Seton Hell


RECAP: A team of players who Steve Lavin thought were not good enough to play for him at Saint John’s defeated a team of players who are not good enough to play for Chris Mullin at Saint John’s 79-60 in New Jersey Wednesday night. With the latter ahead 18-10 about ten minutes in I turned to the long suffering missus fun and said “at least it looks like it’s going to be a game,” at which point Seton Hall went on a 24-8 run to close the half en route to outscoring Saint John’s by 27 the rest of the way. This was disappointing, but not as disappointing as what’s going to happen on Sunday, when Villanova comes to town. That should be a blood bath.

PLAYERS: Chris Jones led the team with 15 points and had 5 rebounds and 3 steals. That sounds like a pretty good night. It was not … Mvouika, in one of his rare displays of competency, was 3 of 4 from three … Yawke had 8 points and 10 rebounds which would have been pretty good had Angel Delgado not gone for 15 and 17. Four of six from the free throw line though, which was perhaps the one bright spot of the evening … Federico Mussini – who one astute observer recently called the best shooter Saint John’s has seen since Chris Mullin – is 16 for 45 from the floor over his last 4 games and is shooting 33 percent from three for the year. Oddly we did not last night hear half time commentator Steve Lavin give Steve Lavin credit for recruiting Mussini, as he did during the Syracuse game, which was about the last time it was not painful and depressing to watch Mussini play basketball. He and Durand Johnson were a combined 7 for 25 from the floor and they’re the ones who are supposed to be able to throw the ball through the round thing … Ali Alimakeawish had two turnovers and shot an air ball in the first two minutes of the game in route to a zero point, one rebound performance. If Steve Lavin credited himself with AA’s recruitment I did not catch it … Felix Balamou was one for eight from the floor …. Not to be outdone Malik Ellison was 2-9. One thing you can say about him is that he’s not shy. Another thing you can say is that he’s not good. Was credited with six assists, which is pretty remarkable considering Saint John’s only had 21 field goals … Both walk-ons played about half a dozen minutes midway through the second half, in tandem. Whether Mullin had a premonition or was trying to teach his players a lesson is unclear. The odd thing was that the team did not look any worse when they were in there.

NOTES: Now that Steve Lavin is not around to neglect the Saint John’s basketball program Kevin Willard isn’t going to have local players like Khadeem Carrington and Angel Delgado fall into his lap. Perhaps that’s why his eyes get beadier and beadier every time I see him. That may also be why he took it easy on Chris Mullin last night, resting his starters late, lest he face a series of vicious Sailor Ripley beatings down the line.



From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee;
For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee

RECAP: I woke up this morning pretty sure I wasn’t going to write anything about Saint John’s 10th straight loss, this one to Marquette 78-73 at Carnesecca Arena Sunday afternoon. Frankly I’m bored with this exercise: without Lavin here to fuel me I am like Ahab without Moby Dick. They lost another game, they’re going to lose a bunch more, next year will get here eventually. Frankly I was last night happier to see Tom Brady suck it than I would have been had Saint John’s won. It took some fan boi moron referring to Steve Lavin as a “magic wand” – some geniuses are using the occasion of the loss to rehash the ‘was Lavin a better coach than Norm debate,’ which no he wasn’t, he’s not a better coach than anyone, he sucks – to get me to produce even this dreck and only so I can point out what a complete and utter tool that guy is, Lavin is a magic wand, LOL. Hey Rocky, watch me pull a prostate out of my ass.

PLAYERS: Durand Johnson led the team in in points, steals, assists and had 5 rebounds. Imagine what he could do if he hustled … Mussini scored 19 points, all of them after Saint John’s was already down by 15 … Malik Ellison had 4 turnovers and 5 fouls and missed 4 shots, in only 18 minutes. That’s a little less than one screw up a minute. It’s a shame he didn’t suit up for Marquette, Saint John’s might have won … Yawke had 7 points and 8 rebounds, which would have been pretty good had not Ellenson gone for 16 and 18 … Balamou got pulled early after not closing on Duane Wilson who hit back to back three from the same spot early in the first half. He did not play much after that and who cares … Alibegowich once again see sawed back and forth between the sublime and ridiculous. For example early in the first half he had a put back that might well have been on ESPN’s top 10 and then on the very next possession threw a stupid lazy ¾ court pass that led to a Marquette break away … Mvouika and Jones were a combined 2-11 from the floor

NOTES: Some magic riffs, which this morning I can’t be arsed to flesh out.

– Wasn’t Rico Hines the real magic wand on that staff?

– The only time Lavin would say open sesame was when he went out for sushi after the game.

– Lavin was less Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo and more aBRAcadaBRA, (because he had pasta titties)

– Keady’s incantation: By the Power of Grayskull

That’s gold Jerry, gold.

And now, hocus pocus:


Get to Steppin


It occurred to me this morning as I sat down to reminisce about Saint John’s 9th straight loss to Butler Saturday afternoon how similarly situated Chris Mullin and I are. After the Georgetown loss Mullin said something to the effect of ‘what do you expect, look at our roster,’ which would be a strange way for an educator to describe his efforts to tutor his delicate charges, but not at all a strange way for a former NBA GM to explain his team’s moribund results, because he realizes that even a minimum level of competition requires a cohesive group of complementary players, which players Mullin does not yet have, which is why he’s sitting on the scorer’s table: he’s waiting for them to arrive. What does that have to do with me? Well, Mullin’s talents are wasted coaching these players and mine are wasted describing their play. And I don’t know how much more patience I have for it. Because unlike Mullin nobody’s paying me a couple of million a year to rehash this dreck … Saint John’s shot 33 percent from the floor, 20 percent from three, and 60 percent from the FT line. Do we need to know anything more than that? No … Last time out versus Georgetown the refs called 52 personal fouls. This time they called 46. What was interesting is that in the first half the first foul was not called until the 16:40 mark and in the second half the first foul was not called until the 15:40 mark. That means that the two teams combined to play about four pristine minutes at the beginning of each half, eight minutes total, in which no player on either team made illegal contact with any other player on the opposing team and then for the next 16 minutes they combined to commit a foul every 40 seconds. Anyone believe that? Me neither. What’s ironic is that amongst all that carnage and whistle blowing a brief SJ flurry in the second half was squelched when Mussini was all but tackled on a breakaway – he ended up under the stanchion with a Butler player laying on top of him – and nothing was called. Whereas if Alibegowitch had made that play they’d have suspended him for two games.

PLAYERS: Ron Mvoika was named in a pregame feature as a “Game Changer.” That designation turned out to be precipitous: he finished with 5 points … Alibegovic responded to his insertion into the starting line up by going 1 for 7 from the floor and scoring three points, all of those on one shot midway through the first half … Yawke had 8 rebounds and 4 blocks but was 1 for 7 from the free throw line … Mussini and Johnson combined for 26 points on 10 shots each and that includes a combined 10 for 10 from the FT line, meaning they otherwise scored a total of 16 points on 20 field goal attempts … If you had asked me after the game whether Felix Balamou had scored 13 points on 6 of 8 from the floor I would have said no. But evidently he did … Jones missed a couple of chippies and had only one rebound. And yet if I were Mullin I would have Jones playing the point guard over Malik Ellison, who had 4 turnovers and no points and fouled out in 15 minutes. I suppose the seasoning will help him the long run but personally I’d be quite happy to not see him on the floor again until next November

NOTES: I don’t know who’s scheduling these games but whoever it is might want to avoid the ones that are slated on memorial days, because these guys have enough problems on the road. A couple of games ago it was Al McGuire Day on Al McGuire court and this time there was a tearful pregame ceremony honoring some poor bastard who died of cancer. (Question: how come every time someone dies of cancer it’s said that they “battled” the disease? Doesn’t anyone just get diagnosed and give up? I gave up like 20 years ago and there’s nothing particularly wrong with me yet.) I mean sure, RIP and all that but Saint John’s has enough problems guarding the three point line, much less ghosts … The game was called by former first round NBA draft pick Dickey Simpkins, who was slightly less incoherent than Bill Walton with the added bonus that I didn’t have to see him in bicycle pants. Hashtag win win. Simpkins played eight years in the NBA and got two rings with Jordan’s Bulls, but didn’t contribute much: mostly he sat on the bench behind Bill Wennington, so how good he have been really. At 43 years old no one should be called Dicky, except perhaps former child stars like the great Dickie Roberts … Finally, speaking of cancer, it was revealed this week that former Saint John’s assistant coach Rico Hines was being divorced by his wife Tichina Arnold after she discovered sex tapes featuring her husband and more than 20 “Kim Kardashian wannabes” in flagrante and raw dog. Normally I’d leave such prurient material to fester in the sewer that is Daily News, but it occurs to me that since Hines and Arnold were married in 2012 all of this footage was likely filmed while Hines was on the Saint John’s payroll and might well explain at least in part the laughable results the former staff achieved. I know from bitter experience that snaking broads is an expensive and time-consuming process and if that’s what Hines was spending his time doing and Lavin was at Rao’s cutting up Keady’s food and wiping marinara from his chin that doesn’t leave a lot of time for hanging out in high school gymnasiums. And yet there are still rubes who defend that snake oil salesman and bemoan his passing from the scene. Go figure.







Lovett or Listeth

When he was borne to his grave they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.

RECAP: Saint John’s dropped their 8th straight 93-73 to Georgetown Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The score though was deceiving, because if you believe as I do that the free throw is the most exciting play in college basketball and perhaps even in all of sports, then Wednesday night you spent most of the game on your edge of your seat, as the teams combined for 52 fouls and 55 free throws, which amounts to a clock stoppage every 46 seconds, not counting time outs, turnovers, and TV time outs. Which as you can imagine made for some exciting television …


One of last night’s referees, Mike Stephens, holds a full time civil service position in Providence – Director of Recreation no less – while at the same time earning close to $ 200K refereeing 90 college basketball games a year. In many cities holding a second job  that interferes with your full time employment is grounds for dismissal and in some cases, jail time. In a cesspool of corruption like Providence it earns you the key to the city, which was awarded to Stephens this past spring.


… The deficit was seven about midway through the first half when Saint John’s went on one of their patented scoring droughts – they managed only 12 points in the last 10 minutes of the half, during which time only Ablivickwith and Johnson made field goals and were down 17 at the break. Saint John’s was down 26 when John Thompson III took his starters out and 16 when he put them back in after a brief SJU flurry, as if the outcome was ever in doubt. Which it wasn’t … It’s hard to understand from looking at the box score just what went wrong. The officiating, although egregious, was reciprocally awful: 28 personal fouls and 33 free throws for the one, 24 and 32 for the other; turnovers were 14 to 11; each team had 14 assists and 32 rebounds; both had 54 field goal attempts and even the shooting percentages were roughly equivalent, free throws 81 to 75 and 3-pointer 41 to 39; only field goal percentage reveals a bit of an advantage, 52 to 39 (oddly Saint John’s shot 38.9 from both the floor and from three). And yet it was a slaughter. Mostly because whatever little SJ did well they did well in the second half when the game was already over … There is no safe harbor on the horizon: home and away with #23 Butler, at Seton Hall, at Xavier, home  versus Villanova and Marquette. I feel bad for DePaul though, Saint John’s gets them twice in February, when historically they’ve played their best ball.

PLAYERS: Mvouika led the team with 15 points. He scored all of them in the second half, when the game was already over. Congratulations Ron … Alibegowitch had 12 points in 21 minutes before fouling out. His aggression is appreciated on the team as currently composed but here’s hoping he does not become too enamored of being the team’s first offensive option … Mussini hit two 3’s four minutes into the first half and did not score again until four minutes were left in the game. He finished with 11 points: 3 for 10 from the floor and 2 for 9 from three … By comparison Durand Johnson, who finished with 10, was the model of efficiency: 3 for 9 from the floor and 2 of 4 from three … Balamou has perhaps the ugliest and most ridiculous jump shot in the history of college basketball. Six for six from the FT line, for which improvement I credit my calling him out in a recent essay, he’s only missed one since I scolded him … Jones had 4 points 4 rebounds and three assists, which would be a nice line from a seventh man. Unfortunately he’s the starting PF … Yawke missed a couple of chippies but considering how full his hands were single handedly defending Georgetown’s enormous front line, he gets a pass. PS Jessie Govan is the most terrifying player I’ve seen since Michael Graham … Malik Ellison was 1 for 5 from the floor with 2 assists and three turnovers. To the extent that Ellison is a freshman and a stop gap he also gets a pass but anyone who thinks that he’s the answer at point guard is delusional.

NOTES: Which brings us to Marcus Lovett. Speculation was rampant this week on various Saint John’s forums that the point guard of the future was planning on transferring. There seems to be no evidence that this is the case – at least there was no report of it in the press – and in fact the rumor itself traces back as far as I can tell to an offhand comment by a well-known forum troll who’s not even much of a Saint John’s fan. And yet the idea dominated the conversation this week. Self-important posters with moles and sources claimed that they had heard rumblings of the rumor themselves. Wise old sages counseled patience, as who knows what lurks in the hearts of teen aged boys. Proactive posters scoured Lovett’s twitter feed and Instagram account, looking for hidden meanings and reading emojis like hieroglyphics. And the usual hysterics felt faint and swooned on the divan, wondering how anyone could subject fans like themselves to such drama and where would it all end. All that was missing to make the spectacle complete was a poster called Tituba reporting that she and Lovett had been dancing in the woods with Old Scratch and Goodman Brown. On the face of it there seems to be no evidence that Lovett is or was contemplating leaving – although admittedly I haven’t yet analyzed his body language and facial expressions from the tape of last night’s game, which he viewed from behind the bench –  and objectively there would seem to be little reason to: next year he will be from day one the starting point guard on a team sorely in need of a point guard, playing in what I am continually assured is the best BB conference in the country, where he will learn basketball from two hall of famers, while living in the greatest city in the world, on a team and program that seem headed in the right direction. Seems like a no brainer. What strikes me is that Saint John’s fans have been down for so long and are so conditioned to disappointment that they create their own drama, so that even if the sky doesn’t fall they experience the frisson of doom that real catastrophe engenders. They are like a battered wife who burns dinner on the off chance her husband comes home from work in a good mood, because deep down she knows that she deserves a good beating.

Wojo Is Me


Saint Johns dropped their 4th straight to start the Big East season 81-75 at Marquette Saturday afternoon. The last thing I want to be doing on Sunday morning afterwards is phoning in another one of these dopey essays. Because in the aftermath there isn’t really anything for me to complain about and let’s face kvetching is what I do best. During the previous regime when they lost or even when they didn’t I could always find fault in something Lavin did or didn’t do or his clothing or how much make up he wore or the stupid things he invariably said after the game and even if all that was unavailing Chris Obekpa would have grinned like an idiot after elbowing some poor defenseless bastard in the back of the head or Phil Greene would have shot 2 for 13 from the floor and I would have been off to the races. Now though none of the players who are even vaguely annoying are going to be here long enough to get annoyed at and Mullin can do whatever he wants – even read the newspaper during silent time outs late in the game – and sure they lost but what’s another loss or even 10 in the pantheon of futility that is SJ basketball. So I’ve got nothing except platitudes: good entertaining game, kids played hard, on to the next one … After a brief Marquette spurt to start the game Saint John’s outscored them by 15 or so to go into halftime up 8, which was the margin more or less about 8 minutes into the second half when SJU lost the thread. At that point the play by play reveals

Frederico Mussini turnover.

Frederico Mussini turnover.

Christian Jones turnover.

Christian Jones turnover.

Felix Balamou turnover

Durand Johnson turnover

in about a 4 minute period, punctuated only by a couple of free throws. By the end of it Marquette was up two and never looked back. To the extent that the box score is revealing it doesn’t really reveal anything. Other than Saint John’s 20 assists the only thing that jumps out is that SJ once again got the short end of the FT stick, 21-12, but context explains that that was the result of 10 straight free throws Marquette made in the last minute. And actually for most of the game the refs didn’t call hardly anything, which accrued to Saint John’s benefit. The only anomaly was two moving picks the refs called while Marquette was making their second half run, which were the only two they called the entire game. Which was a little odd point of emphasis wise.

PLAYERS: Yawke had a remarkable game against bigger, stronger, more highly-regarded front line: 9 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks and he even took a couple of charges. The bright side of Sima’s absence is that Yawke will get his minutes … Durand Johnson’s entry in the first half coincided with the run that led to Saint John’s 8-point half time lead. He led SJ with 18 points although 6 of those were two late threes of interest to no one but the guys who took the points … Mvouika had 13 points and five assists, his second straight game in double figures … Mussini had ten points but it took him 9 shots to get them and four turnovers as well. Good thing he doesn’t have a mohawk and tattoos, things might turn ugly …. Jones 6 points but only three rebounds. The more he plays, the less productive he is …. Balamou made the first 3 pointer of his career but missed the front end of a one and one late …. Alibegovic played 15 minutes that seemed like an eternity …. Ellison played a bunch of point guard. On the one hand having a 6’6” PG is a good thing. On the other hand, having Ellison as a point guard is not.

NOTES: Saturday at Marquette was Al McGuire Day, celebrated by an Al McGuire Day game on Al Mcguire Court. Everything was in place for Coach Wojo to achieve the defining loss of his career. But instead of climbing that mountain he managed a win, which will be remembered only as just another small step on his long journey to floor slapping mediocrity. Because Wojo is a dope. But not so much of one that I do not regret seeing him squander an opportunity like that, because life is short and only rarely do the stars so align.  Oh well.



RECAP: Saint John’s lost to #10 Xavier 74-66 Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena for their third straight loss to start the Big East season. Oh and three is not good but lest we forget Steve Lavin’s 2013 team full of juniors started the Big East season 0-5 and righted the ship on their way to a glorious first round loss to Robert Morris in the NIT, so perhaps all is not yet lost. In any event I’m not going to start to worry until Mullin starts his redshirts and walk-ons, which was Lavin’s solution to his team’s woes … I took copious notes during the game but in light of morning they turn out to be none too helpful. I started out trying to track the comings and goings of the players relative to the score to see if Ellison really was the Jonah I perceived him to be but stopping and starting the DVR and scribbling notes became pretty cumbersome and not just because I was knocking back absinthe at a pretty good clip. So I’ll have to trust my memory, and we all know how unreliable recollections can be … Xavier led most of the way as you would expect the number ten team in the country to do against a bunch of freshmen, but Saint John’s made a game of it late before faltering. All in all it was an entertaining affair and at the risk of repeating myself them being competitive is about all a rational fan can hope for at this stage … Except for field goal percentage the numbers – 3 point shooting, rebounds, turnovers, assists – were about even. The difference was that Xavier’s guards – who were otherwise 8 of 20 from the floor and 3 for 8 from three – combined for 37 points, thanks mostly to the 20 free throws they were awarded, of which they made 18. At least a couple of those fouls were ridiculous calls on poor Amar Albiviowitz, who stood statuary under the basket while people scaled him like King Kong crawling up the Empire State Building. Unlike Fay Wray at least he took it like a man. I don’t like to whine about the refs but a differential of 11 free throws in a game that was within one point with two minutes left is a big deal. The differential is all the more puzzling because SJU took nearly 20 shots more than Xavier. Ordinarily one would not think that 40 percent more FG attempts would result in 30 percent fewer free throws, unless you’re playing dewk obviously … In other news Chris Mullin sat on scorer’s table again. I think like me Chris Mullin is just waiting for Chris Mullin to have enough players who are capable of learning basketball from Chris Mullin. If that’s the case he might as well wait on the scorer’s table as anywhere else.

PLAYERS: Mussini was on his way to another abysmal performance before he hit four threes in a 4 minute stretch  during Saint John’s late comeback. It was for a brief moment like being whisked back to that magical day in December of last year when Phil Greene had his 3 minute career versus Syracuse. Unfortunately on the very next play after the fourth one Mussini got a stupid technical that resulted in a 9-2 Xavier run that put the game away … Ron Mvouika emerged from his three week coma to score 19 points. He was only 5 for 14 from the floor and 2 of 8 from three but somebody’s got to shoot. In the first half he banked in a three as the shot clock expired, which is usually something only the other guys do … Speaking of shooting Durand Johnson took many bad shots, few of which went in, including none of his 8 threes. He did however lead the team in rebounds (5) and assists (3) and had a pretty thunderous tomahawk dunk in the first half that I watched a bunch of times … Alibeckowith played his usual game. One minute he makes a beautiful turnaround jumper on the baseline and the next kicks the ball out of bounds trying to take his guy off the dribble. When I think of the European vacation that resulted in Amar’s recruitment I’m reminded of David Puddy’s line “what do you think they have in the Gap in Rome that they don’t have here” … Sima had 5 rebounds in 11 minutes before injuring his hand and not returning. I appreciate his aggressiveness on the offensive end but every time he shoots the ball someone is in danger of decapitation … Ellison and Yawke played 20 minutes between them and scored 2 points. Yawke had an excuse: he didn’t take any shots. Ellison otoh was 1-5 … Felix Balamou was a 91 percent free throw shooter over his first two years at SJ. He is in his last two years a 66 percent FT shooter. Last night was no exception … Chris Jones had 4 points and 4 rebounds in nearly twice as many minutes as he has been playing previously. I will leave it to the great basketball minds among us to determine whether 4 rebounds in 28 minutes is more or less better than 10 rebounds in 18 minutes when you take into account intangibles that do not show up in the box score

NOTES: It’s amazing how much more prepared and engaged Steve Lavin is as a halftime analyst than he was as a head basketball coach. When he was on the sidelines at SJU he jumped around like an epileptic monkey in a track suit and prattled on incomprehensibly about condiments and super heroes and box stores. In the studio though he’s all this guy is 5 for 7 from inside the arc on Thursdays while the moon in in its third phase. It’s almost as if he takes being on TV seriously … Lou Carnesecca in attendance, looking no worse for wear after celebrating his 91st birthday late into the afternoon on Tuesday. Many happy returns on the day.

Well Dunn


RECAP: I’ve got little to say about Saint John’s loss to Providence 83-65 on Saturday afternoon and probably would not have bothered writing at all except when I don’t Rabinowitz gets cranky. So: PU is number 12 in the country, they’ve got a consensus all American, the game was in Providence and oh yeah, Saint John’s stinks. That they kept it respectable is about all you can ask for and about all they did … Saint John’s shot 36 percent from the floor and 2 for 13 from three. They had a paltry six assists and were outrebounded by 10. They had 13 TOs and missed a third of their free throws. Meanwhile Providence shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three and Kris Dunn came as close to a triple double as you want to see the other guys best player come. That it was as close as it was – SJU got within six in the second half – seems in retrospect remarkable … SJU has now lost five in a row and I don’t see a win on the horizon until January 23rd and maybe not even then, which best case scenario means a 1-6 start in conference. There’s not a lot to be done about it except to hope that the lumps they take this year pay benefits next year. Of course it could be that Chris Mullin’s teams play their best basketball in February, which if that’s the case we could be in line for a Lavinesque magic carpet ride to the CBI finals. Stay tuned.

PLAYERS: Not much here to chew on. The one bright spot was Sima, who led the team in points (14) and rebounds (6) … Chris Jones had 7 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes. That’s two games in a row where he’s played short minutes despite being productive. To the extent that Mullin is seasoning his underclassmen at Jones expense that’s probably a wise decision … Balamou played 37 minutes, perhaps in an effort to contain Dunn. If so, it did not work … Durand Johnson was 2 for 10 from the floor. Four rebounds and three steals though … The score was 25-20 when Malik “Jonah” Ellison’s name first appears in the box score at the 7 minute mark in the first half. He played 23 of the next 27 minutes during which time the PU lead ballooned to 18. If that plus minus is a coincidence it’s the third or fourth coincidence in a row. In any event he missed all his shots, turned it over a couple of times and managed one rebound … Yawke had seven points and a couple of rebounds but took two horrible shots on consecutive possessions in the first half when SJ was briefly in the lead … Albivevowith played 27 minutes, most of them credibly. I thought he was called for a bogus flagrant foul late but not according to the box score … Mullin wisely spared Federico Mussini the embarrassment of trying to cover Kris Dunn. He played only 13 minutes and did not contribute … Speaking of not contributing, Ron Mvouika

NOTES: I got nothing. Even I can only find so many ways to make fun of Cooley’s head.