that’s not a recipe for success. Probably everyone wants to talk about his career high 22 points. I want to point out that for the second time this year he received a pass in the corner with his feet out of bounds. How can you perform well on the court when you don’t even know where the court is … Tariq Owens had a double-double in 22 minutes before fouling out for the fourth time this year … Signs of life from Kassoum Yawke: eight points, seven rebounds, three assists. In an article in the NY Post this morning Yawke opined that he was overthinking things, which if he read this blog he would have known that a month ago when I opined the same thing … Shamorie Ponds had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists but was a dreadful 3 of 17 from the floor … Lovett had six turnovers in his first game back … Ahmed had five turnovers and doesn’t have that excuse. Forced things a bunch of times and was generally awful … Freudenbrheger had five points, which would have been more had he not had a couple of threes go in and out. His presence on the floor is either a sign of desperation or an indication that Mullin is playing the long game. Because he’s not ready for prime time … Federico Mussini shot an air ball and that was about the best thing he did all day… I thought Darrien Williams might get some run after his showing last week but he played only four minutes

NOTES: Penn State are the Nittany Lions, Nittany being a reference to Mount Nittany, a local Pennsylvania landmark that overlooks the Penn State campus bathroom when Jerry Sandusky raped many little boys during his long and illustrious career as an educator. I mention that only to point out that Nittany rhymes with Britney, which gives me an excuse for the picture which adorns this post. You’re welcome Desco … Unremarked upon in Saint John’s fan forums – where this Sunday morning I was treated to an amusing essay the gist of which was that negroes who play in the NBA go broke because they spend too much money tricking out their Escalades – was Rollie Massimino, who on Wednesday won the 800th game of his illustrious career when the Keiser University Seahawks defeated Trinity Baptist University 77-47, making the 82 year-old Massimino only the third active college basketball coach with 800 wins, Mike Scherwrenky and Jim Boeheim being the other two. And what a long strange trip it’s been. Massimino first coached at Stony Brook – the Seawolves, which almost brings him full circle but not quite – in 1969. Despite having no college coaching experience and being a Rutgers graduate he had immediate success, going 34 and 14 in two years before moving on to Villanova University after a year as an assistant to former Piston coach Chuck Daly, then at Pennsylvania University. Massimino won 300 plus games at Villanova in 19 years, including an improbable national championship in 1985, the year Saint John’s made its only final four in the modern era and its first since Democrats elected former Ku Klux Klan member Harry Truman president of the United States. It turns out that that championship was the apex of Massimino’s career – and the glory from that dimmed somewhat when it was revealed later that most of Massimino’s players were degenerate junkies who were snorting cocaine in the locker room at halftime. Massimino resigned from Villanova in 1992 to take the head coaching job at UNLV, where he was a respectable 35-21, but was fired after it was discovered that – in an ironic turn – Massimino was receiving payments under the table from the university president. After Nevada Massimino turned up at Cleveland State where he was a moribund 90 and 113 and where once again his players ran amok, forcing Massimino to resign amidst allegations of drug abuse, criminal behavior and academic fraud. In 2006 after a three year hiatus Massimino took the coaching job at Kaiser – then Northwood University, the Timberwolves, not the Seawolves – where his record stands at 245 and 61: he’s won 30 games three times, never lost more than 9 games in a season and made the NAIA tournament every year, including a loss a few years back in the national championship to powerhouse the Oregon Institute of Technology Hustlin’ Owls. Congratulations Rollie …. Speaking of Jim Boeheim, I took a few minutes to read Syracuse’s fan forum after yesterday’s home loss to Georgetown. The consensus among the delusional fans there is that college basketball has passed Boeheim by – this would be the same Boeheim who went to the final four last year and the elite eight a year before that and four sweet sixteens in the last five years – and that the only person who can save SU’s program from oblivion is Jay Wright, although Billy Donovan might be able to and also Greg Marshall. Since Wright isn’t going anywhere and Donovan is in the NBA and Greg Marshall earns three million dollars a year – which is nearly 20 percent of the budget of Wichita’s entire athletic department – it seems that once JB leaves after next year Syracuse will finally receive its well-deserved and long due comeuppance, once again leaving Saint John’s as New York’s team. Or possibly LIU, depending on ow things shake out. But at least the crown will be vacant at long last, which is something to look forward to on this otherwise sad afternoon.

Blackbird Down

Usually when I tape a Saint John’s game I make sure to avoid venues where I’m liable to see the final score. I didn’t think Twitter was one of those, so imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon at around 2:30 when LIU Brooklyn started trending. Ah ha, I thought, a clue that things have gone south. And gone south they had, as Saint John’s lost a squeaker 74-73 to the LIU Blackbirds Sunday afternoon at Barclay Arena. The good news is there was no one around to see it …. Saint John’s came out flat. I think probably it was a combination of things: the early start and that they didn’t take LIU very seriously – much like they didn’t take Delaware State seriously a couple of weeks ago – and that they had been playing too well to not have a bit of a letdown and the Sima thing and that Marcus Lovett was out again didn’t help either. Whatever it was LIU went out to a 10 point lead but Saint John’s got back in it mostly at the free throw line and at halftime it was tied. Due to some brilliant halftime adjustments by Coach Mullin SJU pulled ahead by seven with about eight minutes left when suddenly it all fell apart. Mullin said in the postgame press conference that “when we had a seven point lead we got sloppy and didn’t take care of the ball,” which is an understatement. Up 58-51 the following SJ possessions ensued: Darien Williams travelled, Mussini missed a three, Williams missed a chippie, Mussini missed a three, Freudenburg fumbled the ball out of bounds under the basket, Ahmed travelled, Ponds missed a layup, Ahmed missed two free throws, and Mussini missed a three – at which point the seven point lead was a two point deficit. Things went back and forth a bit after that and Saint John’s actually led by four with 1:13 left but being forewarned I knew it was not to be and so was not surprised when Ponds front rimmed a jumper at the buzzer. A tough beat but a few more foot pounds from Ponds and everyone would be dancing a tarantella about how these brave young kids gutted out a gritty victory and maybe they’re not so bad after all and thank god we have Chris Mullin to lead us to the promised land towards which we have finally turned the corner… Saint John’s shot 40 percent from the floor and from three and rebounds were plus four 39-35. The ball did not move the way it has of late though – they had only 11 assists on 24 made baskets – and they did not help themselves with 18 turnovers, which is way too many turnovers, and they also did not help themselves by missing eight free throws in a one point game. And once again the defense was atrocious: the guards can’t keep anyone in front of them and except for when they’re blocking shots (they had 8) the bigs don’t even seem to bother. It doesn’t help that they’re all twigs – someone called James “Professor” Frink who weighed more than the three of them combined pushed the whole lot of them around for 37 minutes on his way to a 20 point 12 rebound double double … It also did not help that the referees called a foul a minute for 40 minutes, 24 in the first half. Even though Saint John’s ended up taking more free throws the constant stoppages of play inures to the benefit of the team that doesn’t want to go fast, and Mullin wants to go fast. On the other hand those fans who like hearing the sound “tweet” and watching free throws being shot – for my money the most exciting play in all of sports – probably had a great time. I just got annoyed …. As usual after one of these unfortunate losses in the various SJU fan forums last night and this morning the sky is falling; no doubt Pete Gillen’s ear are ringing in the old folks home where he’s spending his golden years. The players stink and Mullin’s a moron: the usual suspects taking to the divan with the vapors. Zzzz. Newsflash: yesterday Malik Ellison started and Federico “Oompa Loompa” Mussini was the first man off the bench and SJU was shorted handed because the great Amar Alibegowitch was unavailable. At their best those players are not very good and the ones like Ponds who are good are terribly young and they just plumb got beat and they’re going to plumb get beat a bunch more times and clutching your pearls and cursing Chris Mullin when they do is like watching Gone With the Wind for the 19th time and thinking that this time the Confederates are going to win the war and then blaming David O. Selznick when they don’t. That’s the definition of insanity you know: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I mean, I’m crazy, but not that crazy.

PLAYERS: Ponds had 18 points and six rebounds. It’s a measure of how well he played the last couple of games that this one seemed a bit of a disappointment … Bashir Ahmed – who one enormous basketball mind claimed should be “benched until he learns that basketball is a team sport” and another deemed “a bust” – had 14 and 6 and is now averaging 12 and six and shooting 40 percent from three for the year. Twelve and six is about what Jakarr Sampson averaged his one year in college and as I recall people wanted him benched as well. As for me I want more players who you can pencil in for 12 and 6, not less … When Federico Mussini dies they should carve on his tombstone a little Italian guy in baggy shorts chasing two steps behind a quicker taller black guy, because that’s what he spends most of his time doing on the basketball court: chasing his man around in a futile attempt to catch up. If it were not for Malik Ellison he might be the worst defensive player I’ve ever seen. Three for 10 from the floor, one assist (that’s one fewer than greedy selfish Bashir Ahmed for those of you scoring at home) and two turnovers in 28 minutes. Color man Jim Spanarkle described him as “almost like a point guard,” which is technically correct if you put the emphasis on the almost … Ellison had eight points on a couple of nice drives to the basket and five assists but gets the coveted GOAT OF THE GAME award for two boneheaded plays coming down the stretch: on the first one he crossed midcourt line and leapt gracefully into the air to laser a pass to the peanut vendor in Row 11 and later on down one with ten seconds left he spent six seconds dribbling pointlessly at the top of the key and then drove to the baseline where he cleverly picked up his dribble before throwing a bounce pass no less to Kassoum Yawke no less in traffic no less in the lane no less. I hate to keep repeating myself but he might be the dumbest player I’ve ever seen. And oh yeah he missed all his free throws and is now shooting 50 percent for the year. From never nervous Purvis to always bleak Malik: the apple has indeed fallen far from the tree … Tariq Owens had five rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes but only two points … Not to be out done Yawke had two points and three rebounds and fumbled the ball out of bounds wide open on a set play with under a minute to go. I don’t know who’s calling plays for the big men with games on the line (I recall they lost one last year when they ran a set play for Sima with a couple of seconds left) but that guy should be flogged and I’m pretty sure it’s Saint Jean. Whereas anyone who’s watched Hoosiers knows you don’t use Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy, you let him take the last shot. Too be fair to Yawke we should remember that this should be his first year in college and he’s still very young. But he is not the player he was last year when he was an all BE freshmen and that seems very far away and that’s troubling and hopefully he gets his head out of his ass pretty soon, because it would be helpful if he stepped up … Richard Fredenburgh made his second three of the year – the German deadeye is now 2 for 15 on the year – but had six rebounds. To be fair he does seem to have a nose for the ball. Hopefully he starts working on his other senses soon …. As you might have heard Yankuba Sima has departed Saint John’s for greener pastures. You’d think that in his absence everyone’s favorite towel waver Amar Alibeowitsh would have been itching to step up and support his teammates in this difficult time. Instead because he’s a dumbass he injured himself celebrating Saint John’s important win over Fordham a couple of days ago; my sources tell me he may never walk again, god willing. In his place Darien Williams – whose claim to fame heretofore has been doing interpretive dance steps on the side lines after made threes – was forced into action; he’s played 13 minutes total the previous 10 games and had twice as many personal fouls as points. So naturally Sunday afternoon he had 15 points, seven rebounds and a block and would have earned the game ball if they gave out the game ball on shitty teams that lose to LIU. But they don’t so he gets nothing  …. Now that we’re down to a seven man rotation and our best big man is evidently a guy with no shoulders who hasn’t played organized basketball in two years, any of you still think throwing Chris Jones over the side was a good idea? The sad thing is that probably you do.

NOTES: I was going to just say notes, schmotes, I have no notes and be done with it but then I remembered that LIU used to be coached by the legendary Clair Bee, who Lou Carnesecca will tell you practically invented basketball. Bee was 413-88 lifetime as a college coach: 360–80 in 20 years at LIU, where he won two national championships – LIU was undefeated in 1936 and 1939 and at one point won 43 games in a row – and before that 53-8 at Rider. Eleven of his 88 career losses came in 1933, his second year at LIU, when he went 6-11 – no word whether disgruntled LIU fans were hoping that he could be replaced by Pete Gillen, who was then a sprightly 35 year old. Bee resigned in shame in 1951 after several of his players were implicated in the well-documented CCNY point shaving scandal and went on to coach in the NBA where he lost more games in two years than he had in three decades in college: as coach of the Washington Bullets he was a moribund 34-116. Perhaps he could have done better had he had the smarts to hire an experienced X and O coach to help him on the sidelines but at this late date that’s probably something of a moot point.