Duck Fuke

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I amn’t one for moral victories, especially for a team that has now dropped five  of their last seven since being ranked 15th in the country. But if you had to have one Saint John’s 77-68 loss to DooK on Sunday afternoon was as good a time as any. For DoOK this was a classic trap game – a road game after a weekend frolic in Manhattan on a national stage at the world’s most famous arena, going for the coach’s historic 1000th victory with three games against top 10 teams looming on the horizon; whereas Saint John’s was playing with house money: an OOC game they were not expected to win against the # 5 team in the nation and with their best player hobbled. That they did not fold like a cheap house of cards is shocking, because I thought this would be a blood bath. Instead it turned out to be an entertaining affair and an eminently winnable game. (Never again will I doubt the smart money, which had the line at about eight. I would have given 18.) DooK went out to an early 11 point lead and seemed to be on the verge of making it a laugher when after a judicious Steve Lavin time out – that in itself rarer than a can of dandelion – Saint John’s not only regained its composure but outplayed, outmanned and out toughed its way to the lead, behind the play of Rysheed Jordan, who played perhaps the best half of his career, and Dom Pointer, who threw up his usual array of wild and off balance prayers, most of which were for a change answered. The two combined for 29 of Saint John’s first 41 points, most of them in transition. And in fact despite their woeful start Saint John’s took a 4-point lead into the locker room when Harrison’s NBA three after the buzzer was allowed despite clearly leaving his hands too late, regarding which expect a rule change regarding reviewability of same in the off-season. Saint John’s extended its lead to 10 before the wheels fell off, which falling off coincided with the entry into the game of Mason Miles Marshall Plumlee, the sort of uncoordinated white doofus who Mike Shrewshrenski has over the years molded into a halfway competent basketball players. This is now the fifth or sixth time in a row that Saint John’s has blown a sizeable second half lead, which once again I am forced to credit to the opposing staff’s second half adjustments, although I’d be at a loss to tell you what they were. DeWk ended the game on a 26-7 run and when the Saint John’s players walked off the court with 15 seconds left to the roar of “Let’s Go Duke” they were at least left with the satisfaction of having left it all on the court. The question for Saint John’s fans is: did SJU play up to their competition or did DoOk play down to theirs … By the numbers it was as usual: Saint John’s shot a mediocre 40 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three, and 60 percent from the free throw line; they were out rebounded by 10 and managed only 11 assists in 60 possessions. Dewk did not fare much better – 45 / 36 / 66 – but they made theirs when it counted, included a string of three point plays in the last 5 minutes which sealed the deal. Up next a road game against last place Creighton, which like more or less every game on the schedule is now a must win … Earlier in the week Lavin claimed that Ksyzsynsky was his “mentor and advisor” and today in the pregame that he was his “coaching idol.” To honor him – and perhaps not to distract from the festivities by dressing like Bozo – Lavin wore a shirt with a collar. I was chagrined to learn that as a tad Lavin had sent Krsyxzshinki fan mail of the sort that teenage girls send to Justin Bieber and even more so to learn that Lavin had kept the reply and was willing to share it with Fox Sports. If a narcissist like Lavin were capable of embarrassment he might have been, but that’s okay, I’m embarrassed enough for both of us. Regarding his coaching there is not much to say except that he kept out of his own way, playing only five guys most of the way and judiciously using his time outs in an attempt to staunch the second half bleeding. The conundrum with Lavin is that even if he calls his time outs at the proper juncture he doesn’t really have anything to say that’s worth listening to.

PLAYERS: I’m starting to get the whole Batman thing, because Pointer was once again a wrecking ball: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals. It’s a shame he doesn’t have another year of eligibility because he’s playing like a first round pick. In 2016 … Rysheed Jordan continued the stellar play he has displayed since returning from Philadelphia. 18 point and 4 assists … Phil Greene had 13 points but it took him 12 shots to get there, including a less than stellar 1 for 5 from three. As usual he contributed little else: 1 rebound and no assists in about 40 minutes … Harrison had 12 but is clearly suffering the effects of whatever disability under which he’s laboring … Obekpa had 11 rebounds and played adequate defense against the future #1 NBA draft pick, but was clearly outmanned … Joey De La Rosa spelled CO in the first half and immediately after entering made his presence known by punching Amile Jefferson in the face and standing over his opponent like Ali over Sonny Liston. He left and did not return … Similarly Jamal Branch entered in the first half and after turning the ball over by tripping over his own feet leading to a dunk at the other end was barely seen again. It’s a shame he’s so awful, they could have used another body.

NOTES: Saint John’s fans with functional cerebral cortices long ago realized that Steve Lavin knows so little about x’s and o’s that he would be in danger of breaking a bone playing a game of tic tac toe. And yet he has defenders who say that his obvious incompetence is of no matter – that coaching and strategy can only go so far and that it is the player who makes the coach, not vice versa. To those dopes I present exhibit A in opposition, Mike Screwshrnecky, pictured below instructing his current team at a recent practice.

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As much as it galls me to admit it Kryzwsyzski is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport. Every year he takes a group of slow, white, unathletic, pasty-faced ballerinas – nothings like Cherokee Parks, Shavlik Randolph, Steve Wojowojhowski, Josh McRoberts, Brain Zoubek, Kyle Singler – and turns them into contenders for the national championship. If you think that hyperbole, consider: more Deuk graduates have had their NBA careers end in drunk driving accidents than have had successful NBA careers. And yet year after year Kryzchrznski has them in the top 10. How does he do it? First, he’s evolved a diabolical system and recruits players to fit it. His offense relies on college hoops great equalizer, the three point shot, while his extended defense is intended to deny his opponents the same boon. Second, he uses the sycophancy of the college basketball hierarchy and his lickspittles in the media to foster an atmosphere in which he is given every advantage. On the court DeWk guards are expert at warding off defenders with one hand while simultaneously palming the ball with the other, yet are never called for either offense; DeWk big men spend enough time in the lane to grow roots and are never called for three seconds; and even the most cursory CBB fan is aware of the propensity of dEwK players to feign contact and flop to the ground tweet offensive foul high five dOok basketball.

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Off the court recruiting violations that would have other coaches banished from the game – like finding cushy high paying jobs for the unqualified parents of recruits like Chris Duhon and Carlos Boozer or the delivery of giant bags of cash to Corey Magette by convicted crack dealer Myron Piggie – are swept under the rug to preserve the halo of integrity that surrounds the Blue Devils. This regime is enforced by Coach K-hrist himself, who in game is a beady eyed whirling dervish, hurling at the officials a torrent of the most foul and pernicious abuse that can be heard outside of a prison shower, for which he is never, ever, given a technical. And yet despite all these advantages he is also a careful strategist, controlling tempo and judiciously managing the clock and his personnel. He is, in fact, a genius, and for those who say coaching doesn’t matter I say: explain all those rings on Shrewshreki’s paws … This year’s DooK team is an anomaly in at least one respect, viz.: usually it’s pretty apparent which smug Ivy league wannabe is most deserving of a swift punch in the face or a vicious boot to the groin. In the glory years – and dOoK actually had them, as opposed to this fraud of a program – the most hated player in college basketball was the appalling Christian Laettner, shown here receiving his just reward from Phil Sellers

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Following Laettner there was universally reviled poet laureate Jonathon Clay “Gay Gay” Reddick, who penned these immortal lines, once the subject of an unctuous ESPN special

No bandage can cover my scars
It’s hard living a life behind invisible bars
Searching for the face of God
I’m only inspired by the poems of Nas

Facing the forecast of fears
that none of my peers
have ever been faced with
I wanna reach the top floor
but I’m stuck in the basement
With not enough juice
to burst through the chains
that have shackled my brain

As Oscar Wilde said of The Olde Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read of the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears of laughter.” A few years later no one would have batted an eye had you ground a fistful of glass into the face of the insufferable Jon Scheyer and had you broken several of Greg Paulus’s fingers with a garlic press spectators would likely have broken in a hearty round of spontaneous applause. This year though there’s really no one who inspires that sort of hate, although that just might be that I no longer watch much college BB besides SJU, and that barely qualifies. And don’t even get me started on their fans, the highlight of whose college life is drinking a six-pack of Zima and painting each other’s nipples blue while camping outside Cameron Indoor Stadium so as to get seats close enough to the DooK bench to be able to bask in the intoxicating aroma wafting from Tyus Jone’s sweaty balls. They are a hideous crew, the boys acned refugees from a Dungeons & Dragons convention and the girls cellulite ridden prematurely aged milk-fed hausfraus in waiting ….

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If all that wasn’t enough Duke was founded by Washington Duke, a slave owner who after serving the Confederacy in what dewK grads still refer to as the War Between the States made his fortune creating a monopoly in tobacco, thereby consigning millions of innocents to horrible and agonizing deaths from cancer. Not surprisingly Duke alumni comprise a conga line of the worst and most pompous and self-righteous douche bags in public life, the worst of whom include: Charlie Rose, Dan Abrams, Judy Woodruff, Henry Hyde, Ron Paul, Eleanor Smeal, Emmett Grogan, William Kennedy Smith, Tucker Max, Seth Davis, John Feinstein, Melissa Harris-Perry, John Seigenthaler and Richard Nixon … And just to show that it’s not just me, because let’s face it I hate everyone,  this, which never gets tired:

 

Carlino’s Way

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RECAP: Saint John’s snuck away with a 60-57 win Wednesday night versus Marquette University in the battle for eighth place in the Big East. To the extent that they have any post season hopes the win kept them alive, but even the most optimistic rose colored glasses wearing gee this shit sandwich is delicious Saint John’s fan cannot at this point have any wildest hopes and dreams beyond a tournament bid and a first round loss. Which is where we are halfway through year 5 of the Lavin regime: hoping to catch enough breaks to be on the right side of the bubble. Question: if Lavin can’t win with a group of seniors that comprised the third ranked recruiting class in the country, what can he win with … The game had the stench of a blow out early. Marquette looked surprised by SJ’s quickness and athleticism and repeatedly turned the ball over and missed nearly every shot they took and could not buy a rebound. An early time out from floor-slapping dope Steve “Wojo” Wojowojowitz roused them from their torpor and they raised their level of incompetence to the level of incompetence that Saint John’s was displaying, which led to the sort of exciting game that can result when two awful teams meet. Like if a team of blind players faced off against a team of quadriplegics, you wouldn’t see much good basketball, but the game would nonetheless be pretty entertaining. Which at this point is all realistic SJU fans can hope for: if they’re not going to be successful at least they should be interesting … Regarding the game and depending on your perspective, both teams either played stellar defense or sucked on offense. Regardless, it was ugly. MU shot 30 percent from the floor and from three and SJU shot 35 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three. Rebounds, assists, free throws, turnovers all about even. Except for the basketball IQ of their coaches these were two evenly matched teams: both of them stink and one of them had to lose. On the bright side the referees let them play, advantage Saint John’s. If it wasn’t a felony they didn’t call a foul which negated SJU’s lack of a bench and despite 13 blocks nary a goaltending was called, which if you’ve watched Pointer and Obekpa block shots this year you know is a mathematical impossibility. Still, it’s a win and like Lavin said in the post-game, sometimes you just need to have a good day. This team especially needed to have a good day, considering the media hoopla that’s going to ensue come Saturday when ratface wins his 1000th game by beating the shit out of them at the Madison Square. Because that’s going to be a bloodbath.

PLAYERS: Dom Pointer had a remarkable game of the sort he sometimes has when he’s the most athletic player on the court: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks and 6 assists. Last night he really was Batman. During the game Tarik Turner noted that Lavin had called Dom Pointer “the smartest player I’ve ever coached,” which is one of the stupider things Lavin has ever said and of a piece with calling Marco Bourgault the best shooter he’s ever coached or Rysheed Jordan the best passer. Because Dom Pointer is a lot of things but smart is not one of them … Another steady performance from Jordan. Fifteen points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists. To the extent that this team has any hope it rests on his shoulders … Harrison was 3 for 18 from the field but iced the game with two free throws late. I’m assuming there’s still some lingering effects from his calf … Speaking of dumb, in a recent gambol I noted that Phil Greene is among the stupidest players to ever wear a Saint John’s uniform. Last night, with 10 seconds left in the game and SJU up one, Greene received a pass ahead of the MU press and instead of dribbling the ball around the front court to use up precious seconds that would have insured the victory, Greene streaked to the basket and dunked, putting Marquette in a position to tie the game, which they nearly did, except Carlino back rimmed it … I’ve been encouraged by Chris Obekpa’s play of late, and when I say encouraged I mean that he’s been playing so poorly that I think it’s possible that he doesn’t declare for the draft and returns for his junior year. Last night was no exception … Has Jamal Branch ever thrown a pass where he looks at the guy he’s passing to? We get Jamal, you can throw a no look pass. Too bad you can’t do anything else… newly minted sixth man Amir Albaviovich managed 4 fouls in 6 minutes in the first half. I’ve seen more graceful golems.

NOTES: We’ve not seen Tarik Turner in about a month and to cut through all the suspense it turns out he’s still a blabbermouth. The problem is not just that Turner feels the need to pontificate about each possession as if he’s describing a new life form that he’s just witnessed spontaneously generate from the primordial ooze. It’s that everything observation he makes occurs in a vacuum. For example, on one possession with SJU up 8 in the first half Tarik noted that despite their lead Saint John’s was settling for threes and that they should move the ball. Fair enough Tarik, they were and moving the ball is always a good idea. But then on the very next possession he said that MU had to tighten up their defense because Saint John’s was getting whatever shot they wanted. And then the next possession he said that SJU had settled for a three. I mean, what the hell. It’s like he wakes up from a coma after each change of possession with no memory of what has transpired before. Which I suppose not coincidentally is a lot like his play at point guard … Sometimes with this team I’m not sure whether I’m watching basketball or What Not To Wear. It may just be that when the basketball sucks there’s nothing else to talk about or perhaps all the fashion talk is a clever ruse by master manipulator Steve Lavin to take pressure off of himself and his team. Hence all the ridiculous sweat suit get-ups and the focus on the Obekpants ® and so forth. That would also explain the unveiling last night of new gray uniforms with red piping, which are hideous, and a new Lavin look, a polyester mock turtleneck under a suit with unlaced white sneakers, similarly atrocious. Question: why do the red storm no longer wear red? And what’s the significance of black and blue and gray? Is it an homage to elder abuse? … In the post -game interview Lavin mentioned that DoOk coach Mike Schrewshrenvki was a “mentor and advisor,” which I had not heard before. I knew about Lavin’s relationship with John Wooden, and Bobby Knight, and Pete Newell, and Gene Keady. Question: if Steve Lavin has such close and abiding relationships with so many hall of fame basketball coaches who have meant so much to him and taught him so much, how come he’s such a shit basketball coach? … Unlike Saint John’s Marquette has a pretty good track record coaching wise: before Wojo Buzz Williams (albeit currently 8-9 and 0-4 in the ACC at Va Tech), Tom Crean, Mike Deane, Rick Majerus and going back to Saint John’s graduate Al McGuire, who led Marquette to back to back final fours and a national championship in 1977. Here’s McGuire addressing an alumni group, circa 1972. Funny stuff:

 

 

 

Ru(e) (de)Paul

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Outside of buying several of my ex-girlfriend’s a six pack of Pabst, there are few sure things in life. One thing you can be pretty sure of though when you sit down to watch a SJU Depaul basketball game is that you are likely to see some of the worst college basketball of the year. And for 20 minutes this one was no exception: the first half of Sunday’s 71-67 overtime loss to second place Depaul was just about the worst half any two D1 teams have played all year. The result of the horror was that Saint John’s took a 10 point lead into the locker room, thanks to Depaul’s 13 turnovers, most of them of the dribble the ball off your foot throw the ball into the stands variety and atrocious 2 for 13 3-point shooting. Once again SJU was not able to hold their advantage – this is the fourth game in a row now that an opposing coach has eaten Lavin’s second half lunch by making half time adjustments, although I admit to having no idea what they were outside of perhaps sayings something like stop dribbling the ball off your foot and stop missing all your threes. On the other hand the second half was quite entertaining, other than the outcome obviously, which leaves Saint John’s mired in ninth place at 1 and 4 in conference. Anyone who thought that possible two weeks ago raise your hand and then bring them down repeatedly on your pants, which are on fire … Neither team performed well on the offensive end: for the game SJU shot 27 percent from the floor and 17 percent from three and Depaul meanwhile shot higher from three (35) from the floor (33). In the end the game came down to free throws: 60 fouls were called in all, 3 players fouled out, and 62 free throws taken. Those of you think that the free throw shot is the single most exciting play in college basketball and not an all an annoyance that slows the pace to a glacial crawl were probably on the edge of your seats. The other thing that made a difference was the DePaul press, which forced a bunch of turnovers and which I’m surprised everyone doesn’t do. Press and fall back into a zone, we’d probably not score another basket for the rest of the year … Coach Lavin once again wore a shirt with a collar, for which I take full credit. Unfortunately it gives me one less thing to whinge about. And in fact other than some strange substitutions – at one point he had 4 guards plus Jessica Albavogchavick out there – and a perplexing use of his last TO in regulation – after calling his penultimate one to set his defense up with 31 seconds left he spent his last one when that one expired – I don’t have much to whinge about the coaching either. For the most part Lavin keeping out of his own way is him out-coaching the other guy, even when the other guy coaching is Oliver Purnell … All of which leaves SJU at 1 and 4 and at the bottom of the league and the chances of turning things around become ever slimmer. On the bright side there’s nowhere to go but up and not a lot further down they can fall. Excelsior.

PLAYERS: Rysheed Jordan started his second game in a row and seems to have shaken off whatever funk he was in a couple of weeks ago. Seventeen points, 4 steals, 4 assists and two free clutch free throws to send the game into overtime … Phil Greene had 17 points as well but on 5 for 13 shooting. Considering his appalling past performances against hometown DePaul – in two of seven games he’s managed to get shut out – we should be grateful. Evidently a regular reader of this blog, which has spent the past two weeks haranguing him for his paucity of free throw attempts, Greene took the ball to the basket on more than one occasion and ended up six for six from the line … Harrison had 11 points, 7 of those from the free throw line. The announcers said he injured his calf in practice yesterday, and it showed … A good 16 minutes by Jasilionus II, who evidently is a basketball player, as has been rumored. It would not surprise me to see him start a game, as trying to catch lightning in a bottle is one of Lavin’s signature coaching moves. Some would say his only move, and by some I mean me … Obekpa got a ferocious rebound with 30 seconds to go in regulation and his put back made it a one-point game. To atone he missed the game winner in OT from 10 feet .. Pointer had 11 points but did little else before fouling out .. Jamal Branch is awful … Balamou got a minute or two … Two straight DNPs for Christian Jones, erstwhile replacement for Jakarr “+ x –“ Sampson.

NOTES: DePaul grads include mayor for life Richard Daley, keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the Doors, and actors Tom Bosley, Harvey Korman, Joe Mantegna, Karl Malden and John C. Reilly. Their hoop alumni comprise a pretty good starting five: Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, George Mikan, Quentin Richardson and Rod Strickland. DePaul was also the victor in one of the most horrifying losses in the pantheon of humiliating Saint John’s defeats. Let’s reminisce. It’s 1987. Depaul is 28-2, ranked 7th in the country, and is a three seed in the Midwest region. Saint John’s, the six seed, has squeaked by Wichita State in the first round 57-55. The game is for some reason on DePaul’s home court in Chicago. With 36 seconds left SJU is ahead by five, 67-62, this despite the referees having awarded DePaul twice as many free throws: of 25, they made 21 to Saint John’s 9. After an exchange of baskets and with Depaul down 4 with 12 seconds left, lunkhead Terry Bross fouled Dallas Comegys on a put back, making it 69-67. Instead of making the FT Comegys – contrary to the strategy devised in the huddle by his HOF coach Ray Meyer – attempted to miss the FT on purpose, a play that never works, unless, like Comegys, you violate the lane so egregiously that by the time the ball hits the rim you’re standing under the basket. It goes without saying that no violation was called and Comegys made the lay up. Tie score. Mark Jackson missed a pull up as time expired and DePaul went on to win in overtime. History repeats. It was really one of the worst losses ever, rivaled only by the Duke game the year before and whatever game it was where Mullin missed that free throw, either Penn or Temple, I CBA to check … The 87 SJ team included Jackson, porn mogul Willie Glass, the most overrated player in SJ history Matt Brust, Jasilionus prototype Marco Baldi, and Marcus Broadnax and Elander Lewis – one of whom got the scholarship that would have gone to Gary Payton if Louie wasn’t such a nimrod. Game goat Terry Bross went on to a brief 10 game career as a pitcher with the NY Mets before becoming a sports agent, in which profession he was a few years ago accused of pimping out a porn actress called Bibi Jones in an attempt to recruit clients. In an attempt to drive web traffic and to appease those critics who complain that I am tedious because I use too many words they don’t understand and not enough pictures that they might, here she is.

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Finally, speaking of whores, Greg Anthony, who broke the news of Steve Lavin’s hiring in 2010, was arrested over the weekend for cavorting with prostitutes. And not just any prostitutes either: a transgendered prostitute from Craig’s List. In case you are a Neanderthal CIS * like me, a transgender is a person who associates psychologically with a gender opposite to their genitalia. For example a female born with a vagina who thinks she should have been a guy named Dave or a guy named Dave born with a wiener who thinks he should have been born a lesbian. (As opposed to a transsexual, who’s one who skips all the Freud and just starts lopping off body parts on the theory that nature has put them there by mistake.) So presumably Anthony was looking to bang a guy in a dress. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Pictured below is his wife, who’s probably not coincidentally pretty much a dead ringer for Reggie Miller.

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* CIS are individuals who are born associating favorably with their genitals. That is, a male assigned male at birth – a guy with a penis who thinks he’s a guy – is a cis. In the old days these sort of people were considered normal and their opposites sideshow attractions. Nowadays everything is normal, lest someone’s feelings get hurt.

 

 

 

PU: The Sweet Stench of Success

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GAME: That explosion you did not hear last night was the sound of the Steve Lavin regime not imploding. Oh, it was close. Saint John’s oh and three in the Big East, on the road, a player down and a 17 point second half lead suddenly down to three. It was all about to come crashing down, because this was a loss they’d probably never have recovered from. This would have broken them. Even Harrison. But instead they gutted it out and came away with an 83-70 win at Providence Wednesday night. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that even taking into account all the edge of chair nail biting inherent in a relatively glorious victory in a must win game SJU is still only in 9th place and looking at a long climb to respectability. Fortunately for them (or us for those of we who prefer that) they’ve 6 of their next 8 against the weak sisters in conference, which gives them the chance to be mid pack come the middle of February, when as everyone knows Steve Lavin’s delicate genyious kicks in … There’s really only one thing you need to know about Wednesday’s game: Saint John’s shot a higher percentage from 3 (59) than Providence shot from the FT line (56). That’s a remarkable statistic and even more remarkable considering how awful Saint John’s is at shooting 3s: they’re at 33 percent for the year and if you take out Harrison they’re at 28 percent. Which is pretty appalling. Whereas last night they made 10 of 17. And meanwhile PU missed 11 free throws in seven-point game and nearly everything else they attempted too: they shot a storm-like 40 percent from the floor and 28 from three. All I can figure is that they were still hung over from their 2OT win over Georgetown over the weekend. Because they were flat and awful and even the usually raucous crowd was listless … Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Jamal Branch did not start. Ha! Just kidding, it’s that Steve Lavin wore a shirt. Who knows what happened. Perhaps he spilled gravy on his dress sweat suit at the pregame meal. Maybe his wife packed for him. Anyway he was dressed appropriately; in other words, Mrs. Fun’s, “he doesn’t look like a psychopath.” Which when you think about it is not a lot to ask for 2 million a year: don’t dress like Richard Speck, and try and win 1 and a half games for every one you lose. Expectations could not be lower. This is a fan base that would consider a first round NCAA tournament loss an enormous leap forward. But I digress. Yes, so Lavin wore a shirt with a collar and in fact if you take the repulsive deformations in the back of Ed Cooley’s head into consideration you could even say that Lavin was the most dapper head coach in the arena. Re the game he subbed appropriately and called at least one time out when I advised him to (that is, he called a time out shortly after I said “take a time out Tesla” to the TV screen) and didn’t cock anything up spectacularly, for which we can all this morning be grateful.

PLAYERS: Harrison had 20 and passed chucker Felipe Lopez on the all- time scoring list. It’s unlikely that he catches Sealy, and as far as 4-year careers go, third is a pretty appropriate place for him … Greene had 20 points, several of them important. But let me tell you something about Phil Greene. He’s a dumb basketball player. One of the dumbest I can remember in a while, and I remember Donald Emanuel and Jason Buchanan like it was yesterday. And because he’s dumb, among his other myriad faults is that he rarely takes a good shot. So even if he scores 20 points, which he does every once in a while, and even if he scores 20 points by taking fewer than 20 shots, rarer still, he’s still dumb, and he still stinks, and I still can’t wait till he gets the hell out. Here’s an interesting statistic about Phil Greene: last night he secured his FOURTH offensive rebound of the year, in over 500 minutes. (By way of contrast Balamou has 6 in 60 minutes.) You’d think you could stand at a random place on the court for 500 minutes and that a missed shot would land in your hands say every 120 minutes, but no, not PG4’s hands. Here’s another whopper: PG4 has attempted 21 FTs for the entire year. (By way of contrast Harrison has over a hundred in about the same minutes.) Here it is by the numbers, FTA per FGA.

DH .50
RJ .50
PG .16
DP .38
CO .58
JB .31

That means that for every 10 shots FG takes, he shoots 2 FTs. Good grief. So to recap, Phil Greene is awful but did not suck as much as usual last night … I have been an active participant on various SJU fan boards for a long time and during that time have learned a great deal about logic and rhetoric. Here’s the sort of syllogism I learned to construct during discussions with various basketball gurus and nostradamuses on those sites over the years:

Rysheed Jordan started.
Saint John’s won.
Therefore SJ won because Rysheed Jordan started.

Addition by subtraction. Try and disprove it, you can’t. … Jordan started because Branch “cut himself.” I think what probably happened is that Branch was overcome with shame at how poorly he plays basketball and attempted to commit hari kari but because he’s Jamal Branch he dropped the knife halfway through the procedure and inflicted only superficial wounds. Get well soon Jamal … I didn’t notice while it was happening but evidently Pointer had 18 points. Twelve of those were from the free throw line, which is 4 FTs fewer than Greene has made all year … In a performance sure to impress any NBA scouts in the audience watching LaDontae Henton, Chris Obekpa scored  2 points before fouling out in 23 minutes … Branch’s failed suicide attempt meant more minutes for the bench. Jasilionus II got most of them , 4 points, two rebounds; shot-a-phobic Balamou had two FG attempts, making one and blowing the other at the rim; JDLR showed little.

NOTES: The game was called by Liza Minelli John Stockton, formerly a respected broadcaster. Stockton was relatively coherent during the early part of the game but later on as it got past his bedtime he seemed to have a harder time keeping up. For example, towards the end of the game Vin Parise opined that SJ was doing a good job attacking the basket, rather than using up the shot clock in an attempt to not lose, to which Stockton replied to the effect that yes, SJ had every reason to be patient on each offensive possession. Which is fact the opposite of what Parise said. Probably they both were wrong. Anyway Dick, it’s over, get out … Another interesting cut in to a Lavin TO, where in we heard the Lavin tell his players to give them a little “salt and pepper.” I was disappointed that we did not see enough of the TO to get the full context. Was Lavin perhaps giving the injured Jamal Branch a recipe for some nice cacciatore he could make while convalescing? (Unlikely, as Branch is a vegan.) Was he describing to foreigner Alba Albavokiovich which hip hop trio is best for getting American women in the mood to push it real good? (I swear by the Geto Boys.) Personally I’d like to think he was telling them that they’[d be watching on the ride back to the city his favorite Rat Pack movie Salt and Pepper, in which Peter Lawford plays Chris Pepper and Sammy Davis Charlie Salt, two groovy nightclub owners in swinging 60s London who thwart a plot to overthrow her majesty’s government and get the girls. It’s a gas man … Speaking of the Geto Boys, it ain’t shit:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing Novation

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GAME: I’m not a big fan of 9 o’clock starts. My usual practice is to record the games and watch them later so that I can fast forward through the commentary and commercials but there’s no practical way to do that when the festivities start past my bedtime. Not to mention the difficulties inherent in regulating my body chemistry so that I’m awake and upright at the ungodly hour of 11 pm. Last night I was at least for my troubles rewarded with 30 minutes of entertaining basketball, which is unfortunate only to the extent that basketball games are 40 minutes long. Which is why this morning I am a tad crankier than usual and Saint John’s is oh and three in conference, in last place in the new Big East, and plummeting out of the top 25 with the force and velocity of a spaceship reentering the earth’s atmosphere. It must be a bitter pill to swallow for delusional Saint John’s fans who were two weeks ago clamoring for showdowns with DoOk and Kentucky… The loss itself was no surprise. Nova is ranked in the top 10 and has beaten Saint John’s 8 times in a row and 14 of the last 15. They also have about nine serviceable basketball players of varying sizes and skill sets, which I’m led to believe is an important part of winning basketball teams. Steve Lavin has a different strategy: he has assembled a small group of players of roughly the same size, some of whom have little or no skill at all. In spite of which seeming hardships Saint John’s last night led at halftime. However for the second game in a row the opposing coach has made the necessary halftime adjustments – don’t ask me what they were, personally I think halftime adjustments is a phrase rubes use to describe the outcome of a game they barely understand, but whatever – despite which adjustments Saint John’s kept it about even until the 12 minute mark, when Nova’s depth and skill started to wear SJU down, resulting in a 38-18 run to end the game. By the 10 minute mark Nova had a 7 point lead; at 8 minutes it was 11 and by 6 minutes it was 14. It was like watching a building crumble in slow motion. Even if Lavin had some vague idea of what to do to turn things around he lacked the bodies to do so, having taken a couple of years off recruiting and having anyway failed to develop those players he recruited …. Saint John’s shot respectably: nearly 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the line. But once again they did not share the ball – Nova had 22 assists to SJ’s eight – and they got absolutely killed on the glass, 40 to 20. I know that Steve Lavin said that “rebounding is the least important statistic in basketball” but it seemed to make a difference last night … Under normal circumstances you’d say it was a good loss, or at least not a bad loss, playing the number 8 team in the country to a draw more or less, except when you’re 0 and 2 there are no moral victories. So now oh and three, and up next Providence on the road and then first place DePaul on the road and then we’re oh and five just like last year but with the prospect of playing our best basketball in February, just like last year. Don’t worry, Lavin’s got them right where he wants them.

PLAYERS: Harrison carried the team on his back for 30 minutes despite having nearly broken his leg at the end of the first half and having his jaw busted about halfway through the second … Phil Greene was 6 for 14 from the floor and now has more field goal attempts than points, a statistic that would be mind boggling if you had never seen Phil Greene play basketball. Most of those 14 were off balance jumpers with one foot on the three point line and 32 seconds left on the shot clock: it’s like watching Michael Jordan try and take over a game after having suffered severe brain trauma. One of them he banked in and another couple he air-balled, which sort of consistency is one of the signs of a deadeye shooter. It was a strip of Greene with a couple of seconds left in the first half – he was attempting to go one on three at the time – that led to the breakout that left Harrison writhing under the basket holding his knee. Harrison had hustled back on D; Greene, not so much … Obekpa missed a dunk in the first half and then feigned injury as he trotted up court after the play, asking to be taken out of the game. Justice was served when he suffered an actual injury later … Pointer fouled out with 8 minutes to go. Before that he was engaged in an entertaining game of H-O-R-S-E … Rysheed Jordan return was shall we say  inauspicious. No field goals, three turnovers. It’s a shame we couldn’t have worked through these issues in the pre season. Oh well. On the bright side he made both his free throws, which improvement could be huge in a one and done tournament like the CBI … Jamal Branch did his usual little bit of nothing … Christian Jones played 10 minutes. Involved in a remarkable sequence where his would-be dunk was blocked on one end and then he raced down the court only to fall down, allowing the very guy who blocked his shot to dunk himself … Garbage minutes for the rest of them. Miles Stewart displayed nice form on his jump shot.

NOTES: The game was called professionally as usual by Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson, although this game it was Ed Corbett, not the repulsive Jim Burr, who Johnson called “one of the great referees in college basketball history.” Note to Gus: all referees suck. Halftime contributors included Dudley Do-Right clone Austin Croshere and Ben Howland, who has all the charisma of a pillar. I’ve seen more dynamic deadfall. There was though an interesting feature on Chris Obekpa’s pants in the pregame, which is I guess what you talk about when you’re in last place. It’s entirely possible that next year at this time when we tune in and Saint John’s is oh and three in the big east and in last place the studio host will be Steve Lavin, who having left SJU better off than he found it returns to the west coast and a lucrative gig at ESPN LA, where he can replace cancer victim Stuart Scott, who it won’t surprise you I hated, but, you know, RIP and whatever, but not as much as Neil Everett, who’s just the worst. …Speaking of many happy returns, Lou Carnesecca, 90 years young … Interesting exchange between Wright and Lavin during the post-game handshake. Lavin said something to which Wright replied “You’re fucking crazy.” Could have been anything really.

“What do you think of my suit”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

“I’m a good basketball coach.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

“Rebounding is unimportant.”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

 

Make up your own Lavin quotes. It’s fun for you and the entire family … I was casting about for something interesting to write about, and came upon Howard Porter. Porter was a three time All American at VU and most valuable player in the NCAA tournament his senior year, despite Villanova losing to UCLA in the finals. But when the ever vigilant NCAA discovered that Porter “had begun dealing with an agent before the season ended,” it was all VACATED. The run, the award, everything. Sure, any idiot could have googled that. But I noticed Porter died in 2007 and it turns out he was murdered and I thought oh, that’s too bad and then I Googled some more and found out that

“Former Villanova star and Ramsey County probation officer Howard Porter was trying to trade money and crack cocaine for sex with a prostitute when he was beaten to death, according to murder charges filed Tuesday against a St. Paul man … A prostitute … told police four masked men rushed in to her apartment and … beat Porter “real bad, God real bad” and that “there was blood everywhere.”

At which point I wished I’d stopped while you were ahead. Because that’s awful on a bunch of levels … Villanova lost the national championship game 68-62 to the Wicks/Rowe/Bibby version of UCLA. Whereas after Porter Villanova’s best player was the immortal Hank Siemiontkowski. Two teams had their appearances vacated in 1971, and oddly neither was called UCLA. The other was Western Kentucky, which was disqualified after it was discovered that Jim McDaniels had signed an ABA contract during his senior year. The contract was for $1.35 million, to be paid over the next 25 years. Does not seem fair: one point three million wouldn’t even pay Sam Gilbert’s bar tab.

You Rang?

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RECAP: I was for the lulz considering writing this entire essay without mentioning Rysheed Jordan once, but that wouldn’t have been fair to my loyal readers, who I know turn to me for solace in times of despair, so instead let’s get it out of the way up front. This is what happened: Lavin panicked after losing his first BE game of the season and precipitated a crisis that resulted in the suspension of his most talented player to provide him with an excuse for failing should the bottom fall out of the season. And that’s that. This episode is a repetition of the same abnormal behavior Lavin has displayed over the past five years and fits perfectly into the diagnosis of Lavin as suffering from histrionic personality disorder. Consider:

“high-functioning … good social skills … manipulates way into center of attention … inability to cope with losses or failures … dramatizes and exaggerates personal difficulties.”

Sound like anyone you know?

Those afflicted with HPS may exhibit:

* Exhibitionist behavior: e.g. wearing a sweatshirt under a pinstripe suit

* Inappropriate seductiveness: e.g. flirting with a host on a nationally televised sports show

* Using somatic symptoms or physical illness to garner attention, e.g. mentioning you have cancer at every opportunity

* Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are, e.g. asking John Wooden to be your best man

* Blaming personal failures or disappointments on others, e.g. scapegoating D’Angelo Harrison.

* Being easily influenced by others, especially those who treat them approvingly, e.g. claiming to be a “disciple” of Pete Newell

* Being overly dramatic and emotional, e.g. mentioning corpses, coffins and funerals during pregame interviews

They might as well put his picture in the DSM.

What all this means is that Lavin is more comfortable shifting the blame for losing than taking his chances on winning. Which, I remind, he “doesn’t feel an inordinate pressure to do” anyway. To think otherwise you have to believe that either Lavin (1) has a moral sense echelons higher than the average D1 coach, which you can believe if you’re a rube or (2) had the bad luck to randomly recruit highly regarded scholarship basketball players whose personality defects are so severe that they are unable to participate in an extracurricular collegiate activity that welcomes into its fold accused rapists like Jameis Winston and Dominic Artis. Look: I don’t doubt that Jordan is a prima donna. But aren’t all high-level college athletes prima donnas? Am I supposed to believe that Jordan’s behavior was so egregious that it warranted his not playing? No. It’s all psychodrama. What Lavin should have done with Jordan is what every other college coach does when he lands a top 20 recruit: give him the damn ball. Instead he waged psychological warfare against a stubborn teenager, which is what has brought us to this sorry state … In a perfect world I’d be saying here that Jordan’s absence didn’t make any difference in the outcome of today’s game, but in a perfect world my bong would have a vagina. In this world Jordan’s absence was critical to Saint John’s in the battle for last place in the Big East, which battle Saint John’s lost to Butler 73-69, dropping them two games behind DePaul in the Big East standings. That’s right, DePaul … Saint John’s came out strong, waned mid-half, and put together a run at the end of the half to take a 4 point lead into the locker room. Whatever halftime adjustments Butler made worked: they took the lead at the 16 minute mark and never looked back. In fact, if the referees hadn’t called a slew of touch fouls midway through the half that put SJU in the bonus, it wouldn’t have been as close as it was … By the numbers Saint John’s was its usual moribund self: 45 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three, 70 percent from the foul line, 10 assists and on the short end of the rebounding stick. Mostly the offense consisted of the defense. When it didn’t it consisted almost entirely of someone trying to make a play, and unfortunately for SJ it only has one play maker. So instead of Jordan selfishly taking the ball to the hole in an attempt to showcase his skills for the NBA, we had Dom Pointer selflessly taking threes and Phil Greene and Jamal Branch tripping over themselves as they unselfishly tried to beat their man off the dribble. None of which is a recipe for success … Next up Villanova, smarting from a tough beat at Seton Hall. A month ago an oh and three start would have been unthinkable. Now it looks almost inevitable. Contract extension anyone?

PLAYERS: Harrison had 31. Without Jordan he’s going to have a lot of 31s … Obekpa had 11 points 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. Once again trailed his teammates down court on a break after woofing under the opposing basket following a block. The first time he acts like that in the D league somebody’s going to slap that stupid grin right off his face … For pure entertainment value I am highly in favor of clearing out the side for Pointer on a dozen offensive trips. It does not however bold well for winning basketball … Green had 14 points on 6 for 10 shooting, including a meaningless dunk as time expired – that’d be seconds after he had the ball slip out of his hands on a three on Saint John’s previous possession. This is the first time since the Gonzaga game that Phil’s made more shots than he’s missed. Congratulations Phil … Fans who have been clamoring for more Jamal Branch got more Jamal Branch: 4 points, 3 turnovers, 2 assists. Fans who have not been clamoring for more Jamal Branch got indigestion … Three reserves had a total of one rebound and no points in a combined 15 minutes

NOTES: What’s below is a comparison of field goal attempts between last year’s team and this. FGA is number of attempts and the percentage that number comprises of the total. FG% is efficiency. So for example in the first row Harrison took 443 shots, which comprised 23 percent of the total, of which he made 38 percent.

2103          FGA            FG%

DH         443 = 23        .38
RJ           240 = .12       .42
PG         226 = .12       .40
DP        153 = .07         .44
CO          96 = .05          .56

JS            366 = .19         .50
OS          180 = .10        .51

2014

DH           173 = .23       .45
RJ             133 = .18       .44
PG           154 = .21        .38
DP           101 = .14        .55
CO           75 = .10          .46

Being replaced are JS and OS, who contributed 30 percent of the shot attempts and made 50 percent. The numbers show that:

* Pointer has doubled his attacks and improved his efficiency by a quarter.

* Harrison is taking the same number of shots and making them at a higher percentage.

* Jordan has increased his attacks by a third and his productivity marginally.

* Obekpa’s efficiency has dropped as his attacks have increase, which makes sense, as last year his baskets were put backs and dump offs whereas this year he looks for his shot

* Phil Greene is taking nearly twice as many shots this year as last and is marginally less efficiently than his usual marginal efficiency.

Can you spot the weak link?

… Butler alumni include Bobby Plump, the high school player upon whom Jimmy Chitwood’s character in Hoosiers was based. And speaking of high scorers, Butler University was also the alma mater of the Reverend Jim Jones, the son of an Indiana Klansman who founded the Peoples Temple and who before 9-11 held the record for mass murder of US citizens, achieving over a thousand in Guyana. Mostly nowadays we think of the Klan as a bunch of linthead clowns in goofy sheets, but in the early part of the twentieth century it was a powerful political organization that provided an ideological home to many prominent democratic politicians, Robert Byrd, Bull Connor, and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black among them. In Indiana in the twenties, when Jones father was a member, a third of white male voters in the state were Klan members. It was only after the rape and cannibalization of an Aryan schoolmarm by the Indiana Grand Klagon DC Stephenson that the KKK’s popularity waned … Butler University is named for Ovid Butler, an abolitionist, who, despite his name, was a lawyer not a manservant. Had he been he would have joined an illustrious pantheon: Alfred Pennyworth, servant of Bruce Wayne; Edmund Blackadder, butler to the Prince of Wales; Giles French, valet to Uncle Bill; the eponymous Benson; Reginald Jeeves, dog’s body to Bertie Wooster; Kato and Cato, who served the Green Hornet and Inspector Clouseau respectively; and Lurch, who attended the Addams Family. Although a longstanding rumor postulated that Lurch was played by former Saint John’s center Sean Muto the character was actually portrayed by a different college basketball player, 6’9″ Ted Cassidy, who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in three seasons for the Stetson Hatters in the 50s. (Cassidy also played Thing.) After The Addams Family ended Cassidy went on to a storied Hollywood career, the high point of which was getting kicked in the balls by Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Auld Lang Sina

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RECAP: And so the year ends as it began: with a loss. In their first game of the season last January 3rd SJU lost to Georgetown in the midst of a 5-game losing streak that effectively ended their season. Seton Hall, playing without injured Isiah Whitehead, put a pretty good beating on Saint John’s Wednesday afternoon in their last game of 2014, winning at home by 11 and dropping Saint John’s into a tie for last place in the Big East. Saint John’s had a couple of 6-point leads in the first half and looked on the verge of blowing them out but SH closed the half with a 15-8 run to take a 5-point lead into the locker room. They extended that lead to 15 at the 10 minute mark and withstood Saint John’s vaunted pressure defense down the stretch. They had every opportunity to crumble late but did not … Saint John’s shot poorly – mostly because they didn’t move the ball – and their defense didn’t produce the easy baskets it did in the win over Tulane. Once again their free throw and three point shooting was putrid. For their part SH didn’t turn it over, controlled the boards and made their threes … Seton Hall was awarded twice as many free throws as SJ and made more than half of them. This is ironic considering that opponents have been shooting a little more than 50 percent from the line versus SJ and that SH shoots about that for the season … Once again Lavin didn’t do anything egregious but he didn’t seem to do anything to help the situation either. That would be I guess one of the luxuries of “not feeling any inordinate pressure to win,” which is how Lavin explained his coaching philosophy in an interview with Jon Rothstein this week. His ensemble – a black sweat suit with turquoise piping under pinstripes – caused Gus Johnson to say that “he’s given up,” which is pretty damning coming from a lickspittle like Johnson, who has nothing bad to say about anybody. For example, he called Jim Burr “a great BB official,” whereas Jim Burr is an abomination and said that Phil Greene was having a “terrific start to the season,” whereas PG4 is shooting 37 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three, which is not terrific … I had this game down as a loss* and am not too upset about it, but I assume it was unsettling for SJU fans who had visions of Elite Eights dancing in their tiny little brains after beating up the cupcakes in the preseason. Hopefully the loss serves as a wakeup call for a team that has a tendency to play lackadaisically and is not a harbinger of doom to come for a team that still looks like it could go either way.

PLAYERS: Harrison was unconscious in the first half and finished with 25 before fouling out … Phil Greene had sixteen points but missed 10 shots getting them. He attempted to replicate his late game heroics versus Syracuse by taking a variety of off kilter and unlikely shots during Saint John’s aborted comeback, but few of them went in, because he’s Phil Greene … Obekpa wasn’t awful, but the freshman from Seton Hall was better. His quality knee to the groin sent Khadim Carrington to the bench in the second half … Except for 7 rebounds Pointer was passive and all but invisible … Jordan had 11 points in ten minutes. He was T’d up for hitting Gibbs with the ball when play was stopped to minister to Carrington, which play comprised a six-point swing. … Jamal Branch’s performance would have been disappointing to a good basketball player, but he isn’t, so it wasn’t that bad … JDLR and Balamou played six minutes between them and committed four fouls

NOTES: The game was called by former Seton Hall coach Bill Raftery about whom not even I can be troubled to find something bad to say. Rafferty invented the amiable dunce former coach TV persona, but he actually had a winning record overall as a head coach and was an illustrious high school athlete: Mr. Basketball USA for 1959, for 35 years the all-time leading HS scorer in New Jersey, and all-state in three sports, basketball, baseball and soccer. Tired of getting his brains kicked in in the new Big East, Raftery left SH in 1981 for a career in broadcasting. Raftery’s hand-picked successor Brian Mahoney Hoddy Mahon lasted only a year and was succeeded by PJ Carlisimo who took SH to within three seconds of the national championship in 1989; they were ahead by one in overtime versus Michigan when a cheesy touch foul gave Rumeal Robinson two free throws that won the game. (That Michigan team was coached by current San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who was appointed interim coach before the tournament when then coach Bill Frieder announced he was taking the Arizona State job after the season and AD Bo Schembechler fired him.) Much like Saint John’s, SH has floundered since their Final Four appearance, running through a chorus line of incompetents: George Blaney, Tommy Amaker, Louis Orr, and finally Bobby Gonzalez, whose career exploded with the force of 1000 smog filtered Newark suns. Current coach Kevin Willard seems to have the chops and unlimitless ethics to be successful and he has a pretty good eye for talent: besides Whitehead he’s got a couple of NYC players on his roster that would look good in a Saint John’s uniform … Tonight is Saint Sylvester’s Day, or as you heathens call it, New Year’s Eve. On this night custom dictates that revelers gather with friends and acquaintances and carouse in an atmosphere of forced gaiety, accompanied by the mellifluous strains of Guy Lombardo with narration by such luminaries as Cathy Griffin and Dick Clark. Needless to say I’ll be going to bed early.

* “Saint John’s opens the BE season versus SH at the end of the month and speaking of beatdowns I don’t see much good coming out of that.”

 

N.O. Quarter

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RECAP: Although revenge can be the most satisfying form of justice it’s generally illegal in the United States, where the latter is meted out via the jury system, wherein two liars attempt to confound twelve morons as to what really happened. The ancients, who invented revenge, said that nothing is sweeter, but advise that it’s a dish best served cold or even best not served at all: that living well is the best revenge. Saint John’s has not lived well since last these two teams met – when Tulane bounced SJU from the NCAA tournament in 1992 – which makes yesterday’s meal served cold all the more satisfying. I’ve been waiting 23 years to say this: suck it Green Wave … Regarding the 25 point beat down SJU put on Tulane Sunday there’s not a lot about which even a curmudgeon like myself can complain. SJU came out with energy, put Tulane away early and kept them there. In doing so they looked as good as they’ve looked in a while. It didn’t hurt that Tulane was awful: 17 turnovers, 37 percent from the floor, 20 percent from three, and 45 percent from the free throw line (opponents are now 117 for 201 for the season). Some of that awfulness was a testament to SJU’s defense and some to Tulane’s incompetence. On their side of the ball SJ moved it well and made their shots for a change. Even Lavin displayed the routine competence that would be expected of a run of the mill D2 coach. In fact if it wasn’t for the clown suit he wears I wouldn’t have noticed him at all. Regarding Lavin’s coaching prowess colormoron Donny Marshall opined that he’s “one of the top ten or fifteen coaches in the game,” which no he’s not …Lavin has in Decembers past talked about preparing his team to play its best basketball in February. But in those past Decembers his teams sucked and his patter was intended to gull the rubes. We haven’t heard anything about February this December, where SJU has exceeded expectations. It’ll be interesting to see whether SJU can sustain their efforts moving into conference play or whether, come February, we’ll be talking about December. We should know better after January 6.

 PLAYERS: Pointer had a career high 24 points and seven steals. Lavin credited himself for Pointer’s improved play, claiming that he’d threatened to redshirt Pointer in the spring as a motivational tool (h/t Rabinowitz)  … Harrison had 21, moving into 4th in SJ history all time … Jordan had 12 points in only 22 minutes. Traveled a bunch of time and still looks to be pressing … Phil Greene was 3 for 8 and is 14 of 49 from the field over his last four … Obekpa got in early foul trouble again and wasn’t much of a factor, except perhaps psychologically.  Eight rebounds, four blocks and three goal tends… Forgetting someone. Oh yeah, Jamal Branch … JDLR continues to impress in limited minutes. And that’s not even sarcasm. He plays with energy, throws his body around and seems willing to cripple a guy if it comes down to it. Now if I said he displays a deft touch on his free throws, that’d be sarcasm … Balamou played a bit and had a couple of baskets despite his evident fear of shooting …great white hope Jessica Albagovic got the biggest cheer of the night when he hit a three in garbage time

NOTES: Like this year’s team the seventh seeded SJU team that lost to Tulane in 1992 had been together four years: Malik Sealy, Robert “Tissue Paper” Werdann, PG Jason Buchanan and top 5 all-disappointment Chuck Sprolling were all seniors. They’d won an NIT championship as freshmen and lost to DoOk twice in the NCAA tournament, one of those the infamous Billy Singleton double technical game, the worst and most soul crushing loss in the conga line of futility that is Saint John’s basketball. Also on the roster were future NBAer Shawnelle Scott, a couple of large transfers called Lamont “You Dummy” Middleton and Mitch “Bananas” Foster, and sharpshooters Sergio Lyuk, Terrance Mullin and Lee Green. (That last bit was sarcasm as well.) As usual, I had them going to the final four. Also as usual, they lost in the first round. Instead Michigan , the 6-seed from their bracket, went to the championship game and lost to dEwk. Against Tulane Saint John’s went out to an early 10 point lead; by halftime they’d lost it and never got it back. Alleged shooting guard Chuck Sprolling was 1-7; Buchanan was 3 for 11; Scott was 2 for 9. Sealy, who was 6 of 7 in the first half shot 2 for 9 in the second and committed two turnovers in the last minute, including one that led to the winning basket. It was this team that finally convinced Louie that the game had passed him by. Which it had. He retired shortly thereafter … Tulane alumni include Robert Kennedy Toole, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces *, the great American novel. Unfortunately for Toole he could not get Dunces published in his lifetime. After numerous revisions it was rejected by Simon and Schuster editor Robert Gottlieb, who passed because, he said, “it isn’t really about anything.” Which pronouncement led Toole to destroy the manuscript and kill himself at age 32. After his death it was published by LSU Press when Toole’s overbearing mother brought a carbon of the manuscript to the novelist Walker Percy, then on the faculty, and begged him to read it. Percy agreed only to get the hysterical woman out of his office. In 1981 it won the Pulitizer Prize for fiction. (A BB analogy would be a coach, let’s call him Louie, refusing a college scholarship to a gifted HS player, let’s call him Julius, and then later, when he’s coach of the Nets, declining to sign him to a professional contract and then Julius goes to the Hall of Fame. It’s like that.) Gottlieb continued a distinguished career in which he produced books about something by such literary giants as Paul Simon, Sidney Poitier and Bob Dylan, and has gone on to a comfortable retirement in a fashionable apartment on the upper East Side where he’s penning his memoirs, for which no doubt he’ll receive a handsome advance. If the best revenge is living well he did, which would make the dish best served cold Toole, who ended up at room temperature, the moral of which is that there isn’t any justice, not really … I couldn’t find the Tulane game on youtube but here’s the 10th ranked 92 Redmen losing to Duke by 30, featuring Vitale at his slobbering best:

 

 

* “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him. ” — Jonathan Swift

Life’s a Beach

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GAME: Usually my game notes comprise two or three pages of amusing scrawling, which makes this part of the recap a breeze, but this morning I’m  at a bit of a loss: there are a mere nine entries comprising 10 lines, one of which is about the odds of Al Sharpton being named Grand Klagon of the Ku Klux Klan, which I have no idea what it means. So I’m left to point out only that Saint John’s defeated Long Beach State 66-49 at Alumni Hall Monday night in what was the worst display of college basketball I’ve seen since Friday. Playing without Rysheed Jordan – home nursing an upset stomach, more about which later – and with D’Angelo Harrison in foul trouble for most of the first half, Saint John’s struggled to find a rhythm most of the game until they put LBS away late. And in fact if LBS had not been so inept – they shot 30 percent from the floor, from three, and even from the free throw line – things might have turned out differently. But they did not. Which means that Saint John’s rides six game winning streak into Sunday’s long-awaited grudge match against Tulane, the last one before the real season starts. All in all and despite their multitudinous ineptitudes they’re a little ahead of where I thought they’d be at this point in the season, in which I figured they had a Sweet 16 ceiling if everything broke their way. Of course I thought they had the same ceiling last year and we saw how that turned out. I’m a bit concerned that they’ve so far this year played one real road game and have not yet played outside NY State, but I guess we’ll see what we see … Once again Saint John’s was not all that good by the numbers: 45 percent from the floor, 3 for 15 from 3, and an appalling 56 percent from the free throw line, where they’re 20 of 35 over the past two games. On the bright side their free throw defense remains exemplary: opponents are now shooting 110 of 186 … Bit of an interesting cut in to a huddle late in the game where Lavin, always coaching his tender charges, advised them to “keep working the thirteen, because they don’t know what the fuck it is.” I listened to it a bunch of times and concluded that thirteen was one of the defensive sets, maybe the 1-3, the intricacies of which Lavin thought the Long Beach players found perplexing. No word from the FCC about sanctions for Lavin’s potty mouth. Mrs. Fun found his language appalling, but then she’s something of a delicate, whereas I became inured to swearing after sitting behind Louie for lo those many years and nowadays work in profanity like Modigliani worked in oils

PLAYERS: Chris Obekpa had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks and was dominant in the middle, although much of his production came against Temidayo Yussef, a freshman. Obekpa had less success against fifth year senior Eric McKnight, who played sparingly despite looking to me like the best player in yellow. I point this out only to highlight Obekpa’s delusional thinking in regards the NBA, where everyone is a fifth year senior. Also to be unremittingly negative, because I know some people dig that … Dom Pointer, who Lavin described in the post-game presser as a “Batman, Spiderman and a super hero,” had 11 points and 7 rebounds. That output seems pretty pedestrian for someone who has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men – especially considering that that’s what Jakarr Sampson averaged over his career and he was, I am continually assured by knowledgeable fans, awful at basketball. Anyway, I guess during the day Pointer works at Costco under his secret identity and then at night he pulls off his red vest and becomes Batman. One game after claiming that the team played better without Chris Obekpa versus Saint Mary’s, Pointer dissed Rysheed Jordan, noting that the latter’s loss did not make LBS “a tougher game to negotiate” … Phil Greene met his quota of nine missed shots in leading the team with 16 points. Made just 2 of 8 threes to drop below 30 percent for the season. Through 10 games Greene has taken only 12 fewer shots than D’Angelo Harrison while accounting for nearly 100 fewer points … speaking of Superman, Harrison scored under double figures for the first time I can remember in a while. Ten rebounds though … Lavin lauded Jamal Branch for “really orchestrating our offensive attack,” which offensive attack barely managed 60 points. Branch played extended minutes because Rysheed Jordan was home in Philadelphia nursing an alleged stomach virus. Assuming that Jordan is really ill and that the story of Jordan’s absence is true – and it’s eerily similar to last year when Jordan nearly quit the team – it still sets my Spidey sense tingling. Is it too much to think that someone doctored Jordan’s food? Think of the suspects and motives: Branch, a senior jealous of the younger player’s talent; Felix Balamou, angry at losing a year of his career and anxious for floor time; and Lavin himself, whose abject failures on the recruiting trail have left him in a precarious position next year should Jordan bolt. Regardless, something isn’t right, and it would not surprise me if a Baylor situation revealed itself down the line … Balamou did not show much in 10 minutes; Myles Stewart missed a couple of threes; and the rest of them got garbage minutes

NOTES: The game was called by Bob Wenzel, who evidently had the bad judgment to have a third bottle wine with dinner, with the end result that he just would not shut the fuck up until I was forced to shut him up by muting him with about five minutes to go. Wenzel – a former coach who had only 6 winning seasons out of 15 and only won 20 games once – is usually an amiable drunk, but last night he was out of control: at one point he went to commercial screaming “two blocks … four blocks … six blocks … eight blocks” ostensibly in relation to Obekpa’s defense, but sounding instead like a retarded child counting his toys Christmas morning; and then later described the repulsive Jim Burr, the worst basketball referee of all time, whose every appearance on the court cheapens amateur athletics, as “one of the greats.” Hiccup. … LBS is coached by Dan Monson, who coincidentally has coached at Gonzaga, where he was 52–17, Minnesota, where he was 118-106, and now Long Beach, where he’s a nearly identical 119-108. Clearly Gonzaga was the outlier … Long Beach is in the midst of an extended road trip, at the end of which they’ll be about 5 and 10. Wenzel – who knows something about losing – opined that Monson scheduled the trip to collect the guaranteed money that acting as cannon fodder for programs like Louisville and Syracuse brings: up to $ 100,000 per game Wenzel said. If true that seems a cynical way to run a program, since with ten losses by New Year’s day LBS will be out of NCAA tournament consideration unless they can run the table in the WAC WCC Big West. This did not stop sideline reporter Jon Rothstein – displaying all the warmth and sincerity of a Ukrainian kidney broker – from opining that LBS was looking at the SJU game as a Selection Sunday resume builder … Long Beach State’s basketball program first achieved national prominence under Jerry Tarkanian, whose teams went 122-20 in four years, never losing more than 5 games in a season. Each year LBS reached the regional semi-finals of the NCAA tournament and twice the finals, losing three of those games to UCLA, then in the midst of winning eight straight national championships. Despite UCLA’s dominance and the proximity of the two schools, Steve Lavin’s alleged mentor John Wooden refused to schedule LBS during the regular season. Which is kind of like the relationship Saint John’s has with Hofstra and Iona, except with NIT banners … LBS alumni include Richard Bach, author of the putrid bestseller Jonathan Livingston Seagull; the terrifically unfunny Steve Martin; hack director Steven Spielberg; chubby songstress Karen Carpenter; baseball players Jason Gigumby, Evan Longoria, Harold Reynolds and Troy Tulowitzki; footballers George Allen, Willie Brown and Terrell Davis; and the great George “the Iceman” Gervin, inventor of the finger roll …Yeah, about that Jordan being poisoned stuff, I don’t really believe any of that. See what happened is that I have some readers who are offended by the allegedly negative tone my little monkeyshines take, special little snowflakes that they are. One reader went so far as to favor me with an essay explaining why I am “irrelevant.” (Let us leave aside the inherent absurdity of explaining to an irrelevant thing why the irrelevant thing is irrelevant.) It is not, as you might imagine, that I produce an obscure blog read by 300 people that describes the exploits of a college basketball program that has made one final four since Kaiser Wilhelm invaded Austria Hungary. No, it’s much more serious than that: it’s because I’m “not funny anymore.” Which is on the scale of stupid somewhere between “exquisitely” and “mistakes own imbecilities for cleverness.” So anyway I threw that poisoning stuff in there for their benefit, because it amuses me to confound humorless dopes. I should though note that this is not the first time that a SJU player has missed a game suffering from food poisoning – it happened a bunch of times last year. There’s really only a couple of ways to get the creeping crud, the most common of which is through the ingestion of human feces. What happens is that one of you slobs has a bowel movement and in the act of wiping yourself gets fecal matter on your hands and because you don’t wash yourself like a civilized human being you spend the rest of the day depositing E.coli on every surface with which you come into contact, which surface is then touched by some innocent who then eats his lunch with your stool as a condiment. Which is why I have not touched a door knob or used a public toilet in 20 years. So please, in this holiday season, could you wash your hands after doing your business. If not for me, do it as a birthday present for the baby Jesus … Regular readers are aware that I play in a band called the Weasels, described by one wag as “XTC on PCP,” albums on sale in fine stores nowhere. In the old days one of our marketing schemes involved creating fictitious press notices announcing the release of this CD or that, which we’d fax to various newspapers around the country. (This does not sound terribly amusing now, but to be fair we were out of our minds on mescaline most of the time.) Anyway, you’d be surprised how many desperate for content entertainment desk editors printed the releases verbatim – this was in the old days, before journalists realized that they could win Pulitzer prizes for making up stories about gang rapes and 8 year old heroin addicts. One editor from the Sacramento Bee went so far as to put the non-existent Weasel CD “Hello My Name is Larry” on his list of top indy albums of the year. Anyway the Hasselhoff jpeg above is the fake cover I created for “Life Is a Beach.” Holds up pretty well I think … Finally, speaking of George Gervin, here’s this:

Gael Farce Win

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RECAP: Here’s what I won’t be saying in today’s recap of Saint John’s 53-47 win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels Friday night: there will be nothing about it being gritty or gutsy, I’ll omit talk about anyone leaving anything on the floor, and there’ll be an absence of information about giving anyone credit for halftime adjustments. I’ll leave that talk for the rubes. Instead, I’ll be talking about the worst 40 minutes of basketball I’ve been forced to endure for quite a while: 67 missed field goals, 16 missed free throws, 25 turnovers, and all of that slowed to a glacial stagger by a personal foul call a minute by a crew of referees who spent more time reviewing tape of the game than Lavin will and all of that narrated nonstop by Jim Spanarkle, who should consider switching to decaf. Or valium … So yes, SJU won, and that’s good, because a home loss to a WAC team not called Gonzaga would not look so good on the great and powerful resume down the line. And yes, they overcame some adversity in doing so, although the adversity was mostly self-inflicted: in the first half they started slow, played lackadaisically, and were unprepared for Brad Waldow, the best player they’ve faced all year. All of which added up to a 15 point halftime deficit. Fortunately for Saint John’s in the second half Saint Mary’s imploded, scoring only 14 points on 6 made baskets and favoring SJU with a flurry of unforced and embarrassing turnovers. SJU was also able to take Waldow out of the game – much credit to Dom Pointer – whose teammates responded by shooting 3 for 20 from the floor. Which is not particularly very good … For the game SJU shot an atrocious 38 percent from the floor, an appalling 26 percent from three, and a pathetic 57 percent from the foul line. Unbelievably Saint Mary’s was worse: 34 percent from the floor, 15 percent from three and 52 percent from the line. For the latter we once again credit Lavin’s brilliantly conceived “quicksand” free throw defense: SJU opponents are now shooting 108 for 180 for the year (60 percent) and the entire WAC conference slightly worse than that: 24 for 42 (57 percent) … According to Lavin – resplendent in a red sweat suit – last night’s SMG game and Monday’s versus Long Beach State “allow us to simulate conditions we’ll face in the NCAA Tournament.” I’m not sure what conditions Lavin is referring to, since the games are at home, there were 4600 in attendance, the two teams they’re against will likely be in the NIT, and if SJU loses against either the season doesn’t end. Other than that he made his usual good points.

PLAYERS: Pointer double doubled. As noted above, he played superior defense in the second half when SJU shut Waldow down. Pointer took a not so veiled shot at Obekpa in the post-game presser when he noted that “When [Chris] was in foul trouble, it was better for us” … Harrison ground out 21 points in a subpar effort. Only one rebound, six below his season average … Obekpa fouled out for the second time this year, making him 2 for 2 against the WAC. Shortly before doing so and after finally blocking a shot by Brad Waldow Obekpa stood under the opposing basket woofing and flexing while his teammates pushed the ball up the court. Which is not the first time that’s happened this year. To the extent that I am able to exercise empathy I try and give Obekpa and all his affectations – the stupid grin, the shorts, the finger wagging, the woofing, the chippy play and bullying – the benefit of the doubt, because he is after all a foreigner and perhaps not familiar with the cultural conventions and customs of his adopted homeland. But the fact is that he behaves very childishly for someone who pretends he’ll be playing in the NBA next year. I’d wonder why his coach – who blathers about character when it suits him – does nothing to rein him in, except I know he’s worried about his contract exten$ion …. Poor Rysheed Jordan had 6 points on 2 for 11 shooting coming off the bench again. Pretty obviously he presses when he doesn’t start in an attempt to make an immediate impact … Clank clank clank clank clank clank clank clank. No, that clatter is not the sound of eight reindeer up on the roof bringing presents to all the good little boys and girls. It’s the sound of Phil Greene shooting 1 for 9 from the floor. This sound –       – is the sound of the no assists he got. All of which makes our shooting guard 4 for 21 from the floor over his past two games, with no assists. Take away the three minutes he played against Syracuse a month ago and what do you have? Avery Patterson … Joey DeLaRosa made his season debut and played up to his billing: he’s a large slab of beef comprising 300 pounds and five fouls. He gave one particularly well, sending a bloodied SMG guard to the bench for about 20 minutes after cracking him across the nose with a forearm after a whistle. In a game where 40 fouls were called the only one that drew blood was ignored … starting PG Jamal Branch was once again pointless: 2 points 2 assists

NOTES: Saint Mary’s is coached by Randy Bennett, who’s 286 –137 (.677) at SM in 12 years, including 5 NCAA appearances and a Sweet 16. Since 2008 he’s 184 – 54 and has won less than 25 games only once … Saint Mary’s is founded on the teachings of John Baptist de La Salle, a Frenchman, the patron saint of teachers, and the father of pedagogy. None of which three things seem worthy of an entire university but maybe that’s just me. Be that as it may, with victories over the Jesuits and now the Lasallians Saint John’s has triumphed over more Christian factions than the Mamalukes … There are six Saint Marys in the Catholic hierarchy, three of whom had front row seats at the crucifixion: Mary mother of the baby Jesus – in the dark recesses of my fallen away Catholicism I recall Mary being something more than a mere saint, but memories, like faith, fade; Mary Salome, aunt to the baby Jesus; and the hewer Mary Magdalene. Other Marys include Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, who protested to the baby Jesus that He should not raise her brother Lazarus from the dead because “he stinketh”; Saint Mary of Egypt, who lived her life as a man and was the patron saint of beggars; the stigmatist Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds; and Saint Mary MacKillop, a 20th century Australian who was at one point excommunicated for abusing alcohol to alleviate her severe dysmenorrhea, aka menstrual distress, which sent her to bed several days a month. If boozing and PMS are preconditions for canonization someone should contact the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, because I have a couple of ex-girlfriends who deserve beatification.