Category Archives: red storm

Make Alibegovic Great Again

trump

HERE WE GO AGAIN: An old saw says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And so here are we Saint John’s fans once again in November thinking optimistic thoughts about the program and here am I once again to dissuade you from them. I frankly am not looking forward to my task this year. When I started writing these things it was out of a sense of frustration with the fate of the only sports team that I follow with any sort of passion and a loathing for its awful coach, the repulsive Steve Lavin. But now Lavin is gone lo these many years and with him the stench of failure and of his players only one remains and in the meantime the prodigal son has returned and the fatted calf is slain and the pieces are in place and things frankly are looking up – or as far up as things look in Jamaica anyway. And so what’s a boy to do? Sure I’m a cynic but not so far gone that I’m going to trash Chris Mullin and honestly even the skeptic in me believes that happy days will be here sooner rather than later. Where that leaves this experiment I am not sure and for the time being I’ll proceed in good faith but I suspect a time is coming when I’ll be happy enough to just watch the games and leave the commentary to the many genyiouses who so generously share their wisdom on various SJU forums … About what to expect this year I have not too much to say having only seen now 80 minutes of basketball, which is not enough for even the most astute observer to form an opinion. I will admit though that what little I’ve seen leaves me cautiously pessimistic: the newcomers look all of them like the real thing, the returnees look bigger and stronger, the staff looks energetic and engaged and the recruiting is better than it’s been forever. It’s probably too soon for any of that to translate to success on the court – college basketball being one of the few endeavors in life where age often trumps beauty – but it would be nice to see this year when all things shake out double the win total from last year (~16), a mid pack finish in the Big East, and an NIT bid, which is not an outlandish expectation considering that Chris Mullin is the coach and New York the television market. But as I say almost every year in November, wait till next year bums … About this game I have little to say as well: they ate the cupcake and although it was delicious there are no lessons in the empty calories. We’ll have a pretty good idea of how things are going to be by Thanksgiving, once Tom Izzo gets through with us … On my television last night Mullin’s hair was the same color as Frank Costanza’s. Hopefully that was an aberration and not a dye job

PLAYERS: Speaking of the real thing, Marcus Lovett did not start, despite being the best player on the court last night. Was it just one of those things or was Coach Lavin Mullin trying to teach his young point guard an important life lesson. I don’t know but if the latter get the orange jumpsuit ready … Federico Mussini had 20 points in 18 minutes, gladdening the hearts of racists everywhere. I’d remind those people that last year Mussini made 30 percent of his total threes (16 of 56) in November versus D2 competition, so I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. To be fair to FM he looks bigger and firmer and more athletic than he did last year, although I’ve seen fence posts that look more athletic than he did last year and he still this year can’t cover a pillar … Tariq Owens continues to impress although he’s going to have to manage more than four puny rebounds to make anyone forget Christian Jones, who had 13 last night versus real D1 competition … Shamorie Ponds led all players with 26 minutes and looked not much like a freshman doing so …. Bashmir Ahmed on the other hand played only 18 and looked to be pressing … At first thought I was disappointed that fun fave Kassoum Yawke only played 20 minutes and didn’t do much of anything with them but then I remembered just how young he is and what a luxury it is to be able to bring gifted players along slowly, rather than just throwing them to the dogs … Sima had 11 points in 15 minutes, confounding those who are already predicting his transfer … Like Mussini Malik Ellison looks bigger and stronger this year and seems poised to take a step forward … Richard Fredenburg will have to do better than zero points in 23 minutes if he expects me to learn how to spell his name …. Speaking of spelling, Alibegovic had a nice put back immediately upon entering the game and did a nice job of waving his towel thereafter. Anything they get from him beyond that will be a bonus … Darien Williams spent garbage time looking like someone whose had a bunch of surgeries and hasn’t played ball in a couple of years.

NOTES: Friday was Veteran’s Day, a public holiday intended to memorialize those who have served in their nations military, even, presumably, Germans. To those volk folk we offer a humble and heart felt thanks. Veteran’s Day falls on November 11 because the first world war – that’d be the war to end all wars for those scoring at home – ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919, when the Huns surrendered to the Allies in a railway car in the North of France. (Ever the kidder Hitler had the French surrender in the very same railway car 30 years later.) In the United States the holiday was first promulgated by then President Woodrow Wilson, who besides being generally acknowledged as the first political “progressive” was the worst president of the 20th century and is on the short list for the worst president ever: an unrepentant racist, Wilson segregated the federal government, firing most black government employees – like most progressives he thought blacks “an ignorant and inferior race” – and consigned those who remained to colored bathrooms; in his memoirs he described the Ku Klux Klan as a “great” organization designed to “preserve the white race” and segregation as “a great benefit” to the negro; not content with that legacy he presided over the creation of the Federal Reserve system, instituted the first federal income tax, jailed his political enemies for treason and gleefully passed while as governor of New Jersey a bill requiring compulsory sterilization of felons, the mentally ill, and the differently abled. Add that all up and he makes Jimmy Carter look like Pericles … Speaking of politics, Theo R_______ (not his real name) writes:

Fun, could you share your thoughts on the recent election? As a millennial and a progressive I’m devastated and could use some solace.

Well sure Theo, I’d be delighted.

Louis Brandeis wrote that the right most cherished by civilized men is the right to be left alone. By that he meant that the essence of liberty is the right to opt out: from people, from relationships, from community, from ultimately from civilization. And so although I have firm opinions about the body politic – my belief that humanity is a dung heap and history the story of those who were ambitious enough to scale it has me positioned politically just to the right of Caligula – I’ve never voted. And this election was no different. Instead of participating I’ve endeavored to arrange my life so that it’s unaffected by the vagaries of government. I have no children and few attachments and enough money to tithe the state and afford my vices and since I’m interested in practically nothing other than my own comfort it doesn’t much matter which partisan hacks are ravening at the public teat at any given moment. All I want is to be left alone and for the most part I’ve achieved that.

Which is why I was pretty surprised late Tuesday evening when I realized how extremely unhappy I was going to be if Hillary Clinton were elected president. It wasn’t just the idea of living in a country governed by a cheap pant-suited grifter who’s spent her adult life feeding at the public trough in the name of public service. It wasn’t even that she’s married to a serial rapist and has a daughter that looks like Mister Ed. No. It was much more than that. Because by failing to elect Donald J. Trump president of the United States my fellow Americans would be squandering the opportunity to make so very many people so very fucking miserable and opportunities like that only come around a couple of times in a lifetime.

Mind you, I’m not talking about just the public mortification facing the likes of appalling no talent blowhards like Cher and Alec Baldwin, corpulent fuckhead Michael Moore, no talent whores Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, obese cum dumpsters Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, rug munchers Rosie O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow, banana nosed bozo Barbra Streisand, ignorant fucking slut Madonna, and various smug and sanctimonious left wing stooges like Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sean Penn, Ed Asner, Jane Fonda, Woody Harrelson, Jessica Lange, Norman Lear, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Stone. And neither do I mean the disappointment felt by herds of coddled youth of the stupidest generation who flooded the internet with hilarious heart wrenching videos of their weeping disappointment before fleeing to safe spaces where they could share their feelings with grief counselors and assuage their disappointment with play doh and coloring books.

(Fans of irony will relish the fact that these ministrations to the feelings of the current generation of delicate snowflakes occurred on the eve of a holiday dedicated to remembering the bravery their great grandparents displayed storming the beaches of Normandy and will swoon with delight at the idea of millennial comparisons of the disappointment they experienced on 11-9 to real events that happened on 9-11.)

No: it was much bigger than all that.

See, it all came to me right about 2:00 AM, watching DemonRat toadies Wolf Blitzer and Van Jones frantically trying to parse their way to a Clinton win in the electoral college: I suddenly flashed on Hitler in his bunker pushing nonexistent Panzer divisions across a map of Eastern Europe. And it came to me that come morning whole continents would erupt in a glorious symphony of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth: dog faced PM Angela Merkel and her Germanic hordes; Canadian Prime Minster Zoolander and the myriad citizens of his third world hamster in a wheel socialist shit hole; entire nations of stinky cowardly frogs, murderous Huns and Cossacks, pathetic impotent Swedes and Sprouts, various rag and towel heads; and lest we forget those one billion inscrutable Orientals who’ve been buying up our country for the past 20 years, all of them singing in one voice: we are the world, we are the disconsolate, waa! Because there’s only one thing that’s sweeter than the feeling that comes from good things happening to me and that’s other people’s fucking misery. So take solace Theo: you might not feel so good but there are many many other people who feel worse, and that’s always cause for celebration. And if you worry about all the concentration camp fantasmagories that terrify you about the new president just remember that nothing that he could ever imagine doing will ever reach the depths plumbed by Woodrow Wilson and they’re still naming public buildings after that guy. So god bless America and god bless President Donald J. Trump. Schwing!

 

 

X Parte

heart

RECAP: Usually when it comes to Saint John’s I’m hard to surprise – mostly because always I expect the worst and usually they deliver. But today I am: Saint John’s beat Xavier 78-70 in Cincinnati Saturday afternoon. Consider: Saint John’s was on the road where they play poorly and out of state where they’re atrocious; Chris Obekpa was hurting; Rysheed Jordan got in early foul trouble; D’Angelo Harrison went down late in the first half after looking to have seriously injured his calf; and Steve Lavin was coaching. None of that is a recipe for success and most of it a recipe for disaster. And yet they managed to pull it off and in doing so absorbed a few punches along the way: Xavier went out to an early 10 point lead and SJU responded, outscoring them by 20 over the next 16 minutes; Xavier started the second half on a 9-2 run to tie the game and SJU went on an 8-0 run of their own; and Xavier overcame a 10 point deficit late to pull within three and SJU put them away. In each case Saint John’s made plays when it counted. Thank goodness for seniors … Once again SJU shot well: 50 percent from the floor, 35 from three and 80 from the line. Some of that is fool’s gold, as they continue to take bad shots – especially Pointer and Greene – that continue to go in despite the laws of physics and thermodynamics. Because of which I assume they’ll come back to earth eventually, so enjoy it while it lasts. As for Xavier, they’re two teams. The one with Matt Stainbrook is not awful. The one without him stinks. Despite the importance of the game – and no matter how SJU finishes the season this loss is going to look awful on Xavier’s tournament resume – they came out with zero energy and got worse as the game wore on. Even the crowd was lame; they might as well have played at Carnesecca. Xavier shot poorly and turned the ball over and basically stunk. If I were charitable – and we know I’m not – I might blame the early start, or maybe they’re still upset about that whole Porkopolis thing. Whatever. Suck it Musketeers … Lavin once again appeared to be wearing make-up, although today it looked like it might be some sort of spray-on tan. Perhaps he’s auditioning to take Monasch’s place? Who knows. Anyway, he did a good job of stealing minutes here and there with the bench and called some dubious time outs and clapped his hands a bunch. That is, business as usual about which the less said the better … SJU has now won 4 of their last 5 and is suddenly .500 in conference, albeit still in seventh place. Assuming a split with Georgetown, a loss to Villanova and one bad and inexplicable loss to some seeming pasty, 9 and 9 seems likely. That would put them in about 5th place and firmly on the bubble going into the BE tournament. If they keep playing the way they have they probably deserve a bid – what? – and will be a team no one’s going to want to play in the first round. Glass slipper anyone?

PLAYERS: Dom Pointer was once again a wrecking ball: 24 points on 9 of 10 from the floor and 6 for 6 from the line, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks. It’s only a shame the lightbulb didn’t go on sooner … Harrison had 18 points, 13 of those in the first half. He scored only one field goal after injuring his calf – fortunately it was the other one – late in the first half. My notes regarding which say: “and there goes the season.” He limped off at halftime and was limping in the second half warm ups, but despite being graded as questionable played the entire 20 minutes. On a team where players miss games because of sore throats, sprained ankles and paper cuts that sort of heart is refreshing to see … Jordan was mostly missing in action, but he had a huge three late after Xavier had pulled to within three. Threw an absurd lob to Pointer on a breakaway late but like everything else today it worked out pretty well … Jordan was spelled in the first half by Jamal Branch, who had 11 points on 5 for 7 shooting, this after scoring 2 points over his last four games. Despite which, he did not play barely at all in the second … Obekpa had zero points but the game changed in the first half when he entered at the 16 minute mark: Xavier, which had been scoring at will on the inside for the first 4 minutes, suddenly became tentative around the basket. Provided an amusing moment in the second half when after Pointer made some dopey play he pointed at his head. At first I thought Obekpa was reminding Pointer where the best place to throw an elbow was but then it occurred to me that he was telling Pointer to think … After Phil Greene fouled Xavier’s JP Macura in the first half Macura gave Greene the sort of run of the mill pat on the ass that passes for sportsmanship on the basketball court. Greene spun around and got in Macura’s face: “Don’t touch my ass” he said. By his reaction you would have thought Macura tried to slip a fist in there. Doth the lady protest too much? Greene had 15 points on 14 shots – many of those ill-advised and out of control, especially late, when he sometimes gets it into his head that he’s the team’s star, as opposed its weak link – including 3 of 8 from three, to go along with no rebounds, no blocks, no steals, and 1 assist … I’ve figured out what Amir Amirovich reminds me of: a Russian Olympic wrestler, except less grabby …. Balamou started the game but did not play much in the second. Which is just as well. Hopefully he takes some assertiveness training over the summer, because I’ve known more aggressive geishas… I don’t find much occasion for mirth when reading the various SJU fan forums, because let’s face it most of you people wouldn’t recognize a joke if Bill Burr recorded a comedy special in your small intestine. But I nearly did a spit take this morning when some astute Saint John’s fan recommended that Joey De La Rosa start, because “he matches up favorably well with Matt Stainbrook.” Update for that poster: Joey DeLa Rosa doesn’t match up favorably with a stanchion. He makes Tom Bayne look like Mikhail Baryshnikov. JDLR played a minute at the beginning of the second half, during which time he committed two fouls and turned the ball over after which he went to the bench, never to return.

NOTES: I cannot comment too much on the broadcast, except to say that Bob Wenzel started talking at 12:15 and did not shut up until I muted the television at around 1:30. The most insightful thing he said during that time was “Yikes.” I have in the past catalogued Wenzel’s myriad shortcomings at length and will not do so again except to remind you that the only thing he knows less about than broadcasting is basketball: as a coach he had only 6 winning seasons out of 15 and won 20 games only once; he was 73 and 95 over his 6 years at Rutgers and a dismal 20-34 in the Big East. Shut up Bob … Yesterday was Friday the thirteenth and today Valentine’s Day, a perfect confluence for those of you unlucky in love. The origins of superstitions relating to the number 13 are obscure – some postulate that it’s because there were 13 apostles at the last supper, Judas Iscariot being the odd man; others that is due to the mass execution of a slew of Knights Templar by King Phillip on that day in the 12th century; and others still others because it’s one more than 12, which is a regarded as the perfect number: 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a day, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 signs of the Zodiac, 12 in a dozen and so on. Friday is of course unlucky because it was on that day of the week that the Baby Jesus was crucified. Together they are the perfect storm. There’s no evidence that Friday the 13th is anymore worse than any other day and none of this seems very scientific anyway: in Spain Friday the 17th is considered unlucky and in Greece Tuesdays and let’s face it most days don’t work out well for most people most of the time anyway. The best practice seems to be my own: expect the worst at all times, that way at least you’ll never be disappointed … Valentine’s day is named for Valentinus, a Christian decapitated by the second Emperor Claudius in the third century on February 14th. This explains why head is the traditional Valentine’s Day gift. How a 2000 year old decapitation came to be associated with modern day romance is anyone’s guess, but associated it is: traditionally February Fourteenth features the exchange of gifts between lovers, traditionally flowers, which makes a perverse sort of sense, as flowers, themselves severed vegetative sexual organs, are delivered to females by males castrated by capitalist convention. My own Valentine’s tradition is to give the old lady a break by making my own sandwiches. Through the years Valentine’s Day has come to be associated with the Roman God Cupid – Eros in Greek mythology – the son of goddess of love Venus (the Greek Aphrodite) and god of war Mars (the Greek Ares). Quite logically those two genetic strains combine in Cupid’s special power: he owns a bow by which he inflicts lust upon the recipient of his arrows. You don’t have to be Fellini to figure out the symbolism there. In the original version Cupid was a grown ass god married to a mortal broad called Psyche. After a bit of tomfoolery that need not concern us here Psyche finds herself wandering the country side where she’s discovered by the half horse Pan, who betrays Psyche to her evil mother in law Venus, who never approved of the marriage in the first place. To have her revenge Venus first locked Psyche away in a dungeon and then sent her off on a series of quests, the last of which found her in Hell, where in an odd twist she found redemption instead of everlasting torment; afterwards she is returned to earth, made immortal, and reunited with Cupid. Despite all this grown up adventure Cupid somehow through the ages came to be portrayed as a fat baby in a diaper, who in the middle ages was often portrayed by artists astride a dolphin. Scholars suggest that the dolphin has to do with his mother’s origins – she is said to have spontaneously generated out of the sea – but you can’t fool me: it’s just a giant penis, which also makes a perverse sort of sense, as Cupid is sort of a dick. Apropos of which, this, by Stephen Crane

In the desert I saw a creature,
naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PU: The Sweet Stench of Success

salt-and-pepper-8

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

B6nCLvCCYAE-dAk

 

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.”

 

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.

Ram Tough

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GAME: It was another laugher Sunday afternoon at the Garden as Saint John’s defeated Fordham 74-53 in what is for some reason still referred to as the Holiday Festival. For those of you youngsters out there the Holiday Festival used to be a prestigious and exciting Christmas time college basketball tournament that featured the likes of Bob Cousy, Jimmy Walker, Mel Davis and Cazzie Russell. Now it involves neither a holiday or a festival and features the likes of Fordham, perhaps the worst program in college basketball history. On the bright side Saint John’s won and overcame a bit of adversity in doing so, outscoring Fordham by 20 points after Chris Obekpa fouled out late in the first half. On the not so bright side it was Fordham, so who cares . Saint John’s came out a little flat – it was almost as if they expected Fordham to roll over in the face of a ranked opponent and so spent the first 10 minutes lackadaisically chucking up threes and generally goofing around. Credit where due a Lavin time out at around the 12 minute mark sparked an 11-0 run, after which the outcome was not much in doubt. With Obekpa out of the game Saint John’s went small and pressed full court, which flummoxed Fordham into a timidity that resulted in 22 turnovers and twice as many missed shots as they made. Saint John’s OTOH shot 50 percent from the floor and a respectable 33 percent from three and 70 percent from the line. And once again Saint John’s free throw defense was exemplary: they held Fordham to 60 percent from the line … At 8 and 1 Saint John’s is beginning to develop a bit of an attitude, which I find a bit troubling. In the first place it’s December and in the second this is a group that has not accomplished anything, ever. It would be a shame if come March this team ended up looking back and saying oh well, at least we beat Syracuse, which is why I’m hoping Saint Mary’s puts a hell of a scare in them next Friday.

PLAYERS: You might find it hard to believe but there are posters on various Saint John’s fan forums who consider themselves to be knowledgeable basketball fans who think that Jamal Branch is better at basketball than Rysheed Jordan. I know, hilarious right? But it’s true. And when you point out to them that besides his obvious awfulness Branch has managed 2 points and 1 rebound in his last 40 minutes of play they say, oh yeah, like statistics tell the whole story and append eye rolling emoticons because if you’re an imbecile graphics trump statistics, logic and rhetoric. So I will leave it to those portentous gasbags to explain why Jordan’s 24 point 4 rebound performance wasn’t that really good. I was pretty impressed, but then I’m a rube …Harrison had 22 and passed the great George Johnson on the SJU all-time scoring list. Black hole Zendon Hamilton up next … Dom Pointer had a couple of dunks and 5 rebounds but was otherwise nothing to write home about … Phil Greene reverted to his usual 3 for 12 clank-fest, which suggests that his recent hot streak was an outlier … Which brings us to Chris Obekpa, who was ejected after nearly throwing a Fordham player to the floor and then jawing at the referee afterwards. I think Obekpa was upset because after assaulting his opponent he threw his hands up in the air in the universal I-dint-do-nothing signal but was T’ed up anyway. This is not the first time Obekpa has demonstrated immature and untoward behavior on the court and I am hopeful that Coach Lavin recognizes that Obekpa has anger issues and suspends him for his own good for the rest of the season so that he can seek counseling without the distraction of basketball because some things are more important than winning. Ha, just kidding of course, Lavin is coaching for a contract extension, he wouldn’t suspend Obekpa if they found a couple of nun’s heads rolling around in the back seat of a car he stole from a crippled Gulf War veteran … Speaking of awful things, Jamal Branch had another two point performance. He also managed the play of the game in the first minute when he went up to snatch a rebound with authority, missed it, and had the ball bounce off his head out of bounds. I LOL’ed, and then rewound the game and LOL’ed again …The rest of the scrubs and walk-ons got shuffled in and out in the wake of Obekpa’s departure and collectively showed little or nothing.

NOTES: I owe an apology to Tarik Turner. It is clear after today’s game that he is not the worst colormoron in college basketball. That honor obviously belongs to Ron Thompson, son of the John Thompson, and proof of the old adage that the apple sometimes falls so far from the tree that you don’t even know what kind of fruit fell from which kind of tree. Thompson – who was 9 and 22 in his one year as a D1 coach, so you know he knows basketball – babbled like a nincompoop from the opening tip; when he wasn’t repeating himself ad nauseum over and over again saying the same things more than once and then saying them again he was spouting irrelevancies and inanities, to the extent that I became physically angry and would have turned the sound off if I were not hoping to be rewarded with some imbecilities to share with my regular readers. And I was. For example, with Fordham down 22 and 10 minutes remaining Thompson opined that “the clock was starting to become Fordham’s enemy” and then with Fordham still down 22 with three minutes left noted that the game was “a little out of reach.” Yes Ronnie, and Mila Kunis is a little out of my league … Except for basketball, Fordham is the school Saint John’s wishes it was: a selective Catholic university with a rich intellectual tradition and a wealth of influential alumni and faculty; the latter include Geraldine Ferraro, former CIA director Bill Casey, G Gordon Liddy, Denzel Washington, Alan Alda, the novelist Dom DeLillo, Vince Lombardi, Marshall McLuhan, Vin Scully and Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo. Whereas probably the most well-known Saint John’s alumnus is former governor Mario Cuomo, who was so impressed by his education that he sent both his sons – current Governor Andrew and journalist Chris – to Fordham …. Unfortunately for Fordham they do have a basketball program and unfortunately for the basketball program it’s coached by Tom Pecora, a mediocrity whose name pops up every time there’s a coaching opening at Saint John’s and whose hiring is one of the few bullets that Saint John’s has managed to dodge over the years. But as awful as Pecora is – and he’s 37 and 89 at Fordham – he’s not close to the worst coach Fordham has had. Before Pecora was Jared Grasso, 1-22. Before Grasso Derek Whittenburg – whose most important basketball accomplishment was an airball in the 1983 NCAA championship game – was 69 and 112. Before Whittenburg Bob Hill was 36 and 78. Before Hill Nick Macarchuk was 161 and 192. That’s 304-493 until you get to Tom Penders, the last Fordham coach to have a winning record, barely, at 125 and 114. And in fact the only coach to have a successful career at Fordham since John Bach retired with 482 wins in 1968 was Digger Phelps, who won 26 games in his only year there in 1971 and then got the hell out. Bonus fact: backup point guard on Phelps team was Peter PJ Carlesimo … Captain Kangaroo’s sidekick was Mr. Greenjeans, portrayed by Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, a jazz vocalist who at one point performed in a band led by Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby, a graduate of Gonzaga whose career was celebrated in an earlier recap. A long standing rumor falsely postulated that Brannum was the father of musical genius Frank Zappa, based upon Zappa’s authorship of Mr. Green Genes and Son of Mister Green Genes. The former of is included here for your enjoyment and edification.

 

Fairly Predictable

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GAME: There’s not much to say about this one. Saint John’s has never lost to Fairleigh Dickinson and they certainly weren’t going to last night, not a team full of seniors a week after being ranked for the first time in three years. Although they didn’t come out and put the kind of hurt on FDU that they could have if they were really motivated, they were good enough. They are, as Steve Lavin put it in the post season presser “incrementally taking baby or infant steps up the mountain or hillside so that as the season progresses or moves on we will be playing our best basketball in the future or times to come.” That might not be verbatim, but that’s what it says in my notes anyway … Saint John’s shot about as well from the floor as I can remember. Evidently Phil Greene’s confidence is contagious. Personally I find Phil Greene’s confidence (and shot) suspect, having watched him clank shot after shot after shot off the rim for three years and unless he’s really turned the corner would hope that he’d save some of this confidence for January or February or dare I think it out loud, March. Because it’s December, and only fools get excited about college basketball in December … Regular readers are aware that I slam Lavin pretty regularly as a self-serving self-aggrandizing chowderhead. But that doesn’t mean I’m not fair-minded. When I see someone do something well, I’m happy to give them credit, no matter how repulsive they are as human beings. One thing Lavin has been doing an amazing job at this year is coaching his team’s free throw defense. Fairleigh Dickinson was yesterday 10 for 21 from the foul line, which continues a streak during which Saint John’s has held opponents well below normal: on the season SJU opponents are shooting 60 percent (89 for 146); Division One opponents are shooting 57 percent (73 for 126); and high major programs 55 percent (34 of 61). To put that in perspective, I shot 25 foul shots last night after I finished plowing the driveway and hit 16 and despite the cold I was still pretty faced.

PLAYERS: Harrison had 26 points and passed David Russell on the all times scoring list. I tried googling to figure out who’s next on the list but I couldn’t find it, because SJU’s on line media sucks. I think it’s probably Zendon but don’t quote me …Phil Greene had four assists, doubling his season total … Obekpa had a double double and nearly a triple double …Jamal Branch played perhaps the least productive 28 minutes that have been played in a college basketball game this year: 2 points, no assists, 1 rebound, two turnovers. Meanwhile Rysheed Jordan – who’s no longer the starting point guard – played 24 minutes: 8 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers. I try not to get too Area 51 about this stuff, but question: is it possible that Lavin is purposefully attempting to diminish Jordan’s chances of playing professional basketball next year? And the answer of course is yes, it’s possible: We know that Lavin is a vapid narcissist who has in the past put his own interest above those of his players. He refuses to let Jordan speak to the media: the clear implication is that Jordan is either inarticulate or immature or both. He’s started three players over Jordan this year, including a walk on, the implication being that Jordan is not very good at basketball. And now Jordan, once a prize recruit, is losing minutes to Jamal Branch, who brings absolutely nothing to the table. Something is rotten in Denmark. … Dom Pointer committed his first technical – well, it was the first one that was called – and fouled out … Christian Jones played two minutes. His stat line: 0,0,0,0,0,0 … Balamou played 9 minutes and had a career high two rebounds … Lavin left in his starters – three of whom played more than 35 minutes – until the final minute, so the three walk-ons – including two former starters themselves – played only 5 minutes between them. In a 22 point victory. In which Saint John’s was giving 18.5.

NOTES: Before the game I watched Lavin’s appearance on the hilariously named “We Need To Talk,” which despite its resemblance to an SCTV summer replacement show hosted by Edith Prickley is an actual all-women’s talk show on the CBS Sports Network. Except for some creepy flirtation between Lavin and one of the hosts that made my skin crawl it was not nearly as awful as I hoped. Because it was a televised event and he was representing the university that pays him two million dollars a year, Lavin wore his formal black sweat suit, through which his nipples were clearly and unfortunately visible …. Fairleigh Dickinson is named for Fairleigh Dickinson, co-founder of the Becton Dickinson, a Fortune 500 medical supply company. Dickinson designed and patented the disposable syringe, and as such is responsible not only for much of the world’s heroin problem but AIDS as well: as the saying goes, behind every fortune is a great crime. Notorious graduates include former Yankee Ron Bloomberg, baseball’s first designated hitter; pretentious gasbag Peggy Noonan; and former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg, who played point guard at FD for Al Lobalbo, long-time assistant to Lou Carnesecca.