Maui Wowie


Saint John’s defeated Chaminade University 100-93 in the battle for 7th place in the Maui Classic Wednesday afternoon in Hawaii. That they won the game is not surprising: they’ve already proven this preseason that they’re as good as any Division 2 team in the country. How they won was a bit of a shocker. This is the first time I can remember in quite a while they they’ve scored 100 points and this is the most points they’ve scored in a game since the 93-78 spanking they gave #3 Duke in 2011. Of course the bad news is that they gave up 93 points to a D2 school, which perhaps not a good portent moving forward. Still a win’s a win and anybody who’s not happy at 4-2 six games into what is probably going to be a long season, well there’s just no pleasing some people … SJU went out to an early 15-3 lead and was up 59-42 at the half – as a team they shot 77 percent from the field in the first half, including 9 of 12 from three. Which is somewhat unlike them. They stretched the second half lead to 18 at the 16 minute mark, at which point they got complacent and let Chaminade back into it. Eventually they’ll develop a killer instinct and that won’t be an issue, but it was Wednesday: Chaminade got it to within 6 with under a minute to play, but for a change they made their free throws to seal it … For the game SJU shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three – again, unlike them – and had 21 assists; they had only 400 all of last year. They had 6 players in double figures, which I don’t remember that happening in a while either. Once again the defense was subpar – Chaminade shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three – which makes three games in a row now that they’ve gotten lit up. That is like them and a trend I expect to continue, because they don’t cover anybody … Rumor has it that four star recruit Kassoum Yawke was declared eligible by the NCAA this afternoon, which is good news if true. Because at SJU there is no silver lining without a cloud, various great minds are now debating whether he should be redshirted, and of course the answer is no. In the first place, you’d be hard pressed to name Saint John’s player in recent memory who’s benefited from the redshirt and in fact most of them have either not gotten any better or have gotten completely screwed. In the second, they’re already shorthanded and I’ve spent enough time over the past 15 years watching the walk-ons play. And finally, this is not a program that has the luxury of waiting around for their delicate blossoms to flower. Put the kid on the court and let him play. It’s probably not going to make much of a difference this year but the experience is likely to pay dividends in a couple of years when it might matter.

PLAYERS: One good thing about being shorthanded, it makes this part a breeze … From the shows what I know department: Amar Ablavocovih had what was by light years the best game of his career and if I had to bet, his life: 17 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. A couple more like this and I might even learn how to spell his name … Mussini had 24 points – 16 in the first half including 5 of 6 from three – and 6 assists … Jones had 17 points and 11 rebounds but turned the ball over five times …Durand Johnson had 17 points and seems to be finding his stroke a little bit, or maybe it was the competition, who knows. His four FTs late sealed it …Mvouika had 12 and fouled out. I think that’s the first one this year, which makes sense considering that none of them play defense … Holyfield played little and contributed less

NOTES: Three recaps in three days. Who do these people think I am? Stephen King? … After displaying the patience of a saint for what must have been an interminable three days, John Sciambi finally snapped. He spent most of the game openly mocking nearly everything that came out of Walton’s mouth, and with good reason: because Bill Walton is a babbling idiot … Chaminade University is named for William Joseph Chaminade, a Roman Catholic cleric who had the misfortune of living in France during the French Revolution. I’d describe as unfortunate most people who lived in France at any time, but life during the revolution was particularly abominable: at the outset 40 thousand people were murdered over the course of little more than a year, many of whom had their heads lopped off via the guillotine by the inaptly named Committee of Public Safety for crimes against the state. Contrary to popular mythology most of those killed were peasants, and most of those peasants were killed for the crime of hoarding – an odd charge to levy against someone who presumably has little or nothing to begin with. After the Terror ended Chaminade returned from exile in Spain and founded the Marianist order, the point of which seems to have been to convert heathens to the ways of the one and true god, which is how they ended up doing missionary work in faraway Hawaii. Chaminade was proposed for beatification in the early 19th century but came up a tad short in the miracle department and had to settle for the designation Venerable, which is only about halfway to the right hand of the Father. It’s hard to take issue with the decision of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, because frankly some of these alleged miracles sound a bit sketchy. For example, one Rachel Baumgartner – whose name sounds to me suspiciously Jewish – claimed that her inoperable tumor disappeared after she attended a ceremony dedicated to Chaminade’s memory. But it seems like something of a cruel joke for a beneficent God to have cured her cancer only to cast her into the depths of fiery hell with the rest of the chosen people for her failure to accept Christ as her personal savior. So I tend to disbelieve her testimony … I’ve been going to the well with the famous alumni thing with pretty good results but came up empty with Chaminade. No one I ever heard of graduated from there – there was a William Faulkner but it turned out not to be the writer, just some guy. The real Faulkner went to Ole Miss. The Marianists do however also operate Chaminade High School in Mineola, which boasts as graduates Senator Pothole, Alfonse D’Amato; Brian Dennehy, whose moving portrayal of clown killer John Wayne Gacy earned him one of six Emmy nominations; Glen Hughes, the leather clad guy from the Village People; the great George Kennedy, who was in everything from Cool Hand Luke and the Dirty Dozen to the Naked Gun; Bill McKillop, who unfortunately could not recruit above 125th street; and phone sex aficionado Bill O’Reilly, former anchor of the hard hitting news show A Current Affair, a sample of whose work can be seen below.


Hawaii 0-2


Saint John’s lost to #13 Indiana in the whatever – second, consolation, I have no idea – round of the Maui Classic Tuesday afternoon, 83-73. As losses go it was a pretty good one, somewhere between a moral victory and not a bad loss. After the beating they took Monday at the hands of Vanderbilt they could have come out and rolled over – and down 16 with one minute left in the first half it looked like they had. Instead they went on a 17-5 run over the next six minutes to pull within five about five minutes into the second half. That’s all halftime adjustments baby! Unfortunately at around that point they ran out of gas and IU extended the lead to around 10, which was about where it stayed for the rest of the game: every time it looked like IU was going to blow it open SJU made a play and every time SJU looked like they were going to get over the hump and make it a game they didn’t, but it’s hard to be disappointed with either the effort or the outcome …. As challenged as SJU looks on the offensive end – and let’s face it if Felix Balamou is your most dangerous offensive weapon, that’s a problem – the real problem is on defense. Some of them – Mussini, Ablavivocoth – can’t cover anybody, and the ones that can cover somebody aren’t too good at it. They’re a step slow, they turn their heads, they don’t rotate and ball-you-man is as foreign a concept to them as personal hygiene is to a French streetwalker. Where’s Al Lobalboa when you need him. It was that defensive prowess that allowed IU to shoot nearly 60 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three, the second game in two that an opponent shot the lights out. Saint John’s fared better from the floor Tuesday than they did against Vanderbilt – It’d have been hard not to – but 40 (FG) / 30 (3PT) isn’t going to beat too many teams let alone a ranked one and leaving 9 points at the free throw line didn’t help … After half a dozen games SJU is just about where rational fans would have expected: good enough to beat the cupcakes and hang with the bottom feeders in a major conference and bad enough to lose to everyone else, sometimes with extreme prejudice. They just don’t have the horses. Not yet anyway.

PLAYERS: Mvouika had 17 points (on 8 shots), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and even hit a couple of threes. He’s a nice player who’d look good coming off the bench on a good team. Unfortunately he starts on this one … Balamou once again looked like a Division One player, as opposed to what he looked like yesterday. What wonders what sort of player he might be today if Lavin had tried to develop his talent instead of trying to ruin his career. Oh well … Mussina weighs 155 pounds. Is that even possible? I have fat Italian relatives with carbuncles that weigh that much … Sima had 9 points and 7 rebounds. Even when he’s getting punked he puts up numbers … Evidently Durand Johnson will not be a first team all BE player, as I had been led to believe in the preseason … Christian Jones once again held his own more or less against a bigger stronger front line  but let’s face it he’s not the answer at power forward. Under different circumstances he might make a serviceable three, if he could dribble, which he can’t …I can’t even be arsed to think of something horrible to say about Ablivicovich, it’s not worth the effort. Covers no one, can’t rebound, can’t shoot and is capable of fouling out in the layup line. Just awful.

NOTES: Evidently between yesterday and today no one told Bill Walton to please be shutting the fuck up. Booth-mate John Sciambi (his nickname is Boog, based upon his resemblance to former Oriole first basemen John Wesley “Boog” Powell) deserves the tournament MVP for not strangling him with that stupid lei he was wearing. Before the game even started Walton picked up where he left off yesterday – who knows if he even stopped – jibber jabbering interminably about a wide variety of nonsense of interest to no one except himself, including a 5 minute dissertation about his fucking bicycle – which he gave in bicycle pants that left little to the imagination, if you get my drift. Yeah Bill, I had a bicycle too, when I was 11. I used to put baseball cards in the spokes and it had a light and a banana seat and a horn that went awoogah! The difference between me and you is that I know that no one gives a shit about my bicycle. Do another hit of acid, there’s a synapse that’s still firing properly … Indiana is coached by the wildly overrated Tom Crean, the only human being in recorded history to have both majored in “Parks and Recreation” at Central Michigan College and married the sister of current Michigan State coach Jim Harbaugh … I’m in these gambols trying to not hoe the same fields, and thinking back relative to Indiana I’ve already in a post called “Hoosier Daddy” investigated origin of the term Hoosier; discussed the long and shameful history of the state’s Klan activities; dissected Bobby Knight’s biography; explained the true history of Jimmy Chitwood; and written a bit of a monkeyshine about my all-time favorite serial killer Carl Panzram, whose writings in Killer: A Journal of Murder I cannot recommend highly enough; I reread it again for the third or fourth time recently and laughed and laughed. I mean, “I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it,” how can you not love that. Which leaves not a lot, because let’s face it, Indiana sucks . Thank goodness notable alumni is always good for about a paragraph, which is all I need. So speaking of awful self- important douche bag play by play guys, the appalling Joe Buck is a proud Indiana grad, as is Dick Enberg, who doesn’t suck nearly as much; Kevin Kline and Lee Majors, who banged Phoebe Cates (for the record approximately 20% of my blog hits are from perverts googling the Rule 5 broads I now make sure adorn the entries) and Farrah Fawcett respectively, nice work; NY Times crossword impresario Will Shortz; the novelist Theodore Dreiser – to his credit he flunked out; Stardust composer Hoagy Carmichael; Michael Brecker, the greatest soprano, alto, baritone, tenor saxophonist of his generation; Steely Dan drummer Pete Erskine; and a starting basketball five who could give anyone a run for their money, even UCLA: Isiah Thomas, George McGinnis, Walt Bellamy, Larry Bird (enrolled but never played) and Steve Alford, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, and I finally settled on Calbert Chaney, who in 1999 became after 27 years the first left handed player to ever play for Bobby Knight at IU … And speaking of Jack Lord, why not

Something Awful


GAME: Well that was ugly. And by that I’m referring to the 91-55 spanking the Vanderbilt University Commodores inflicted on an overmatched Saint John’s Red Storm in the first round of the Maui Invitational Tournament Monday night in Hawaii. It was the worst Saint John’s loss since, well, last March, when Steve Lavin’s seniors lost to Villanova by 37 on their magic carpet ride to a first round NCAA tournament loss. (That was only six games ago, good grief.) I can’t be arsed to figure out if this was the worst loss in Saint John’s history, but it was pretty bad, although at least they kept them under 100. The game that it brings foremost to mind is the early season 92-60 loss to Maryland in the Jimmy V classic in 2006; that one too was over after about six minutes. If Chris Mullin is half the coach Norm was he’ll have his team ready to play tomorrow; knowledgeable fans will recall that the night after the Maryland debacle Norm’s team lost to number 19 Texas by only a point. If he doesn’t, how long will it be before the Fire Mullins! chants are echoing in Carnesecca Arena? … There’s basically nothing else to say about the game. Saint John’s shot 30 percent from the floor, 12 percent from three, and were outrebounded 49-26. Whereas Vanderbilt shot 53 percent from the floor and 48 percent from three, and had 21 assists. Give Vanderbilt credit, they looked pretty good. But it is after all only November.

NOTES: there’s little point to this section, they all stunk … Mussini (5-13) and Johnson (2-10) had 14 and 10 respectively. Mussini impressed with a couple of sneaky good moves at the rim … Jones led the team with 5 rebounds and didn’t appear particularly overmatched considering the enormous size and girth of Vanderbilt’s front line … Mvouika had 8. It’s a shame he can’t dribble, they could really use a point guard … Sima needs to hit the weight room … Balamou is evidently not the second coming of David Russell. He might not even be the second coming of Nipsy Russell … Ablavlitowich clanked three straight on threes with his feet set and no one near him, but looked infinitely better doing that than he did when he tried taking his man off the dribble … Holyfield did nothing in eight minutes, whereas Dial had four points in two. Did someone say 6th man of the year?

NOTES: The game was called by B-b-b-b-bill W-w-w-w-walton and some guy who had a hard time getting a word in edgewise. Walton is arguably the best white player in college basketball history and also a babbling idiot, whose stream of consciousness commentary Monday night ran the gamut from solar power and women’s professional surfing to bull mastiffs and the Grateful Dead. If there was something unrelated to basketball that he brought up I would be hard pressed to tell you what it was, and not just because I turned the sound off a few minutes into the second half … Two time NCAA player of the year Jay “Look out for that tree” Williams and former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg nearly came to blows at halftime discussing whether Indiana was better than Vanderbilt or vice versa. Whether the obvious animosity between them was the result of Williams’ antisemitism or Greenburg’s bigotry is anyone’s guess … Speaking of bigots, Vanderbilt University was founded via a grant by robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, a native of Staten Island who made an immense fortune operating steamboat and railroad monopolies in the 19th century; the details of his business dealings are unimportant, except to note that as Honore de Balzac said, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” To put Vanderbilt’s fortune in perspective, it was around 100 million dollars when he finally died in 1882 – at that time 100 million dollars comprised around 13 percent of total US currency; Bill Gates fortune, estimated at 150 billion dollars, comprises less than 1 percent of today’s US currency … Vanderbilt married twice, both times to a first cousin, producing a brood of 13 inbred children whose myriad decedents still plague us today. (Vanderbilt’s great-great-great-great grandson Timothy Olyphant gets a pass, because you can’t hate on Raylan Givens.) Shortly after the War Between the States Civil War and at the urging of his then second wife Frank (despite her name, a broad), a former slave owner and ardent supporter of the Confederate States of America, Cornelius decided to endow a university in the south as a means of encouraging racial healing. That he ended up endowing Vanderbilt seems an odd choice, considering that the school refused to admit blacks until 1953; proudly counts among its graduates a conga line of unrepentant racists including Hiram Wesley Ellis, Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan from 1922 to 1939; had in the 1920s a football coach who everybody called “Nig” because of his dark complexion; and still houses students on scholarship from the Daughters of the Confederacy at Confederate Memorial Hall. The best that can be said for Vanderbilt is that it does not have quite as shameful a racial history as does nearby Duke University, but then that would be impossible … Like their Duke contemporaries, Vanderbilt graduates refer to their alma mater as the Harvard of the South, which I would too if I paid nearly 50 thousand dollars a year to go to a school in the Southeastern Conference. Proof that it’s not even the Harvard of Tennessee are its graduates, the worst of whom include climate huckster Al Gore; rapid white supremacist and Democratic ward heeler Georgia Theodore Bilbo (despite his name a guy, who once denounced an anti-lynching bill because it would “open the floodgates of hell in the South”); Clinton crime family member Vince Foster, who “committed suicide” wink wink after he threatened to go public with details of Bill and Hillary’s long criminal career; Randy Brooks, author of the satanic Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer; the repulsive Skip Bayless; Jay Cutler, who despite being one of the worst QBs in NFL history has somehow managed to never play for my Detroit Lions; and Dinah Shore, whose wholesome image belied the fact that she banged everyone from Dean Martin and Burt Reynolds to General George Patton and former NY governor Hugh Carey – my late 101 year old seamstress grandmother had a pin cushion that’d been stuck fewer times. Less appalling graduates include the novelists James Dickey and Robert Penn Warren; pin up girl Betty Page; the venerable David Brinkley; the late Fred Thompson, DUN DUN; Rich Kyanka, founder of formerly funny website Something Awful; and sportswriter Grantland Rice, to whom your humble author is often compared.








Good Knight

1320543274_3I was going to write a single word recap this morning – something along the lines of Wow! – and not just because I’m pretty hungover and want to go back to bed. Rather, Saint John’s 61-59 improbable come from behind victory Thursday was so jaw dropping that I wonder whether even I can do it justice. Or at least parts of it were jaw dropping anyway. Most of it was the normal sort of early season affair between two evenly matched but not very good teams, with the advantage to the older and more experienced one. Rutgers was up by seven at halftime by virtue of a 7-minute SJU scoring drought midway through the first that resulted in a 12-0 Rutgers run. Not long after I wrote “this could have been much worse” in my notes it became so: Rutgers opened the 2nd half with a quick 7-0 run to go up by 15 and still led by 16 at the 15 minute mark and the game looked all but over. But Saint John’s kept plugging away until an 8-0 run pulled them within 6 at around the 5 minute mark, at which point it all became too much for Rutgers and they choked – they managed just a single field goal and a single FT in the last 5.5 minutes. Saint John’s was up 1 with 9 seconds left when Felix Balamou – who speaking of choking had just missed two free throws – fouled poor Corey Sanders twice at midcourt, first knocking him askew with a vicious hip check and then taking him out by sweeping the leg. (Do you have a problem with that. No sensei.) Neither foul was called and after a Christian Jones FT the game winning Rutgers three was waved off, coming as it did a split second after the buzzer. Regarding the non-call I felt bad for Rutgers, almost as bad as I did a couple of years ago in the BET when drunkards Jim Burr and Tim Higgins missed Justin Brownlee dancing a victory tarantella and throwing the ball out of bounds with a couple of seconds left on the clock, an act of officiating so egregious that it led to Higgins retirement and the adoption of booth review. (Burr had no sense of shame, so he hung around for several more years.) Ha! Just kidding, I don’t feel bad for them at all. Screw Rutgers … Really good job I thought by Mullin keeping his kids heads in the game. Because they could have folded like a house of cheap cards. I expect seeing a bench full of Hall of Fame basketball players telling you everything is going to okay is a bit of a comfort. As opposed to say an 85 year old guy in a bad toupee with tomato sauce on his lapel … So Mullin remains undefeated at three and oh. The odds of returning undefeated from Hawaii are approximately infinity to one, but I’m willing to enjoy this while it lasts. Because I’m a half glass full kind of guy

PLAYERS: Recently reinstated Sir Dominick Balamou had 8 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists in his first game since high school more or less. At the risk of alienating readers by patting myself on the back once again – oh, who am I kidding, my smugness is one of my most endearing qualities – I’m constrained to point out that I declared myself president of the Balamou fan club two games into his college career and predicted that he had a bright future. I just didn’t say how long it would take for that future to get here … A double double from Mvouika, who continues to impress … Sima had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks in 39 minutes, which is a pretty absurd stat line from a freshman three games into his college career. As a bonus he seems to be money from the free throw line … Mussini had 13 points on 14 shots and seven rebounds, but zero assists. Will be much better off when he finally gets off the ball … Durand Johnson doesn’t make a lot of shots but seems to have the knack for making the important ones. This is the second game in a row he’s hit a big three when they needed one … Christian Jones had seven points but two only rebounds. That’s only one more rebound than Albaveckovich, and he’s awful … Darien Williams looks so far like one of those guys who should be a good player but isn’t. I’m thinking specifically here of the late Tyler Jones. Anyway he injured his shoulder in the first half and never returned.

NOTES: Steve Lavin did halftime and post-game commentary live from Carnesecca, which was a little awkward to put it mildly – it was like if a guy whose girl friend of 5 years dumped him because he couldn’t get it up later had to come back and describe the action while her new boyfriend Chris fucked the shit out of her. Anyway, Lavin was his usual amalgamation of vapidity and hail-fellow-well-met and displayed all the charm of a stick insect. He said for example that “it’s good to be back home,” which this isn’t your home, get out, that Saint John’s “is shorthanded,” which of course they are, you didn’t recruit an eligible player after 2011, and that “Chris Mullin has a bright future,” which is like Wally Pipp describing Lou Gehrig as a pretty good ball player. On the fashion front I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lavin’s elaborate bouffant hairdo, which rose a good four inches off his forehead and was molded into what seemed to be a replica of the Flat Iron Building. In contrast to his usual grooming – vainglorious mousse and spray on tan – this new look has a degree of utility to it: if his career as a commentator goes into the shitter he can always audition for a Kid ‘n Play tribute band …. Rutgers University was founded in 1766, in New Jersey, which despite its reputation is not the worst state in the union and never will be until California falls into the ocean. As you might expect over nearly 250 years Rutgers has graduated any number of notable alumni; they run the gamut from the respected film actress Asia Carrera (born Jessica Steinhauser I kid you not) to Nobel Prize winners Milton Freeman and Toni Morrison; Ozzie Nelson quarterbacked the football team in the 20s; and James Gandolfini went there, as did Jim Valvano, NBA commissioner David Stern, former FBI director Louie Freeh, comedienne and giantess Judy Gold, chef Mario Batali, and Avery Brooks (Hawk on TVs Spenser for Hire); and oh yeah, Mr. Quincy Magoo was Rutgers grad, class of 1928 … The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were originally known as the Rutgers Queensmen. Perhaps worried that they would be portrayed as something less than butch they later changed their name to the Chanticleers, this a reference to a rooster in a fable popularized in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. This also was an unfortunate choice, for a couple of reasons. First, most Rutgers grads could not spell Chanticleer and even if they could none of them have ever heard of Chaucer. And second it gave opposing fans the opportunity to ridicule Rutgers players by calling them chickens and cocks. After the student body rejected a bunch of names – including the Redmen – the Scarlett Knight was unveiled in the late 50s …. Rutgers has been playing basketball since 1914, but except for a brief flirtation with success under Tom Young in the mid 70s, not very well. The ‘76 team though, featuring Phil Sellers, current coach Eddie Jordan and Hollis Copeland, entered the NCAA tournament undefeated – Indiana was undefeated that year as well – before losing to Michigan in the national semifinals … One of RU’s victims that year were the 1976 Redmen, one of Lou’s better teams and among the first in a long line of disappointments I remember well. Starters Frank Alagia, Glen Williams, George Johnson, Beaver Smith and Cecil Rellford went 23-4 in the regular season, losing only to undefeated Indiana in the Holiday Festival and then later on the road to Georgetown, Providence and Princeton. Saint John’s ended the season with two losses, first to Rutgers in the ECAC Metro tournament, and then later to eventual champion Indiana in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I don’t often give Lou a pass when it comes to his myriad NCAA failures, but that year Rutgers had to face Princeton, Uconn and VMI to make the Final Four – talk about your soft draw – whereas Lou had Indiana, North Carolina and Alabama in his half of the opening round bracket.


Pain Don’t Hurt

Christina Applegate pokies (6)

The undefeated Saint John’s University Red Storm put a pretty professional beat down on the UMBC Retrievers 75-53 Monday night at Carnesecca Arena. It wasn’t quite a blowout – SJU went up early, let them back in it after halftime, and put them away midway through the second period – but it’s the sort of game that will be a blowout once they develop a killer instinct. Regular readers are well aware that I’m far from an optimist and especially not about SJU, but still there have been some positives early on. The biggest one is that this team – unlike any SJU team we’ve watched over the past five years – is greater than the sum of its parts. Steve Lavin might have had better talent – who am I kidding, he did – but they always underachieved, that mostly a result of Lavin’s bizarre anti-coaching. Whereas these guys are getting better right before our eyes. The fact is that this team has improved more in the three games since the Saint Thomas debacle than Lavin’s teams did in three years. And the result is better basketball: no more purposeless perimeter passing until someone makes a play; no more indifferent defense designed to produce blocks at the rim; rational substitutions and rotations and time outs. It’s almost as if the coaching staff has watched a basketball game before. Obviously it’s too early to get excited and there’s no question that they’re going to take some vicious beatings, like e.g. on December 13th, but the way I see it everybody takes a beating sometimes.

PLAYERS: Mussini finished with 18 point and 6 assists having compiled in two games a stat line the likes of which I cannot recall from a Caucasian SJU player since the great Paul Berwanger wore the red and white. Ha, just kidding, I just like saying Berwanger. Pretty good start though. In a determined attempt to make those such as myself who thought he could not shoot free throws look like morons FM was 8 for 8 from the line. No static at all … Malik Ellison will be a fine basketball player once he learns that he’s not so much a senior in high school punking underclassmen as he is a college freshman getting punked by seniors. Although long-term he looks like an excellent prospect in the short term he looks like an excellent argument for freshmen ineligibility … Sima is so far averaging 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in his college career. To put that in perspective that puts him at this point in his career slightly ahead of David Russell and slightly behind of George Johnson. Hyperbole aside, he’s everything you would have hoped Obekpa might have developed into in a year or two, minus the drama …Only two games into the season and I’ve figured out how to tell the three new upperclassmen apart: Mvoioka has a bunch of tattoos, Johnson wears the dopey headband, and Williams is the other one … Who was it that said that Ron Mvouika looked to be the best of the incoming upperclassmen? Oh yeah, that was me. In a stunning turn of events I might have been right again: 17 points (6 of 7 from the floor and 4-4 from 3) and 4 assists. If his name wasn’t so ridiculously hard to spell he might even become my favorite player … Durand Johnson is starting to look like the player everyone said he was. He pretty much single handedly turned back the aborted UMBC comeback, scoring all 15 of his points in the second half … Williams otoh still looks rusty … Christian Jones had 7 and 7 and so far seems willing to do the sort of lunch bucket work that needs doing … Mullin knows so much about basketball that he evidently is capable of making even Abliveckovich look competent … Elijah Holifield played, but not very well. Also someone called Abdul Dial played, which I never heard of him before, but he has a pretty impressive high school resume (all county, honorable mention all-state) for a walk on

NOTES: I was almost disappointed not to see Steve Lavin in the studio at halftime, because I was looking forward to mocking him. Jim Jackson was there in his stead, which is a bit of a problem, because I don’t hate Jim Jackson. I mean sure, he’s a bit unctuous, but not to the Jon Rothstein level where you want to reach through the TV screen and smash his face in … University Maryland Baltimore County is a university located in Baltimore County in the state of Maryland, which might not seem like a lot but is of no small comfort to a cynic like me in today’s post-modern world. Notable UMBC alumni include the actress Kathleen Turner and pretty much no one else of whom I’ve ever heard. Turner was pretty hot in Body Heat but that was a long time ago – now she weighs like three hundred pounds and if the press reports are true drinks even more than I do. Speaking of heat, and bodies: In 1987 Turner’s then husband night club owner Jay Weiss was indicted when the unfortunately named Happyland nightclub in the Bronx burned to the ground killing 87 persons, this after a hat check girl spurned the advances of a patron who returned later and attempted to rekindle their romance with a gallon of gasoline. Now, that description might have sounded a bit callous, but it was no where near as callous as what Turner said while the bodies were still smoldering, which was that the fire was “unfortunate” and “could have happened at a McDonald’s.” And I guess especially at a McDonald’s that had no fire alarm, no fire extinguishers, no sprinkler system, and where the fire exits were barricaded to prevent patrons from entering without paying the cover charge, as was the case at Happyland … The only other UMBC grad of note is Johnathon Schaech, star of Roadhouse 2, and he’s only notable because (a) Roadhouse is the greatest movie of all time and (b) he was in real life married to Kelly Bundy, which gave me an excuse to post the Rule 5 picture that adorns this post … Continuing with tonight’s movie theme, the UMBC mascot is a retriever called True Grit, although whether so-called after Charles Portis’s only readable novel, the original John Wayne version of the movie – marred by the eccentric casting of Glen Campbell as La Beouf – or the superior Coen Brothers remake of a few years ago – which succeeds despite the fact that Matt Damon is in it, because Matt Damon sucks – it’s impossible to know. UMBC announced a few years ago that True had a sister called I kid you not Trudy Grit, who they run out there for women’s sports, which is – wait for it – probably something to do with Title K-9. Canine, geddit?

Good night and don’t forget to tip your waitress.


This Is How We Do


And so the long sports desert is behind us and college basketball is back and with it so am I. Much to the delight of my many fans it goes without saying. I’ve been in many ways dreading this moment: once again this year I am tasking my drunk ass with writing 30 or so essays about the futility that is Saint John’s basketball. Looking ahead, that seems something of a chore. Over the last several years it has not been. Very quickly into Steve Lavin’s tenure at SJU I grew to loathe him and these essays served as a purgative: they got out hate. Although a lifelong SJU fan I have over the past several years been rooting for them to lose, because I wanted the repulsive Steve Lavin to fail, so that I could mock his incompetence. And Steve Lavin obliged me by being an inept bungler. So not only was I afforded the opportunity to ridicule the object of my detestation, but I did so gleefully, because I was delighted that Lavin’s floundering disappointed everyone else. He really was a godsend, at least in terms of my literary output. But now it’s different: I want Chris Mullin to succeed. And more than that: I believe he will, and so now I need him to, if for no other reason than to prove myself right. But the rub is: if he does succeed, I’ll have nothing to write about. Cruel fate. Because it’s not like I’m going to sit around writing happy little essays about how great “we’re” doing, or whatever. On the bright side I can usually find something to be miserable about, so there’s that … Re Mullin, I‘ve been surprised to hear many long-time Saint John’s fans doubting his ability to succeed as head coach. I can perhaps understand the skepticism of young fans who never saw him play or maybe even don’t know who he is, but many of the doubters are middle-aged men who saw what Mullin did on the court and afterwards. To me it’s like doubting whether Mozart might be a successful seventh grade music teacher because he doesn’t know who Katy Perry is. Personally I’ve no doubt that Mullin will be successful at SJU: he’s never failed at basketball before and in fact has achieved a level of success over a 40-year period equaled by only a select few. And of all the roles he’s attempted coaching at the college level is probably the easiest: if you don’t believe that, explain the successes of obvious lunkheads like Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight … About the exhibition games the less said the better. It looked to me like Mullin just rolled out the balls the first game and didn’t really care what happened. Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it: he has 10 new players, 6 of whom are freshman and perhaps the best of those sat. In the three days between STAC and Sonoma SJU went from looking like a bad D3 team to one that could compete for a D2 national championship. After Wagner SJU looks like they could contend for midpack in the NEC. That sort of improvement is all coaching baby! In point of fact Mullin looks comfortable on the sidelines, engaged with his players and has not in three games made the sort of egregious strategic blunder that the former coach used to make twice before the first TV time out … About the Wagner game there’s not a lot to take away. Saint John’s beat a crappy team of the sort they always beat in the preseason – but for a couple of banked in threes it would have been a laugher. Had they lost there might have been something to say, but they didn’t, so there isn’t. Either way this is going to be a long brutal season. But wait till next year bums. Or perhaps the year after that. It was nice though to see Mullin get the first one under his belt.

PLAYERS: As the ever perceptive Tarik Turner noted during the first half of Saint John’s first exhibition game “it’s still early in the season,” so I’ve as of yet been unable to form any firm opinions about the various newcomers – unlike many knowledgeable fans I actually have to see them play before that happens. But I do have some early impressions, viz … Frederico Mussini looks to be the great white hope the Red & White Club has been waiting for lo these many years. It’s unfortunate that he has to play the point this year, because he seems like a two guard to me. Initially he looks to be a step slow but I expect he’ll adjust to the speed of the college game. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to want to cover anybody and that doesn’t have anything to do with footspeed. Hopefully he’ll work on his free throw shooting, because he looks to be an adventure at the line … Malik Ellison has the tools and pedigree to be a good 4-year player but in a perfect world he’d sit on the bench for a year. This being Saint John’s, we’re about as far from a perfect world as can be … Steve Lavin described Christian Jones as having the ”best post-up game of any freshman I’ve ever coached.” Leaving aside that Steve Lavin is an idiot, Jones has so far looked to have turned into the player Lavin said he already was three years ago. He’s always had the tools – good hands, good feet, good body – it was his mind that wasn’t right. Maybe the lightbulb has come on, as it sometimes does, as it did for Pointer last year. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jones would make anyone forget Jakarr Sampson – as did one delusional fan last year – but his play thus far has been a pleasant surprise … Yankuba Sima looks thus far like a poor man’s Chris Obekpa, minus the psychotic smile, stupid shorts, attention seeking behavior, drug abuse problem, anger management issues, and poor free throw shooting. In fact I predict boldly that by February we’ll all be saying Chris Whobekpa? … With Phil Greene finally having graduated Amar Albavivovich – who makes Tomas Jasilionus look like Dirk Nowitski – has been anointed my whipping boy until he too gets the hell out. Lavin bringing AA back from his European “recruiting” trip of several years ago is like when I’m coming back from out of town and stop at the last Thruway rest stop before my exit and buy the old lady an I LOVE NEW YORK snow globe to show that I was thinking about her the whole time …. For the most part I can’t yet tell Mvouika, Williams and Johnson apart, except one of them wears a dopey headband. Obviously it was a good idea on Mullin’s part to bring in a bunch of upperclassmen, I’m just not sure it was a good idea to bring in these three. Just kidding. They seem to be all shaking off the cobwebs and even if they don’t they’re only here for a year or two anyway. Of the three Mvouika has impressed me the most thus far, but Williams looks to have the most potential … Felix Balamou – who Steve Lavin activated for a game during his red shirt year costing him a year of eligibility – was declared ineligible by the NCAA shortly before game time. According to @NYPost_Brazille Balamou’s eligibility issue was leaked to the NCAA by Steve Lavin or one of his flunkies. If this is true it’s ironic: it would mean that the thing least damaged during Steve Lavin’s tenure at Saint John’s was Steve Lavin’s prostate … Absent Marcus Lovett walk-on Elijah Holifield suddenly becomes something of a big deal. Well, not quite all of a sudden. Saint John’s has a long recent history of walk-ons becoming integral team members – e.g. Andre Stanley, Phil Missere, and most of Steve Lavin’s bench. If Holifield is half the player Andre Stanley was that would be a good thing

NOTES: A bunch of noteworthy things happened since last we spoke, but none more note or worthy than this:


I have been for the past several years posting the most egregious and slanderous bile about Steve Lavin that arose in the fever swamp of my inner dialogue – which inner dialogue frankly makes Pink Flamingos look like It’s a Wonderful Life. I have in fact written nicer things about Stalin. (I like his mustache, sue me.) During all that time, I heard nothing. And then suddenly over the summer: BLOCKED. So what was it that caused it, finally? A fairly innocuous response to a tweet of Lavin’s describing the moribund Phil Greene as a “basketball ambassador” or some such twaddle. And all I said was something like “You’re no longer the SJ coach. Get out and don’t let the door hit you,” to which I might have appended the hashtag #SteveLavinIsWorstCoachEver. Doesn’t seem like much considering how much abuse I’ve slagged on him over the years. Evidently though that was the last straw. I don’t flatter myself that Lavin regularly read my little blog, although I know some staffers did: e.g. Ron Linfonte blocked me like three years ago. I mean Ron Linfonte, good grief … Speaking of Lavin, he showed up doing commentary at half time on Fox Sports One. I almost didn’t recognize him because he was wearing a shirt and tie, his hair was no longer died jet back and caked with mousse, and he wasn’t wearing the Oompa Loompa pancake orange clown make up he sported when last we saw him on the SJU sidelines. When he opened his mouth though and the same old vapid bullshit came out, I knew it was him right off … Speaking of the primordial slime, does the air smell a little sweeter this year? Are sunsets a little more poignant? One reason might be that Jim Burr is no longer a college basketball referee. Well, that’s not exactly true. A truer statement would be that although Burr stopped refereeing games about 12 years ago he will no longer be getting paid for it, having announced his long overdue retirement over the summer. The Big East, college basketball, organized sports, and life in these United States will be better for his absence … Friday’s SJU opponent Wagner College is in Staten Island, which for some reason is still a borough of New York City. Notable Wagner alumni include most valuable poster We Are SJU, political analyst and legendary drunk Bob Beckel, three Miss New Jerseys (2002, 2007, 2008, weird right?) and Rich Kotite, to whom Tom Pecora should be eternally grateful lest he be forever remembered as the worst coach in New York City sports history. Little remembered fact: portentous gasbag Norman “Boomer” Esiason was the Jets QB in Kotite’s first year, 1995, when the Jets only lost 80 percent of their games. The next year the Jets – behind Neil O’Donnell and later Frank “Third” Reich – won only one game, that versus Arizona. The starting QB for Arizona that year? If you guessed Boomer Esiason, you win. Unlike Pecora. Remember that the next time you’re wasting time listening to Boomer pontificate about, well, anything … Finally, a word about Marcus Lovett, recently declared ineligible by the NCAA. Now, saying that the NCAA is a little bit corrupt is like saying that the Emperor Caligula was a little bit of a scallywag. It is in fact the worst and most corrupt organization since the Knights Templar. Consider: in the entire fetid morass of college athletics there are currently only 15 college sports programs on NCAA probation. They include the Henderson State University (d2) women’s basketball program, the Clark Atlanta University (d2) women’s tennis program, the SUNY Potsdam (d3) women’s hockey program and the Southern Miss (d1) men’s tennis program. Meanwhile basketball players at North Carolina haven’t opened a book since 2002, players at U Kentucky have a private chef, and Rick Pitino is operating a brothel. If the NCAA was serious about policing college athletics Marcus Lovett and Felix Balamou would have suited up for SJU Friday evening and Scott Drew would have been pelted with rotten fruit at halftime. But the only thing the NCAA cares about is how much money it can shove in its pockets. So Marcus Lovett will spend this season on the sidelines, in a suit and tie. No doubt that will teach him the lesson he failed to learn in high school.

Who’s Lavin Now?


 (Ed note: I wrote a beautiful and frenzied 3000 word essay post press conference Wednesday afternoon which disappeared from my computer when I hit with my elbow by mistake some key on my keyboard. Poof it went. I’ve been writing for 30 years and have never had that happen ever and still don’t know how it could have. Not even an auto-save version remained. It goes without saying that I smashed the keyboard into little bits and then jumped up and down on its remains to make sure that it was dead and when Michael Dell dies I’ll go piss on his grave. I have a new cordless Logitech now, upon which I have typed this poor recreation of that essay, for which I apologize in advance.)

In 2001 I won a national handicapping competition sponsored by the Daily Racing Form. I won by picking the winner of the last race of the contest, the Breeder’s Cup Classic held that year at Belmont Park: Tiznow defeated the Eurotrash champion Sahkee by a nose, and I still cannot 15 years later watch that race without tearing up. “Tiznow wins it for America” Tom Durkin said, six weeks after the towers came down. It was the greatest day of my life and unless I build a machine capable of transporting me back in time to 1950 so I can bang Lana Turner I don’t expect to top it.

I once told the long suffering Missus Fun – no slouch herself – that December 7th  (our anniversary, a day that will live in infamy geddit?) was the second greatest day of my life. It’s the sort of thing you say, right? When Lavin was hired I told her she was bumped down to number three. That’s how excited I was by the prospect of my beloved sad sack Saint John’s Redmen returning to college basketball prominence. Or relevance. Or at least not sucking. Three years ago, after watching Steve Lavin coach basketball for two years I told her Missus Fun that she was back to number two. Because Steve Lavin sucks.

In many ways Lavin’s tenure was more disappointing than the one that preceded it. It was pretty clear from the outset that Norm was never going to get it done. Besides being only vaguely qualified for the job he was coaching in the best basketball conference in history against the greatest collection of college basketball minds ever assembled. He had no chance. Whereas not only had Lavin previously had success at the highest levels of college basketball, but he was recruiting at a level not seen at Saint John’s since the 1990s and was surrounded by a top notch and expensive staff of assistants; and perhaps most importantly the team had dropped in class to a basketball only conference, in which almost any nincompoop could have been competitive. He was competing against Oliver Purnell and Kevin Willard for Christ sake, not Jim Calhoun. But as I am wont to say, if you have no expectations you are never disappointed. And that was the problem with Lavin and why I grew to despise him. He could have succeeded. And he might have, if he wasn’t so dumb and lazy.

But dumb he was, and as it turns out, complacent. As to the former, that’s congenital. He is just not very smart. That’s genetics and there’s nothing to be done about it. The latter though is something else entirely. Steve Lavin did not have fire in his belly: he was happy to be good enough and by being so achieved his goal: he did not fail miserably. Maybe it’s because he was the youngest child; the literature’s there, read it. Maybe it’s because he suffers – as I’ve demonstrated over the course of two years – from histrionic personality disorder. Maybe it had to do with being handed things his entire life: the UCLA gig and ESPN and all the money and broads and accolades that celebrity brings. Or maybe it came later – maybe it was his cancer and Cap dying and the sort of existential angst that the thought of mortality engenders amongst the vapid when they reach middle age, when they have not yet before considered the road to nowhere. But for whatever the reason, Lavin just didn’t care anymore. Consider:

Steve Lavin stated publicly that as a college basketball coach whose only job it was to win college basketball games that he felt no pressure to win college basketball games. Imagine. Imagine that you manage a salesforce and one of your salesmen says he is under no pressure to make sales. Or that you are a principal and one of your teachers said that he was under no pressure to have his students learn. The mind boggles. Imagine further that your salesman or teacher showed up for work in a sweat suit. A fucking sweat suit. Steve Lavin’s alleged mentor John Wooden put on suit and ironed his tie before he took a shit. Whereas Steve Lavin showed up for interviews on national TV wearing gym clothes. Mark my words: if he’d been extended he would have next year coached in a bathrobe and flip flops.

Now that I’ve finished a discussion of Lavin’s virtues, let me tell you what I didn’t like about him, because I’ve come to bury Lavin, not to praise him: the worst thing about Steve Lavin was that Steve Lavin could talk.

Which means that the single best thing about Steve Lavin not coaching SJU anymore is that never again will I have to listen to him babble while watching his ginormous head balance precariously atop his rapidly expanding pasta belly. I will never have to listen to him spout left coast psychobabble about his team’s journey or ride up the mountain or hill. There will be nothing about unicorns, Energizer bunnies, Tasmanian devils or other arcane forms of life. Nothing about salt and pepper and sharing the sugar or other condiments. Nothing about arduous journeys, magic carpet rides, or baby steps. No more hammers will be hitting rocks. Nothing about Mister Myagi. No more John Wooden or Pete Newell. No more about his fucking prostate. No more February (for the rubes in the audience Steve Lavin was 10-25 at Saint John’s in meaningful season ending games in his SJU career). In short: no more bullshit, no more lies and especially – especially – no more fucking excuses. Quote the Lavin, nevermore.

Steve Lavin has many problems, but they all boil down to one thing: he’s from California. He’s not one of us, he’s one of them. He came from a state that’s in the main peopled by mellow extroverted assholes in Bermuda shorts all of whom are right now as we speak either taking a meeting or getting a pedicure. And rather than adapting to NY and adopting the greatest city in the world as his home Lavin wanted to transplant his vacuous west coast lifestyle here. You could see it in the big things – the pop psychology psycho twaddle , the star fucking, the insouciance – and in the little things – giving preference to west coast walk-ons as opposed to local talent and scheduling pre-season cupcakes from Northern California rather than the menu of local delicacies that Louie feasted on for lo those many years. The bottom line is that not only was Lavin not one of us but that he did not care to be one of us. He did not even like us. He was a tourist who looked down on the local peasants while all the while frequenting the local whorehouse. Well, fuck Steve Lavin. Good bye and good riddance.


I broke the bad news to Missus Fun the other day: she’s back to number three. And maybe even number four. Because Saint John’s has hired Chris Mullin as its new head basketball coach. Obviously Mullin is to all of us Saint John’s fans an iconic figure: the greatest player bar none in school history, a NBA all-star, an Olympian, a member of the basketball hall of fame. And he was to fans of a certain age even more special because he was like us a local kid and he was, like us, slow, un-athletic, and probably most importantly, white. But to me there is something more. I am now an unpleasant curmudgeon who views the world with despair and disgust and on my good days, indifference. I do not expect anything to turn out right at all ever and in the main the only satisfaction I feel is when bad things happen to other people. But I was not always this way – not that I was ever a ray of sunshine – but there were times when I had, I don’t know, hope I guess. And one of the things I had hope about was Saint John’s and one of the things that gave me hope was Chris Mullin. It sounds stupid when you say it out loud, but fuck it, sports is stupid. I’m a Detroit Lion fan. I bet maiden claiming races at Aqueduct in February. Truth be told I filled out a Yahoo bracket that had Saint John’s beating Kentucky for the national championship. You know what they say: inside every cynic is a dead romantic. Chris Mullin means something and what he means is almost mythic or archetypal. There isn’t a god, but if there was and he played basketball, he’d wear number 20.

There was much to admire watching Chris Mullin conduct himself at Wednesday’s press conference. Leave aside the basketball – that he’s going to study and learn, that his team’s will be prepared and in shape, that he will relentlessly recruit in a city that despite all the nonsense from the naysayers still regularly produces some of the best college basketball players in the country; and that his players will represent the university with the dignity befitting its mission in the community. I have no doubt that Chris Mullin is going to succeed at the basketball end of it: he has never failed at basketball before. What was most striking was that there was evident in Mullin a love for his hometown; a reverence for the university and its traditions and the program and Lou; and a sense of personal honor and rectitude. But the single most telling thing was when Mullin said that he felt an obligation to take the job, that he owed a duty to those who had come before him and to those who would come after. Chris Mullin believes it is a privilege to coach at Saint John’s – in contrast to Steve Lavin, who thought Saint John’s lucky to have him as its coach. It might even have been that when Mullin spoke those words I teared up. Okay, I did. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t cry when his parents died. Although that might not be a fair comparison, because I don’t hate Chris Mullin. But you get the point.

So where does that leave us? Well, I guess I’m all in: I’m wearing rose-colored glasses and drinking Koolaid from a glass half-full. I asked randomly the other day: how the fuck am I going to make fun of Chris Mullin. And the answer is, I’m not. Evidently I’m going to have to find some new material.

In the pink colors:




March Sadness


And thus finishes the unfinished business: Saint John’s lost to San Diego State 76-64 Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament – that makes 12 of 24 first round losses for SJU since 1970 for those of you scoring at home. The loss marks the end of the careers of Lavin’s highly touted first recruiting class – a class that never won a BE conference tournament game, had only one post season victory, and until last night had never appeared in an NCAA tournament. In they came like lions and out they went like lambs … I find upon rising this morning that I took pretty copious notes the first half of the game, which is surprising: surprising because I started drinking martinis about noon yesterday so it seems unlikely that by 10 PM I’d be able to find a pen, much less hold one. But held one I must have. I’m not however much in the mood this morning to rehash it all and I suspect that visitors are not much in the mood to read it. So this bit will be brief … Things started off poorly when Rysheed Jordan got two quick fouls, about which more later. From there the first half was a game of runs: SJU was down 13 -6 at the 15 minute mark, then up 21-20 at the 9 minute mark, and then down 9 with 3 minutes left in the half – this last SDSU run led to nearly the first logical Steve Lavin TO of the year – and closed to 6 at the half. Much of SDSU’s offense came from SJU transfer Dwayne Polee, who banked in a couple of threes and had a four point play on another one. SDSU spurted away at the beginning of the second half – the lead was 12 after two minutes – and SJU never really got back within striking range. Every time they got close someone made a boneheaded play – either Jamal Branch threw a behind the back pass into the stands on a 3 on 1 break or Phil Greene dribbled the ball off his foot or somebody missed a layup. Saint John’s started fouling with about two minutes left and SDSU, which shot 60 percent from the FT line for the year, made them: their last 10 points came from the FT line, where they were 10 for 14, having gone 7 for 16 the previous 38 minutes. And that was that … The numbers that jump out are SJU’s three point shooting – they were 3 for 17 – and the rebound differential – 40 to 32 SDSU. It didn’t help that SDSU shot 40 percent from 3 – versus 30 percent from the year – and as usual SJU’s defense turned some big white doofus into Reggie Miller: the great Matt Shrigley had 12 points on 4 for 5 shooting from three, only the fourth time this year he’s scored in double figures … Lavin seemed genuinely upset – he seemed almost human – during the postgame presser but not so upset that he refrained from trotting out his usual litany of excuses: he mentioned his prostrate; he mentioned Cap. But he also came up with some new ones, saying at one point that things might have turned out differently had Maurice Harkless and Jakarr Sampson not opted for the NBA. He even mentioned Amir Garett several times. I mean, why not Nurideen Lindsey or Max Hooper? Oddly the one name he didn’t mention was Polee, who drove a stake through his heart. Lavin referred to this season as both a “special ride,” which I don’t see what was so special about losing your last three games by a combined 66 points, and called his team a “tenacious group who would not be denied,” which is odd, since they just had been denied with extreme prejudice.

PLAYERS: Dom Pointer was magnificent for the first ten minutes, at which point he fell down and didn’t get up. He finished his amazing senior year with yet another double double: 21 points and 10 rebounds. It’s a shame he can’t shoot, because with his motor he could be an NBA player… As he has for four years Harrison left it all on the floor. He cried when he fouled out and I might have misted up as well – I don’t remember though, as I said I was pretty faced by then. He was remarkably poised in the postgame press conference, gracious, and eloquent even. Despite the difficulties he labored under (his family situation and being coached by a numbskull) he had a remarkable career and I, we, were lucky to have seen him have it … Jordan collected 2 fouls in the first minute and a half and sat for the next 18 and a half minutes. Which was really quite astounding considering the circumstances. Lavin as much as blamed the loss on Jordan, calling his second foul “the turning point in the game,” which became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because if Lavin had put him back in at some point in the first half he wouldn’t have been not playing. It’s hard to believe that a different coach – a coach who was trying to win instead of trying not to lose – would have sat his most talented player for half the game. Lavin said in the postgame press conference that he “might have” put Jordan back in had SDSU’s lead gone to “double digits, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen” but that he was worried that RJ would get “a third or a fourth and end up fouling out when we needed him down the stretch.” Which is typical numbskullery. So instead he saved him and had him at the end when the game was already lost. You have to think that last night was the last time we’ll see Jordan in a SJU uniform. Too bad. … On the biggest day of his basketball life and the biggest stage of his career, Phil “Big Shot” Greene came up small: 9 points on 4 of 11 shooting and 1 for 4 from three. In the last three games of his college BB career – Nova, the BE tournament, and the NCAA tournament – Greene was 12 for 30 from the floor with 3 assists, 8 rebounds. He had a great three minutes the first week in December. Whoop de fucking do. Good luck in China Phil. Now get out … I’d say that Jamal Branch should also not let the door hit him on the way out, but if it did he’d probably suffer a compound fracture and I’m not that vindictive … Collectively the bench played 23 minutes: they scored no points, collected one rebound, had no assists, and blocked no shots. Get used to that stat line, because those guys are next year’s starting five … Steve Lavin said of Chris Obekpa: “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he doesn’t return to Saint John’s.” That’s not too optimistic for a guy whose favorite pastime is putting lipstick on pigs

NOTES: I wrote a bit in the tournament preview about siting oddities and in regards to that no team got buggered harder than Providence, a six seed, which got play-in winner Dayton 80 miles from the latter’s home floor in Ohio. (Dayton was doubly blessed: their play-in game was in Dayton.) Predictably things did not go well, and you don’t have to look farther than the free throw differential – Dayton shot 30 free throws to PU’s seven – to see the effect that a home court advantage can have. The only other team that got screwed as badly by the committee was Georgetown. Say, what do Ed Cooley and JT3 have in common? That’s weird, huh? … After the first round the BE ended up 4-2, and most of those were laughers, except Texas put a bit of a scare into Butler, despite being coached by Rick Barnes. The teams I figured might lose won and the ones I figured to win lost, which seems about right … Basketball Mecca New York was oh and three the first round, although the two SUNY schools had tough draws and acquitted themselves reasonably well: their two losses were by a combined 15 points, versus SJU’s margin of 12 … So that’s that. One more basketball season closer to death and now the great sports desert looms. Sports-wise there’s essentially two and a half minutes on the first Saturday in May that I care about and then nothing until November when this sad sack program rolls out the balls again. The worst thing about going out in the first round is that I can’t even watch college basketball anymore. Last night after the game I ended up watching curling. Sweep! … This may or may not be the last thing I write this year. I don’t give much of a shit about recruiting and don’t see Lavin getting fired – Norm was given more of a chance to fail – so there’s nothing much to say. Perhaps I’ll crank out a season autopsy, who knows. Thanks to those of you who read and especially those readers who took the time to email helpful suggestions, such as that I should be funnier, and more interesting, and not use so many big words. Rest assured I’m going to work on that stuff during the off season.







Chronic Fatigue


Many of you have emailed asking for help in filling out your brackets and my prediction for Friday night’s game specifically. In the old days I’d have figured out a way that Saint John’s would be playing for the national championship and filled out my bracket accordingly. That system was abandoned in 1992, when Saint John’s lost to Tulane in the first round. I thereafter developed a second system, called System Number Two, which involved Saint John’s going out in the first weekend. Although there’s been only a small test sample, this second theory has shown an 80 percent success rate. Astute fans will take that to the bank.

Regarding this year’s first round game, I’m sort of at a loss, having not seen San Diego State play this year. Or perhaps ever. I have however over the years developed a system I use to evaluate tournament games which involves scientifically analyzing important parameters, statistics, and intangibles, viz:


Statistically the teams are nearly identical.


Rebound                    35.4 / 35.2
Assists                        12.6 / 10.6
FG %                             .44 / .42
3 point                         .35 / .32
Blocks                         6.5 / 5.0
Steals                          7.5 / 6.9
FT                                  .69 / .62

The only significant difference is in points scored and allowed.

Pts scored             71.2 / 61.8
Pts allowed          67.6 / 53.1

SJU +4

Saint John’s is better offensively, SDSU defensively. On the one hand, defense wins championships. On the other, the best defense is a good offense.



SDSU is coached by Steve Fisher, who won a national championship as an interim coach at Michigan and followed that up by recruiting the Fab Five. He was 109-79 at MU all told, made the NCAA championship game three times and won the whole thing once; he also won an NIT championship. (Caveat: many of those wins were vacated.) At SDSU he’s 338-183 total and has made the tournament 6 out of the last 7 years, including the Sweet 16 twice. Whereas Saint John’s is coached by Steve Lavin, who’s a chowderhead.



SDSU’s mascot is the Aztec, so called after a group of fearsome Native American warriors whose empire dominated Mesoamerica until Cortez came along and infected them all with smallpox. Among their many eccentricities the Aztecs sacrificed humans to appease their god of war Huitzilopochtl (literally “left handed hummingbird”). This they did by cutting open the chest of their victim and removing the heart, which was burned; afterwards the body was eaten. Much like the Saint John’s late Redman the Aztec has been a figure of some controversy: as late as last fall a group of humorless numbskulls who call themselves the SDSU Queer People of Color Collective (SDSUQPCC) – something of a circumscribed fraternity for a group that argues for greater social inclusiveness – demanded that the Aztec be replaced by something less inappropriate. Probably a unicorn or a rainbow or something. On the other hand Saint John’s mascot is a horse named after a weather pattern. Which makes no sense at all. In any event, an Aztec could beat the shit out of a horse.



The game is in Charlotte, which means SDSU is travelling across the country and three times zones. On the other hand the game’s at 10 PM, which is 7 PM in California. Saint John’s is playing in its own time zone, but at the ungodly hour of 10 pm, when most of them would normally be baked. Saint John’s was 4-6 on the road this year and SDSU 6-5.



I haven’t seen SDSU play but I’ve suffered through a bunch of SJU games and Saint John’s has issues. They have no size, they have no depth, and the players they do have are dinged up. Plus, one of them is Jamal Branch. They don’t rebound. They play down to their opponents and have phoned it in in big spots in the past. They’re prone to droughts offensively. They have no tournament experience and might just be happy to be there. On the plus side they’re seniors, which is good, and the seniors are guards, even better, and in Harrison they have a player capable of carrying them. SDSU on the other hand is big across the front, they’re deep, they have tournament experience, and a bunch of upperclassmen.


Tournament History



Coolest alumni

SDSU: Gregory Peck. Played Captain Ahab and banged Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren.

SJU: Bill Casey. Worked for Wild Bill Donovan to defeat the Nazis, ran the CIA, and lent a hand in destroying the Soviet Union before dying a timely death of a mysterious brain tumor while under congressional subpoena for allegedly masterminding the funding of the Contras.


Chemical Enhancements

SDSU: San Diego is right across the border from Tijuana. ‘Nuff said.

SJU: Saint John’s has one of the top pharmacy schools in the country. It stands to reason they have access to high grade pharmaceuticals.


Dwayne Polee

In his last year at SJU, Polee averaged 4.4 points 2.5 rebounds .6 assists

In his last year at SDSU, Polee averaged 7.6 points 2.5 rebounds .9 assists


Chris Obekpa

Lavin described losing Obekpa as “less than ideal” but also said that playing small will be to Saint John’s advantage. Which of course he’d say, because he’s an imbecile.


Outcome: Expect a low scoring ugly basketball game. Based upon Saint John’s abysmal performance coming into the tournament over the past several weeks and their well-publicized off the court problems I would not be at all surprised to see them win. But because they’re Saint John’s, I would not be at all surprised to see them lose. My heart says Saint John’s but my system says SDSU, five advantages to two and three ties. I don’t particularly like the pick but you can’t argue with science. On the bright side this is the classic anti-woof pick and also a hedge: if they win I’m happy because We Are Saint John’s and if they lose I get the satisfaction of being having been right. Win win. Neither of these teams will get past DoOk – once again playing in their own backyard, surprise – so it’s a moot point anyway.

NOTES: This is only Saint John’s third appearance in the tournament this century. They are oh and two, having lost to Gonzaga and Wisconsin. Saint John’s last victory in the tournament was as a two seed: they defeated Northern Arizona (the game was in Tuscon, 2 hours from the UNA campus and 2400 miles from Jamaica) 61-56, led by Bootsy Thornton’s 20 points, before losing in the second round 82-76 to Gonzaga; first game hero Bootsy Thornton shot 3 for 13 from the floor and 1 for 8 from 3 … Going back to 1970, Saint John’s tournament record:

Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost first Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost Second Round
Lost first Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Second Round
Lost National Semi
Lost first Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost Second Round
Lost Second Round
Lost Regional Final
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round
Lost first Round

That’s 11 first round defeats in 23 attempts, which is perhaps Louie’s most impressive accomplishment … As noted above, DeWk has once again been awarded a first round home game.  Because why shouldn’t they have every advantage: they are, after all, white. Here’s this year’s seeds, sitings, and travel distance:

(1) Kentucky – Louisville (78 miles)
(1) Duke – Charlotte (141 miles)
Kansas – Omaha (189 miles)
Virginia – Charlotte (270 miles)
Gonzaga – Seattle (281 miles)
(1) Villanova – Pittsburgh (305 miles)
(1) Wisconsin – Omaha (429 miles)
Arizona – Portland (1449 miles)

Kentucky, a number one seed is playing an hour away from their home court. Fair enough. But Wisconsin, also a one seed, is playing twice as far away from their home floor as is Kansas, a two. Arizona, a two, is playing as far away from their home floor as would be Virginia, also a two, if Virginia was playing in Montreal. This may seem a small thing but in 1970 Saint John’s own Al McGuire, then at Marquette, turned down an NCAA tournament bid after being sent to Texas rather than to the Midwest regional. He went to and won the NIT instead, beating in the final, wait for it, Saint John’s, despite 15 points and 17 rebounds from Billy Paultz … Speaking of Kentucky, there have been seven undefeated D-I basketball champions in NCAA history: San Francisco (1956), North Carolina (1957), UCLA (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973), and Indiana (1976)  … And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. My guesses:

Big East: You can’t go wrong drawing a line through Georgetown when filling out your NCAA bracket. This year they’re playing Eastern Washington University, in Portland. (This is in in the south regional incidentally. A team from DC playing a team from Washington State in Oregon. Because why not.) JT3 has done less with more than anyone since Jayne Mansfield … Xavier. Not impressed and would not be surprised to see them bounced by Ole Miss, if they can find a way to neutralize Stainbrook. I recommend Twinkies  … Butler. Ditto, they’re midgets. On the bright side they’re facing Rick Barnes, who sucks … Providence I could see playing in week two and maybe after that, because Kris Dunn is the best player in the country.

Sleeper pick: SMU. Larry Brown. NIT champions. A bunch of seniors and an aircraft carrier in the middle.

Final Four: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Villanova and because I am congenitally unable to have DoOk advance too far, Utah.

Final final: Kentucky 82 – Villanova 73

Why even play the games.




RECAP: Defending champion Providence University took the first incremental or baby step up the mountain or incline towards defending their BET title by humiliating or mortifying Saint John’s 74-57 on Saint John’s home court Thursday afternoon. The bad news is that Saint John’s has had the shit kicked out them two games in a row. The good news is that said kicking of shit doesn’t really matter much: they’re still getting their name called selection Sunday and they’re still a middling seed. All that matters now is the draw and it couldn’t have changed all that much despite how badly they were beaten. How poorly they played may well be another matter, but fortunately they have master motivator Steve Lavin on the sidelines to sort all of that out .. Saint John’s was ahead 7-0 and cruising towards a blow out when the floor caved in. Or the roof. Or when the sky fell. Choose your own metaphor, it’s fun. At about the 16 minute mark Providence stopped dribbling the ball off their own feet and throwing the ball out of bounds and started playing basketball and Saint John’s obliged them by stopping. Instead Saint John’s started missing their shots, all of them, and not by a little either, by an enormous amount: by rough count a third of their shots over the next 10 minutes were air balls, which resulted in a 30-6 PU run and a 13 point halftime lead. And if it hadn’t been for the referees it might have been much worse. (Many of those calls were by Pat Driscoll, who if he isn’t already on the SJU payroll, might be looking for a paycheck. He’s awful. Nice hair though.) After a rousing halftime speech by Steve Lavin a newly energized Jamal Branch kicked the ball out of bounds on SJU’s first possession and it was downhill from there. Saint John’s made a couple of mini-runs to get it within 9 or so but invariably they made some boneheaded play that allowed PU to spurt away again. In the long run this loss – despite its proportions – might have been the best thing that could have happened: at least now they can rest up and get their heads right. The rumor is that they play their best basketball with their back to the wall. As tenor baritone soprano bass alto sax player Charlie Parker once said, now’s the time … Steve hammer-to-rock play-your-best-basketball-in March Lavin is now 1-4 in the BET at SJU, 1-2 in the NIT and 0-1 in the NCAA, for a grand total of 2-7 in the post season. To that extent he is a worthy heir to Louie and is rapidly becoming part of the great SJU coaching tradition … So what does this all mean looking ahead? Who knows. Ever the contrarian I’d rather go into the NCAA tournament having lost two games by a combined total of 52 points, as has Saint John’s, than having won two games by 72, as has Villanova, or being undefeated, as is Kentucky. For me the prognosis remains unchanged. Saint John’s is not a team I’d want to play in the tournament and they’re just as likely to get bounced in the first round as they are to make the round of sixteen. As a lifelong SJU fan if I had to bet I’d bet on the first round bounce, but on the bright side if you have no expectations you’re never disappointed.

PLAYERS: Jordan gets the game ball by default – besides Joey De La Rosa he was about the only player who showed up. To the extent that they were ever in it he kept them there: 18 points, most of those from the free throw line. And to the extent that the game was entertaining it was entertaining to the extent of watching he and Kris Dunn – who’s already too good to be playing college basketball, good grief – trading punches briefly in the second half. I’ve been saying for a while now that this team is only going to go as far as Jordan takes them. If I’m right – and let’s face it I usually am – they’re not going to go very far … Joey De La Rosa got a couple of rebounds and a couple of points and even a block. It’s just a shame he’s not a freshman, he might be a player in two or three years … Oh dear, the rest of them … Harrison was off early and you could see that it got in his head. He’s 9 for 32 over the past two years in the BET. Hopefully he gets straight and goes out on a good note. On the bright side he was named to the all BE first team again this week, joining only Marcus Hatten, Malik Sealy, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson as repeat SJU honorees … Phil Greene hit his first shot and then commenced a relentless attempt to shatter the backboard with a variety of thunderous misses, several of which avoided the rim entirely. Never fear though he got his mojo back in garbage time by nailing two threes to cut PU’s lead to 18 with 4 minutes left. No doubt he and his girlfriend flashed backed to his heroics in Syracuse several months ago, at least until a resounding CLANK awoke them from their twin reveries. Finished 3 for 9 and 2 for 7 from three. In a game where 40 personal fouls were called Greene managed none, which seems remarkable until you remember that he doesn’t bother to play defense .. Jamal Branch started. By the 14 minute mark he’d displayed his entire skill set: he’d thrown several pointless no look passes, committed several fouls near the midcourt line and dribbled the ball off his foot … Obekpa fouled out and grinned inappropriately when it happened … Pointer fouled out but kept his amusement to himself … The box score says that Albivivocvic had zero fouls, which must be a misprint. He commits three in the run way before the game … Balamou curiously absent

NOTES: It’s late in the season and there’s not a lot to say without repeating myself. Donnie Marshall was his usual awful self. The other guy was worse. Tarik Turner was described in a Fox graphic as having “led Saint John’s to 1998 NCAA tournament,” which is like saying that Phillipe Petain led France to a victory in World War II (H/T Desco) … I’ve got nothing else except a note about the late Jimmy Walker, who Ladonte Henton passed this afternoon on the PU all-time scoring list this. Walker – who fathered and then deserted his bastard son Jalen Rose – scored his 2045 points in three seasons and that without the 3 point shot. As a senior in 1967 he led the nation in scoring, averaging more than 30 points a game. He was the number one draft pick in the NBA draft, ahead of Earl Monroe (2), Saint John’s own Sonny Dove (4), Walt Frazier (5), Pat Riley (7), the amazing Mel Daniels (9) and even Phil Jackson (17). (Interestingly three of those players – Frazier, Monroe and Jackson played in Division II). I’m a great believer in statistics as a measure of player performance but here’s one where they lie: Henton is not worthy to carry Jimmy Walker’s jockstrap … Don’t be sad Saint John’s fans, do the Hucklebuck: