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Villanova Fudge

I considered taking a mental health day after Villanova defeated Saint John’s 70-53 Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. It was all in all not a bad effort – considering how poorly they played in DC the other day and that they were playing a veteran team nine months removed from a national championship they in fact played pretty well – good enough to beat teams like LIU and Delaware State that they should have beaten early in the season but not yet good enough to compete at the highest or at least higher levels. Which is part of the perception problem playing in what I’m continually assured is the best basketball conference in the country: there might be incremental progress taking place but you need a lot of increments before the progress translates into wins when two-thirds of your games are against teams that are ranked in the top twenty, as has been the case since Saint John’s started league play. But anyway back to me – that’s why we’re all here, right? – where was I: oh yeah I considered taking a day off: there’s not a lot to write about what happened yesterday and there’s another one tomorrow that they should win and to the extent that this season matters probably need to win and there’s what looks like a long bleak stretch on the horizon in February when a sabbatical might just be what the doctor ordered … So anyway watching the two teams what really struck me, and this again is to me very much a youth thing: Villanova really values the basketball and Saint John’s has not yet learned to. And in basketball the basketball is really the most important thing. They’ve not yet learned to understand (that’s right, learned to understand) that every possession is, in a sense, sacred: that the way you win is that every time you have the ball you do something good with it and that every time they have the ball you make them do something bad with it. Whereas Saint John’s doesn’t need much help in doing something bad with it, they’re close to expert at stepping on the end line, and dribbling between their legs out bounds, and charging, and clanking threes, that they do all on their own; and they’re not yet skilled and experienced enough on the other side of the ball to make the other guy make mistakes and in fact much of the time they look like they’re trying to help the other guy not make mistakes. Which is not good strategy. It’s kind of a variation on what Savielly Tartakover said about chess, that “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.” In basketball the winner is the team that makes the fewest worst plays and Saint John’s is still making the most.  And as I said, a lot of that is youth. Like when you’re a kid and your tooth falls out, not only does a new one grow in but some ethereal tart visits in the middle of the night and leaves a dollar under your pilllow. Whereas when you get older you only lose a tooth after some sadist first gives you a root canal and then eventually when enough of them fall out you keep the replacements in a glass on the bedstand and pay for the privilege. That’s why kids don’t brush and adults floss twice a day: because grown ups have learned through bitter experience that even mundane actions can have consequences and that many of them are dire and tragic. Villanova knows that. Saint John’s does not …. Once again saving me the trouble of rehashing things, a picture:

So to recap: Saint John’s came out with energy, got ahead early and briefly, lost focus, fell behind, and never caught up. I have nothing to add to that. To the extent that there’s an illuminating number from the box score it’s rebounds: Villanova was plus 18. Everything else was even: both teams shot 40ish from the floor and 30ish from three; there were about 40 evenly distributed turnovers. On the bright side SJU had 14 assists on 20 made baskets, the black lining on that silver cloud being that they only made 20 baskets … Mullin was T’ded up for I think only the second time in his brief career for jawing at an official after an egregious charging foul on Ponds in the second half that cost Saint John’s a basket. I can’t blame him and was surprised that no one called a technical on me, because I screamed very loudly a bunch of curse words I didn’t even know I knew and I work blue like Modigliani worked in clay. Meanwhile Jay Wright went berserk before halftime and had to be restrained and afterwards one of the officials, I think it was Brian O’Connell, rewarded him with a handjob in the tunnel during halftime. Speaking of the officials, they were once again dreadful: they kept Villanova in the game early – VU was in the bonus in both halves, the third time in three games that Saint John’s opponents have been in the bonus in both halves – and then inexplicably stopped calling fouls about halfway through the second half. Still 30 fouls is a lot less than the 50 I had to sit through the last couple of games, so there’s that … Assuming they beat DePaul – yes that’s a big assumption – they’re three and four after seven league games. I’d probably have signed up for that three weeks ago

PLAYERS: Lovett had 12 points and four assists. The box score says he had only three turnovers but it seemed like more, including one where he dribbled the ball out of bounds in the corner in the midst of what appeared to be a pretty poor Curly Neal impersonation … Ponds had 13 points but only one assist: evidently he was not awarded one for a precision pass he made to a Villanova player under their own basket on a save out of bounds, which he should have been credited with … As usual Malik Allison was sublime and ridiculous. He made some acrobatic moves on drives to the basket – evidently Alibagowitz has been tutoring him on his patented eurostep, because he did that a couple three times – including a dunk that might have been sportcenter worthy depending on how slow the day was. On the other hand he stepped in bounds while inbounding the ball, which is the fourth or fifth turnover he’s had this year because he doesn’t understand how big a basketball court is … Ahmed hit a couple of threes early and then missed the rest of them. I don’t put much stock in body language and facial expressions but he’s nearly the only player who looks like he actually cares about the outcome of the game … Yawke won the tip for the first time I can remember. The way he jumps you’d think he’d win them all. Had a couple of nice pick and rolls with Lovett, but five points and one rebound just is not going to cut it … Missini made a couple of threes, none of them meaningful. On the bright side he got to see Donte DiVincenzo play, who’s just the sort of Italian American player all the Italian American Saint John’s fans pretend Missini is. Hopefully some of it rubbed off on Missini while DiVincenzo was blowing past him on his way to the basket … Owens had seven rebounds but zero points. Note to Tariq: scoring is important … Darien Williams tried a headband, it didn’t help. Blew an amazing feed from Ponds off an Owens out of bounds save when he gathered himself under the basket for so long that a player Jay Wright was able to clone, recruit and sub in was able to block his shot … Alibagoshit played two minutes, which was three minutes too many

NOTES: Usually I’m a Len Elmore fan. Yesterday I was not: he seemed very much in thrall to the defending national champions, which is understandable I suppose but not at the expense of what might have been his alma mater if Lou wasn’t such a dope. Dave Sims I generally run hot and cold about but this year I’ve noticed that he’s developed a habit of screaming about stuff that doesn’t deserve screaming – he reminds me of NYRA race caller John Imbriale, who calls every mule race over the inner track at Aqueduct as if it’s the Kentucky Derby, as opposed to a mundane parade ending at the glue factory. Yesterday Sims screamed in the first half “He lost it out of bounds” and and “He throws it away” with the same enthusiasm that I scream “Oh sweet dear Jesus God” in a Bangkok brothel … There’s a particular species of Saint John’s fans that love them some Jay Wright. Jim Boeheim they hate with a passion and Jim Calhoun as well but for some reason Jay Wright – who beats the shit out of Saint John’s year after year after year – is described in glowing terms, or what they think are glowing terms anyway, like “classy,” which every time I hear one of those dopes say “classy” I check to make sure I still have both of my kidneys. I think it’s because Wright is the one that got away, that in their fever dreams Wright in the antedeluvian past became Saint John’s coach and Saint John’s experienced all the success that Villanova has. You also hear a lot about Wright’s alleged sartorial splendor, that is what a snazzy dresser he is. I just don’t get it. Saturday he wore an off the rack gray pinstripe with a striped lavender tie that made him look like the caterer at Paul Lynde’s wedding. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) And what’s with that thing under his eye, I’d have that checked, it’s disgusting. Other than the back of Ed Cooley’s head – and that’s a high hurdle – it’s the most disquieting deformity in the Big East … I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes trying to work in some obscure reference so that I can slap a pair of funbags at the beginning of this to drive web traffic, then I realized if I just mentioned tits that would work well enough. So: tits.

Am I Blue

GAME: After watching the interminable end of Wednesday night’s Butler upset of Villanova complete with court-storming and post-game interviews I thought to myself, self, if Saint John’s upsets Creighton tonight at Carnesecca Arena they’ll be in sole possession of first place in the Big East since I can’t be arsed to look it up. Which not looking it up is just as well because Saint John’s did not upset Creighton at Carnesecca Arena, instead they lost 85-72. That they did was entirely predictable because this was let’s face it a bad matchup: Creighton starts three upperclassmen, one of them a point guard senior that’s as quick as either of our freshmen and three times as fast as any of our sophomores; they have a dominating big man – Patton looked like a lottery pick Wednesday night although some of that was undoubtedly the competition and some of it was that the referees allowed him to stand around in the lane long enough to grow roots; and head coach Doug McDermott’s father is smart enough to take advantage of those advantages, which he did by forcing the pace on offense and packing it in on defense. You couldn’t create a team in the laboratory that was better designed to kick our teeth in. And yet the good news is that Saint John’s – and I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna here but – didn’t give up. There were a bunch of times they could have thrown in the towel like they did last year when they lost to Creighton by 40 on the road and instead they came back from an 18 point halftime deficit thanks to yet another amazing display of halftime adjustments by coaches Mullin and Saint Jean and cut it to ten a bunch of times where it seemed like they were just one big play or one lucky one away from making it a ballgame. But then one of Creighton’s upperclassmen would make a play or one of our cretin underclassmen wouldn’t and it’d be back to 14. Oh well … There’s no point in rehashing the game when a picture’s worth a thousand words, even a thousand of mine:

 

 

For those of you scoring at home Saint John’s is the red line. Similarly pointless is examination of the box score: CU shot 52 percent, SJU shot 40 percent; Saint John’s was 7-22 from three; rebounds were even at 40; turnovers were even at eight. The only vaguely interesting thing about the numbers is free throws: Saint John’s did not shoot a single free throw until 13:29 in the second half – by then Creighton had shot ten. In the next three minutes someone called Toby Hegner – who prior to that had played immaculate defense – committed three fouls in 2 minutes; in the next 10 minutes Justin Patton committed a foul every 2 minutes and fouled out. It was as if suddenly the heavens opened above the parted Red Sea and the whistles multiplied like loaves and fishes. What really happened is that SJU started attacking the basket a little more aggressively and the referees started calling things a little more aggressively because things were starting to get a little chippy. Of course probably things wouldn’t have started to get chippy if the refs had called things a little more squarely early on. Which is not to blame them for the loss because that would be a pussy move and Creighton is a much better team than we are but noticing it is something else altogether, especially when you have 2000 words to write.

PLAYERS: Lovett played 38 minutes and led Saint John’s with 23 points, including 4 of 5 from three … Tariq Owens had 12 points and five rebounds – four of his field goals came on face-up 15 foot jump shots which if that wasn’t an aberration that could be huge moving forward … Ponds had 17 points and five rebounds. Got T’ed up as part of a double technical late in the second half while the players were jostling for position on an inbounds play under the basket. Seems out of character … Ahmed had six points and seven rebounds. The refs did him no favors by ignoring contact on his drives to the basket – he shot three free throws in a game where he was the victim of six misdemeanors … Ellison had seven of Saint John’s 12 assists and also five rebounds but was 3 of 10 from the floor and one of six from three. Perhaps if he thought less about shooting he could spend more time concentrating on not passing the ball to the pep band … Darien Williams had four rebounds and no points but only played 12 minutes …. Yawke had one rebound in only ten minutes and bungled a bunch of chances under the basket. Seems to have reverted to November Yawke whereas I preferred December Yawke … Alibegowitz finally made a layup using that stupid eurostep he tries at least once a game and afterwards stood under the basket pounding his chest and howling at the crowd like he’d just scored the winning touchdown in the Super bowl in overtime. Whereas in fact he’d just drawn his .500 team – which has won three league games since March 2015 – within 13 points in what would prove to be a losing effort. Which is about like one of Napoleon’s infantryman pounding his chest over the corpse of a dead Russian peasant during the retreat from Moscow … A halfhearted cheer from the crowd greeted the long awaited return of Federico Missini from the mysterious infection that had sidelined him during Saint John’s three game winning streak. I note without postulating causation that his return coincided with that streak’s end. Missini made two threes, one to draw Saint John’s within 18 at the end of the first half and one to draw Saint John’s to within 19 at the beginning of the second half, so it’s good to know he hasn’t lost his ability to drain clutch shots. In my favorite sequence late in the second half he missed a three early in the shot clock that would have drawn SJU with seven, then turned the ball over on the break after a Creighton miss and then fouled the Creighton player who ended up with the ball, making him singlehandedly responsible for a seven-point turnaround. Those of you who continue to write accusing me of acting uncharitably towards Missini because he is slow, weak, and cannot cover or jump over a brick will be happy to hear that I ascribe that display of incompetence to rust.

NOTES: Once again not too much here. I went back and looked at what I wrote about Creighton over the past several years and the most interesting thing was a bit about Kelly Cuoco’s ass and that I only wrote so I could stick her picture at the top of the post in an attempt to tempt to my blog readers who cannot otherwise locate pictures of near naked broads on the internet. The rest of it was about how Nebraska is a big flat pile of nothing, behind which every word I stand – much like I’d like to stand behind Kelly Cuoco, or at least kneel – but there’s no need repeating it …. Breaking news from North Carolina: DooK Coach Mike Krswshrehy – who injured his back after falling from the top of a clock where he had taken refuge from the farmer’s wife – will undergo back surgery and miss up to a month of the season. Upon hearing the tragic news the NCAA immediately sprang into action and announced that Skrewshnski’s absence will be factored into Dewk’s seeding in the NCAA tournament because of course it will. Oddly I don’t remember any similar announcement when Jim Calhoun or Jim Boeheim missed parts of their seasons recuperating from cancer – and Calhoun is at this point more tumor than healthy tissue; and if missing time recuperating from surgery is a qualification for the NCAA grading on a curve our own Steve Lavin should be awarded a retroactive national championship. Meanwhile there’s been no action by the NCAA regarding allegations that no athlete at the University of North Carolina has attended a single class since Saint John’s own Frank McGuire headed the program. Don’t worry though the Thomas More College women’s basketball program is still on probation and facing the death penalty. And finally the repulsive Grayson Allen returned to action last night after an “indefinite suspension” which turned out to be one game because of course it did. Allen you may recall attempted to cripple a player from mighty Elon College in a meaningless preseason game a couple of weeks ago and was disciplined because there are more important things than winning. That this is happening in North Carolina a state the NCAA punished for passing a discriminatory law mandating that men should use bathrooms designed for humans with penises I find highly amusing, but not for the reasons you might think …

 

 

 

Arrivederci By Subtraction

As much fun as was Saint John’s win over Syracuse last week beating Butler 76-73 at Carnesecca Arena Thursday night was better: it was a league game at home in front of an energized crowd against a ranked opponent in a tilt game that could have gone either way. Outside of March college basketball does not get any better than this. I frankly had so much fun that I don’t even feel like writing about it, I just want to watch it again and probably will during happy hour, which at my house on Friday starts about 11 AM est … The game itself went back and forth – I almost said it was a nip and tuck affair which if I ever start writing like that someone please shoot me. For most of it Butler was up by a couple of baskets and they were actually ahead by ten with 10 minutes left. But each time it looked like things were slipping away somebody made a play – mostly it was Shamorie Ponds but credit also to Coach Mullin, who called three good time outs to stop the bleeding which his team responded, which is pretty good for someone who’s a horrible coach who doesn’t know anything about basketball …. The box score is pretty ordinary: Saint John’s shot 54 percent from the floor, Butler 46; Saint John’s took only 16 threes (that’s right only) and made just four but Butler was an atrocious 6 for 25; rebounds were even at 31; Saint John’s turned the ball over 16 times but had only three in the last ten minutes, as opposed to Butler, who had 6 of their thirteen when it counted with the game on the line in the same span in the second half of the second half. As I often do after a SJU win I popped into the losers fan forum and read the game thread. This morning over in the Dawg Kennel or whatever stupid name they call themselves they’re – besides calling Saint John’s “thugs” and “street ballers,” I mean just drop the N bomb already – they were whining about the free throw discrepancy – which was seven. That’s right, they’re this morning bitching about how they got screwed by seven lousy free throws and how that might affect their chances of getting a number 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. You can’t make this shit up. From what I saw last night if Butler is the 13th ranked team in the country well then I’m a monkey’s uncle I don’t know as much about basketball as I pretend

PLAYERS: Shamorie Ponds had a Big East coming out party 26 points, seven rebounds, two steals, 2 blocks and was 6 of 6 from the free throw line. I read somewhere that there were 12 NBA scouts at the game, hopefully it was not to watch him …. Bashir Ahmed had 19 points, 5 rebounds and three steals. He’s 13 of 23 with ten rebounds over his last two. Where’s that dope who said he’s a bust who needs to be benched, I’d like to rub his face in that … Lovett did not start again, not sure why. 10 points including 6 of 6 from the free line … Malik Ellison did start and did not play well:  Contributed 5 turnovers and airballed his only three … Yawke seems over whatever funk he was in early in the season. He finished impressively on a couple of pick and rolls, which is about all you can ask … Darien Williams played 22 minutes, the most he has all year. Displayed a nice little jump hook, which let’s face it immediately makes him our best big man … Owens had no points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes … The two euro-dorks played 16 minutes between them and managed 2 points and one rebound. Alibegovitz committed a career best no personal fouls, which I suppose is good but really the frequency and violence of his fouls is the only thing he brings to the table, so why stop now …. The team is now two and oh without Wally Pippini Federico Missini. Nuff said. If and when he comes back he should sit on the bench until April at which time they should put him on the first gondola back to Palermo or maybe the girl’s team needs a designated three point threat who’s not very good at shooting. His banishment won’t make the Sons of Italy happy, but I’m not here to make you happy, I’m here to rub your noses in your mistakes and disappointments. In this case it’s the mistakes and disappointments of anyone who thinks Missini is a basketball player.

NOTES: Last night’s game marked the season’s first appearance of Tarik Turner. Usually he’s awful but if he was last night the game was so good I didn’t notice. He even went so far as to make a good point when he compared Ponds to 6’1”, 170 pound Nick Van Exel, a lefty guard who led Cincinnati to the Final Four and went on to become an NBA all-star. Turner’s partner Brian Custer kept repeating that Saint John’s had not defeated a team as highly ranked as Butler since Chris Mullin was playing in 1983, which I kept thinking to myself that can’t possibly be right until I figured out that he meant at the Lou, which makes sense because why would you play highly ranked teams in a gym that seats 5000 people. Brian Custer by the way is a prostate cancer survivor, which you wouldn’t know because he didn’t mention it once during the entire broadcast … Speaking of Lavin I watched a couple of minutes of that bulbous headed moron during the halftime festivities and was rewarded when he praised some point guard’s “decision making or judgment.” Decision making or judgment, what a maroon …. Other than that I got nothing. I have in past recaps done Butler University, legendary Coach Hinkle, Hoosiers (both the name and the movie), Jeeves Lurch and other Butlers, Indiana the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and even a bit of a gambol about my favorite mass murderer Carl Panzram (“I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it!”). If you’re starved for fun go back and read that stuff, I did yesterday and it still holds up. PS Panzram’s papers recently were digitized and are now on line if anyone’s interested, it’s really marvelous stuff:

http://scua2.sdsu.edu/findingaids/index.php?p=digitallibrary/digitalcontent&id=912

 

Gopher Broke

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RECAP: I try not to plow the same ground when writing these things but it bears repeating that it’s in no one’s best interest that I’m stumbling around looking for martini fixings at 9 PM on a Friday night. But stumbling around I was and for my trouble I was rewarded with the first disappointment of the young basketball season, a 92-86 road loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Things started off promisingly enough: Saint John’s was ahead 22-9 when the bottom fell out. They were outscored 32 to 9 to close out the half and never got Minnesota’s 10 point half time lead down to more than five or so the rest of the way. Not a bad loss and not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it was certainly a winnable one that got away …. It’s still a little early in the year to be poring over the box score and anyway anyone with eyes could see that the difference in the game was Minnesota freshman Amir Coffey and his 30 points, which included 11 of 12 from the free throw line. Besides which the box score would not reveal this important stat: that too many players on this year’s team wear headbands. There’s like four of them. That’s way too many …. Michigan State up next, then six winnable games before Syracuse at the carrier Dome. That’d make us about 8-3 going into league games, which seems about right

PLAYERS: Lovett had 31 points and five assists in 38 minutes, a performance one knowledgeable Saint John’s fan described as “awful.” If so we could use three more awful players, we might make the NIT …. In his third college game Shamorie Ponds had 23 points and 8 rebounds in 39 minutes, including 5 of 9 from three. Looks to be a star in the making, get aboard the Ponds train now … Ahmed double doubled but still appears a bit uncomfortable in the offense. Notice I didn’t say anything about the defense … Yawke and Sima combined for 12 points and 13 rebounds, which would be a good night for either one of them but is disappointing if you consider them in tandem. Sima though was 5 of 6 from the free throw line …. After Tariq Owens grabbed 12 rebounds versus mighty Baruch College one well respected basketball analyst stated emphatically that the debate about whether Christian Jones might have helped the team this year was over. It’s a shame no one told Tariq Owens that before last night’s game, which he fouled out of in 14 minutes … And he was the best player off the bench. The rest of them scored zero points in 36 minutes, led by the best shooter Saint John’s has had since Chris Mullin, who scored zero points in 19 minutes. Mussini is now 2 for 10 from three since torching Bethune Cooke a couple of weeks ago and is shooting 19 of 68 from three since last January – take away the B-C game he’s 14 of 62, that’s 22 percent. At what point do people realize that he’s just not a very good basketball player. Probably not until he gets a tattoo. Or a tan …. I still believe that Malik Ellison is the sort of four year player that all good programs need, it’s just too bad this is only year two. Although I’d be happy to see him relegated to garbage minutes I don’t see how that’s going to happen, which means we’re going to be suffering through performances like last night, in which he missed six shots in eleven minutes …. Freudenberger and Alibegovix rounded out the incompetence by combining for zero points and one rebound but to be fair they only played six minutes between them

NOTES: Minnesota is coached by little Ricky Pitino, who as far as I have been able to determine through cursory internet research was not spawned as the result of his repulsive father’s congress with a stranger in a crowded restaurant in front of members of his coaching staff but through normal marital coitus with Mrs. Pitino. If I were Rick the elder though I might ask for a DNA test because little Ricky looks suspiciously like the actor Simon Helberg, aka Howard Wollowitz from the Big Bang Theory

pitino

Uncanny, right? Hopefully that’s just a happy coincidence, if Missus Pitino was unfaithful to her husband that’d be worse than 9-11 …. I did a long and hilarious screed about the state of Minnesota the last time these two teams met (a nine point win in Lavin’s last year) but failed to note the many illustrious Golden Gophers graduates  – like the Bearcat another apocryphal animal, there’s no such thing as a golden gopher – including world class dope Tom Friedman, failed presidential candidates Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, alleged serial rapist Henry Fonda, Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, and a bevy of television legends including Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), Jennifer Marlowe (Burt Reynold’s heavy bag Loni Anderson), Gomez Adams (John Astin), David Michael Starsky Kenneth Richard “Hutch” Hutchinson (David Soul) and Napoleon Solo (Man from UNCLE Robert Vaughn, a notorious lefty who passed away from a broken heart last week at age 83) … Speaking of resting in peace the great Sharon Jones passed away from pancreatic cancer last night at the much too young age of 60. Take 3 minutes and 33 seconds and listen to this, you’ll be happy you did

 

DePaul’s Well That Ends

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GAME: Saint John’s lost to DePaul 85-73 Thursday night in Chicago in the battle for the BE basement, which barring a miracle they now have secured sole possession of. Congratulations team … For the first 10 minutes Saint John’s actually looked like a basketball team. They moved the ball better than they have all year and played the same sort of pretty good defense they’ve been playing for the past several weeks. Then they lost the thread and the bottom fell out. They were down 17 at half time and try as they might in the second half they just couldn’t get it under ten. When they got close someone would throw the ball into the stands or miss two free throws and DePaul would hit a three and it’d be sixteen again. On the bright side there’s still two games left to improve our CBI seeding … DePaul shot 50 percent from the floor and 22 of 27 from the FT line. Saint John’s shot 30 percent from the floor, missed 11 FTs and had 14 turnovers. That’s pretty much self explanatory. As an aside, ESPN recently changed the format of its basketball statistics page and like all changes created by gearheads on the internet it made things infinitely worse and more confusing than it used to be. Other than once again offering proof of Fun’s Theorem Number One – All new ideas are bad ideas – thanks for nothing … Interesting sequence in the second half: one of the referees moved Mullin back from the sideline near an out of bounds play by placing his hand flat on Mullin’s stomach and pushing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that before and to put it mildly Mullin did not looked pleased. What I wrote in my notes was that Mullin “looked like he wanted to bend the guy over and fuck him” but that’s probably an exaggeration – I was making bubbles in a bottle of Bombay Sapphire by then, which isn’t good news for anyone except maybe my gastroenterologist, and is certainly not conducive to cogent commentary. He did stare at the back of the guy’s head for a while though and if the cameras weren’t on I’m pretty sure he would have pimp slapped the guy in to the next county, which is what he deserved.

PLAYERS: Mvouika had 20 points and 6 rebounds. A valued poster on the eminently readable Johnie Jungle site recently referred to Mvouika as “the worst defender to ever have donned a Saint John’s uniform” and he may well be right. But it would be interesting to see how good a defender he could be if he spent as much energy defending his man as he does complaining when he gets called for fouling the guy as he blows past him … Johnson was called for an odd technical when he screamed something as he turned to run back on defense after hitting a three. It looked like the same thing that happens half a dozen times a game. All I can figure is that whatever he said echoed throughout the arena, which was completely empty … Ellison had 12 points and 6 assists. If he’s going to continue to turn the ball over at the rate he does it would behoove him to start hustling back on defense when it happens, as opposed to loafing, which is what he does now … Yawke had 6 points and 6 rebounds, which is pretty good but seems disappointing after the effort he showed against Seton Hall … Sima had 8 points but only three rebounds and fouled out … Chris Jones (10 points 4 rebounds) was flagrantly fouled on a breakaway with SJU down 13 late in the second half. He missed both free throws and turned the ball over on the inbound leading to a DePaul basket. That’s about an 8-point swing. He also missed the first three of his career, the second one he’s taken … Balamou was one for 5 from the floor but had 7 assists … The best shooter Saint John’s has seen since Chris Mullin was 0-5 from the floor and is now 14 for 66 in his last nine games. David Duke could not be reached for comment …  Fucking Alibegovic, I go to all the trouble of learning to spell his name and all of a sudden he starts playing like a donkey.

RECAP: The repulsive Steve Lavin appeared in the studio wearing the sort of glasses bimbos wear when they want to look like intellectuals. The thing about bimbos is that they’re too stupid to realize that they’re not smart enough to fool anyone, especially once they open their mouths – unless their eyes are closed awaiting a big surprise obviously, then no one cares what they’re wearing. In the opening segment Lavin shared his opinion about storming the court – Sean Miller warned after a loss in Colorado that one of his players was going to punch someone the next time it happened – which opinion was as usual was cogent and well thought out: he said that “all it takes is one person to die” and storming would be banned. Which was so stupid that even the guy next to him was dumbfounded, he was like gee Lavs, do you really think it would really take someone actually dying for them to ban it or would maybe a maiming do. This same desk mate gave Lavin credit for recruiting both Yawke and Sima, this after earlier in the year when Lavin took credit for recruiting Mussini, who I notice he doesn’t take credit for recruiting anymore. Right after that they went to break with a highlight of Balamou making a lay up – it wasn’t hard to pick one, he only made one shot all night – and they referred to him as “your guy.” All of which means that Lavin has recruited better this year as a television announcer than he did the last two years he was an actual coach … Lavin appeared on Fatso’s show this week and rumor has it that he started weeping like a big girls’s blouse when he talked about Cap passing. Evidently he also mentioned that he had cancer – I hadn’t heard! – and made a bunch of other excuses as to why he sucks at coaching. I haven’t listened to it yet, I’m saving it, like you save that last bite of pickle so you can savor it at the end of a deluxe cheeseburger meal at a late night diner. Weeping on the radio, lulz.

 

 

I Know Nothing

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GAME: It’s a shame I quit smoking, because I always enjoyed a Camel after a vigorous fucking like the one Saint John’s received Sunday afternoon at the Madison Square, where they lost to Seton Hall 62-61. As usual I taped the game but figured things were not going well when Desi Rodriguez started trending on Twitter. And it turned out that Twitter – a communication platform that surreptitiously buries ideas with which it has philosophical disagreement – was for once not lying. Things started out poorly for SJU and Rodriguez was definitely trending: SJU was down 13-0, then 21-5, then by 18 and then by 14 at the half, by which point Rodriguez had already reached a career high in points. And then a remarkable thing happened: Saint John’s clawed back into it and what might have been one of the more memorable comebacks in recent memory was only thwarted when Isiah Whitehead was awarded two free throws for elbowing a Saint John’s player in the head during a scrum under the basket with 5 seconds left. It was a tough loss in a tough season, and although I am chagrined that in the aftermath a second scrum erupted at half court, I am not surprised that frustration turned to violence. Consider that of the points that Seton Hall scored in the last ten minutes of the half, 80 percent were free throws; they accomplished one field goal. Consider that Whitehead scored 10 points, despite being 1 for 12 from the floor: if everyone who went 1 for 12 from the floor was accorded the same deference Phil Greene would be the 3rd leading scorer in SJU history. Oh well. SJU will soon be well equipped enough that the referees won’t matter and I am comforted by a recent quote from Chris Mullin, who said that he is filing away every loss and that he fully expects to exact retribution. Kevin Willard had best gird his loins, if in fact rodents have loins …. To be honest this was not a game SJU should have won or even been in. They shot 40 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three and 10-24 from the free throw line and had 20 turnovers. That’s about 30 points give or take that they gave away … Tarik Turner – described for some reason by Tim Brando as “a Saint John’s great” at the game’s outset – was babbling about Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament chances. I’d give odds they’re out the first weekend and a fist fight erupts in the locker room afterwards. Takers?

PLAYERS: Yawke had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks against an NCAA tournament front line. For those of you scoring at home, he should still be in high school … Mvouika had only 6 points but 8 rebounds, a bunch of those in a row at the beginning of the first half when SJ began its comeback … Durand Johnson had 9 points in 18 minutes but missed a crucial free throw at game’s end. To his credit it was he who allegedly tried to punch Whitehead’s nose during the handshake line. Hopefully he caught some skin … Federico Mussini – according to many knowledgeable fans the best shooter SJU has seen since Chris Mullin – had three points. At this rate it will only take him 800 more college games to move into first place on the all-time scoring list. Good luck Freddy … With Saint John’s up one with the ball with 30 seconds left putative point guard Malik Ellison bounced the ball off his own ankle out of bounds rather than call a time out. Not content with that he fouled Whitehead 40 feet from the basket to allow the game winning free throws. Fortunately freshman rarely get worse … Felix Balamou had a certifiable balls-in-your-face Sports Center dunk over some poor bastard who’s name I did not catch. Unfortunately when he wasn’t doing that he was air-balling free throws and crying to the referees … If the last play was drawn up to allow Sima to lose his dribble and then throw the ball in the general direction of the basket after the shot clock expired he had an excellent game. Otherwise not so much … Christian Jones played, as did Amar Alibegowick. The latter played worse. Much worse.

NOTES: I’ve been off the grid for a while and many thanks to those of you who’ve written inquiring after my well-being. The fact is that I was pretty bored with the whole enterprise. This year is essentially about waiting until next and unless you’re Sam Beckett there’s not a lot of fodder in waiting. Imagine walking into the DMV and seeing a line out the door and instead of resigning yourself to sitting around you tasked yourself with writing an endless series of essays about how slow the second hand was moving. Fuck that. I tried to answer most of your emails personally but even today they are still coming over the transom. In fact I got one today which I’d like to answer now.

Dear Fun. You are an excellent debater and nearly impossible to best in a fair competition based upon facts and logic. Do you have any advice for a world-be debater about to start his college career as a Blue Hen. Best, Jack Williams (not his real name.)

Dear Jack. Thanks for the kind words. To be a quality debater one must have a keen grasp of the subject matter, logic and rhetoric; the discipline to maintain a sense of perspective; and a sense of humor can’t hurt. A second approach is to stalk your opponent over the internet, post the personal details of his life in public, use a photograph of his mailbox as your avatar in a basketball forum, and casually mention that you know where his wife works, wink wink. Because it’s pretty hard to argue with logic like that. Best wishes, fun (not my real name).

… Another reader writes:

Fun, you often provide in the Notes section amusing anecdotes about the college that Saint John’s is playing but never about Saint John’s. What gives.

Dear reader, good point, an omission I’d to rectify now.

Vincent de Paul Lynch was born near Love Canal NY in 1927. In 1944 he lied about his age and joined the Navy to serve in World War II. After helping to defeat Hitler he was granted an honorable discharge and took advantage of the GI Bill to earn three Bachelor of Science Degrees, one each in biology, chemistry, and pharmacology. He went on to receive Masters and Doctorate degrees in Pharmacology and was named a professor at St. John’s University in 1958. In 1961 he was appointed Chair of the Department of Allied Sciences. Right around 1970 – about the time he founded the first degree program in toxicology in the US and with his much younger wife pregnant – Doctor Lynch was diagnosed with cancer. He took a semester sabbatical and after a number of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, returned to his teaching duties, having mentioned his health issues to no one, not even Bill Rafferty on national television every chance he got. He was named Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1972 and Chair of the SJU’s Institutional Review Board in 1974. He served in those positions until his cancer returned and killed him in 1984. He was 57. Among his other accomplishments, Dr. Lynch cofounded the Society of Forensic Toxicologists; was editor of the International Congress of Pharmacology; was editor of the Journal of Analytic Toxicology; and was a member of the Editorial Board of Research Communications in Substance Abuse. He served as Toxicological Examiner for the NYC Civil Service Commission from 1965 until his death; on the NY State Drug Abuse Control Commission, the NY State Senate Committee on Crime, the NY State Assembly Committee on Health, and the NY State Joint Legislative Committee on Drug Abuse. He served on various boards of directors, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Greater New York; Queens Children’s Hospital; the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority; the Nassau County Poison Control Center; the NYC Poison Control Center; and the NYC Department of Health. In between that he delivered hundreds of public lectures on substance abuse to students, community organizations, and law enforcement and published more than 50 scholarly articles and book chapters on subjects as diverse as inhalation therapy (you’re welcome asthma sufferers) , the effects of various toxicants, poison detection, myocardial infarction, cardiopulmonary dynamics, and serum cholesterol. All of which sounds to me like a life pretty well lived and that’s not even taking into account his greatest accomplishment: me. Because he was my father. He died 33 years ago this month, bequeathing to his son a box of musty books, the Irish gene, and a Mossberg over under 12 gauge I keep loaded by the front door to discourage bears, Jehovah Witnesses, and other unwanted guests. I mention this because there have been for several months now lies posted about Doctor Lynch in a Saint John’s basketball forum by a poster who has personal issues with your humble author. This poster lacks the rhetorical skills to defend his positions, the perspective to see that his behavior is despicable, and the sense of humor that would allow him to laugh at himself when he is shown to be ridiculous. And so instead he slanders the memory of a man dead lo these many years who dedicated his life to the university this poster allegedly loves. He thought by publishing this calumny to hurt my feelings. What he failed to consider is that I barely have feelings anymore and anyway I barely knew Doctor Lynch when he was alive: I was not a man when he died and probably am not still. Lacking perspective this poster thinks that by his alleged revelations he can diminish the contribution Dr. Lynch made to Saint John’s and to the community at large. What he fails to realize is that all he reveals are the deficiencies in his own character and all he diminishes is his own spirit . So to him, a heartfelt go fuck yourself, and get well soon … Ironically I was recently digitizing a bunch of cassette tapes I had lying around the basement before they turned to dust. One of them was an appearance by Doctor Lynch on an early morning call in show hosted by Bob Crane, aka Colonel Hogan of Stalag 13. It turns out that he and Crane had the same hobby: photography. Those of you familiar with Crane’s sordid death will know that in his case his love of photography derived from a fascination with pornography, promiscuity and voyeurism. I don’t know whether Doctor Lynch’s interest stemmed from the same perversions, but in retrospect I kind of hope so. And if it’s true that the apple does not fall far from the tree it’s nearly a certainty.

… And on that note

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maui Wowie

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

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

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

 

Who’s Lavin Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

In the pink colors: