GAME: During the Steve Lavin era I used to lean forward in my seat to hear the inanities he’d spout in his postgame interviews. Sunday morning I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Chris Mullin to defeat Saint Francis Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden, which they did 63-56. What a difference a year makes – although not in terms of the Saint Francis Saint John’s rivalry: Saint John’s has won 32 of the last 33, their only loss recently coming on Lou Carnesecca Night in 2004, when some guy named Tory Cavalieri lit up Cedric Jackson for 26 points in a 53-52 squeaker … This game was even until Saint Francis went on an 11-2 run about halfway through the first period to go up nine; my notes accompanying the event read “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But lo! A Mullin timeout, after which everyone’s favorites whipping boy Durand Johnson scored 10 points to key a Severe 20-2 spurt by Saint John’s that left them eight up at halftime. Saint John’s had stretched the lead to 13 with 8 minutes left when Saint Francis it made a game: Amar Albivicwitch turned the ball over on 17 straight possessions and if it were not for the fact that his brutal play was met by an even greater level of incompetence by Saint Francis, the outcome would have been very different. Fittingly Durand Johnson made an off balance jumper and a couple of free throws to put the game away … Both teams shot poorly: a combined 35 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three. Saint John’s made their FTs, outrebounded Saint Francis by 12 (45-33) and had 12, count ‘em, 12 blocks. They turned the ball over 18 times though, which is not particularly good … A reader emails and says fun, “How come you give Mullin a pass on his wardrobe when you gave Lavin such a hard time about his.” Well reader, the answer is:
Seriously, who gives a shit what Chris Mullin wears? Chris Mullin can wear whatever he wants. There is in fact no aspect of Mullin’s tenure thus far that has given me a moment of disquiet. He’s clearly having fun on the sidelines, and it’s fun for me to see Chris Mullin having fun. He seems to know how to coach the team, even if the team does not know how to be coached by him – I almost get the feeling that he’s waiting for his roster to get to the point where it can benefit from his expertise. This doesn’t seem to be an issue, given the recruiting. In game I like his strategy and rotations, although I frankly don’t understand the Mussini dribbles around pointlessly at the top of the key offense he’s running – perhaps he’s just putting the system he intends to use in place for when he has an actual point guard … Riding a one game winning streak and up next Niagara, coached by another SJU alumnus Chris Casey. Fans might be tempted to sleep on Niagara but recall that the only non Georgetown loss in Chris Mullin’s Final Four year was to the Purple Eagles, although to be fair to Mullin starting PG Mike Moses did not play and the then #4 Redmen were force to rely on unreliable underclassman Mark Jackson, whose 3 TOs in the last 2 minutes sealed the loss.
PLAYERS: Sima had a double double (17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks) but Durand Johnson was the player of the game. He led the first half run that put them on top and made big shots late. I don’t know that he’s a starter at the three – maybe start Yawke there and bring Johnson off the bench. Although maybe I just think that because he has a little hitch in his jump shot that reminds me of Vinnie Johnson. Which is the only thing Durand does that reminds me of VJ … Former great white hope Frederico Mussini is now in his last two games 3 for 18 from the floor and 1 for 10 from three. Welcome to the NEC son. His struggles are so palpable that it’s almost worth putting up with Ron Mvouika at point guard. Which it’s probably not. Mvouika was awful Sunday, maybe he was hungover or something, quite the pathetic display … Christian Jones was solid: 13 point and 9 rebounds. If Christian Jones played for 30 minutes like Christian Jones plays for 12 minutes Christian Jones would be a hell of a ball player … Once again Balamou looked better posting up than he did driving wildly to the basket … Yawke looks like the real deal. He needs a little meat on him but he’s going to be a nice player … Jessica Albawhatever really just almost gave the game away. I’m literally shaking my head thinking of something awful to say about him, but you people have eyes, he stinks.
NOTES: Most basketball fans would readily agree that Norm Roberts has had a marvelous career. As a teenager he won a PSAL championship at Springfield Gardens; he was a 1000-point scorer at Queens College, where his retired # 15 jersey hangs in the rafters; as a grown-up he’s been to three Elite Eights and a Final Four as an assistant to some of the most accomplished coaches in recent memory, Bill Self and Billy Donovan. That’s a hell of a resume and infinitely more impressive than those of the racist middle-management dopes who are continually bringing up his moribund record as a head coach Queen’s College as if it defines his career. Little noticed though is Roberts impressive coaching tree: three of Norm’s assistants have gone on to their own head coaching careers, Glen Braica at St Francis, Chris Casey at Niagara, and Jose Martin at Marist; his former assistants Kimani Young and Fred Quartlebaum are on staff at Minnesota and Kansas respectively. Compare that to Louie’s tree, which had one sclerotic branch in Brain Mahoney; or to Mike Jarvis, who was forced to drag his otherwise unemployable son Mike Junior around like a withered thalidomide flipper arm … Saint Francis Brooklyn is named for – wait for it – Saint Francis, this one of Assisi, who, if the stories are true, was a dyed in the wool lunatic. Amongst other things Francis preached the Gospel of Christ to birds, mediated a dispute between a wolf and a pack of dogs, saw apparitions of angels, and bled from his hands and feet in imitation of the Baby Jesus. If you saw this guy babbling outside Penn Station you’d cross the street to avoid having to talk to him. Instead he’s the patron Saint of Italy. Go figure …There are in the hierarchy of Catholic saints a total of nine Francises (Francisi?), including Francis Caracciolo , the patron saint of cooks; Francis of Paola, who raised his nephew from the dead and kept a pet trout called Antonella; Francis Ferdinand de Capillas, whose efforts to woo the heathens to the one true god ended unsuccessfully when he was decapitated in China; and Saint Francis Xavier, whose body travelled in death as much as Paola’s did in life. Francis X died in China and was buried there. Thereafter his body was disinterred and reburied in present day Malaysia. Later his patron Diogo Pereira removed the corpse from the grave and brought it his house for safekeeping until finally shipping it to India, where it now rests in a handmade silver casket. All except his right arm, the one he used to bless people, which was considered so holy that so it was removed and shipped back to Rome, where it is worshipped today by morbid supplicants who attribute to it various miracles and cures … Saint Francis alumni include Saint John’s own Barry Rohrssen; delusional presidential candidate Peter King; James Luisi, who played one year in the NBA for the Baltimore Bullets before going on to play Jim Rockford’s bete noire Lieutenant Doug Chapman on the Rockford Files; and former referee Dick Bavetta, who was investigated by the FBI for fixing the NBA finals at the behest of NBA commissioner David Stern.