RECAP: There’s not a lot to say about St John’s 93-71 loss to Marquette Tuesday night in Wisconsin and I’m just the guy not to say it. I might not have written anything at all this morning – the fiendish missus fun succeeded in infecting me with whatever hellish disease she brought in from the outside world, leaving me so weak I can barely manage the martini shaker – except that I wrote the notes section last night waiting for the game to start and that section has an expiration date so now I need to write the beginning. But it will be brief. And it will be brief because St John’s does not play well on the road. Considering their youth and that they have only three and a half players who don’t stink St John’s has done an admirable job of protecting their home court, where their only losses were to teams ranked in the top 25. The problem is that everyone else in the league does the same admirable job, even Marquette and floor slapping Billy Donovan with a head injury coach Steve Wojocxychchochochi. The thing about Marquette is – and why I really can’t feel too bad about last night’s loss – is that despite all their advantages – their athletic budget, their facilities, their fanbase, their recruiting – they’re never going to be any better than what they are now: a middle of the pack bubble team that gets bounced the first weekend when they every once in a while make the tournament, because Wojo is a mediocrity. He was a mediocre player who Schrewshrenski pity-hired as an assistant and who Marquette – which has an otherwise long and illustrious record of coaching hires – for some reason named as the heir to Al MgGuire, Rick Majerus, Mike Deane, Tom Crean and Buzz Williams. Which is kind of like Frank Sinatra settling on Mia Farrow after getting dumped by Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall … So anyway here’s the story
As the picture suggests, St John’s hung tough for about 10 minutes, then folded like a cheap house of cards. MU shot 56 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three, were plus nine in rebounds and had 22 assists on 34 made baskets; part of that was that Marquette was just on, but if you give up 200 points over two games maybe it’s time for a little defensive soul searching. And if you’re going to give up 50 points a half then you can’t shoot 40 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three and 65 percent from the free throw line, which is what SJU shot last night. Obviously Mullin realizes this: he said last night of the team’s effort on the defensive end “It’s not good,” which might qualify as the understatement of the year and that when players go to the basket “don’t give him a kiss, knock him down.” I doubt Mullin’s St John’s teams are ever going to be lock down defenders, because defense was not a large part of his game, but there’s a big difference between giving up 80 points and 100. I don’t mind 80 and in fact would much rather watch Lovett and Ponds run up and down the court then Bobby Kelley and Frankie Alagia walk. But some things clearly need to be addressed … Three games left, two at home, both winnable and then hopefully a favorable draw in the BET, and by favorable I mean on the other side from Villanova, because I think SJU can hang with anyone but them at MSG. They’re not going to win three games in three days or whatever it is, but winning one would be nice and a sign of real progress
PLAYERS: Ahmed led all scorers with 21 points (7 of 14) and added five rebounds and two assists. He’s scored in double figures in every game but one since the new year, and in 12 in a row; over his last 5 games he’s averaging 17 points a game (on 50 percent shooting) and six rebounds. Too bad he’s such a greedy street baller, he might make something of himself … Ponds had 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists and Lovett 17 points, five assists, four steals. Together with Ahmed that comes to 52 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists, and 8 steals, which is remarkable production from three guys a collective nine months into their college careers …. Yawke had seven points and five rebounds, which doesn’t seem like much but considering where he’s been that’s a nice line. All three of his field goals came on dives to the basket, which a month ago he would have kicked two of those out of bounds … Owens had four fouls, three rebounds and one block – that’s a total of two blocks over his last two games, so perhaps our Olive Oyl freshman has hit the wall – and oh yeah he took a three, which needless to say he missed it … Alibegowitch fouled out in 11 minutes but not before drilling his fourth three of the year. The Croatian sharpshooter is now at 21 percent for the year from three … Following up on his 20 point outburst versus Butler Mussini had no points in 16 minutes. Which is the same amount of points Elijah Holyfield had in one … Which brings us to Malik Ellison, since I’m not going to mention the German: in general Malik Ellison is a marginal player with a low basketball IQ and poor court awareness and last night he was worse than that. Among other things he threw a full court pass from the opposite foul line into the third row behind the opposing basket; threw a pointless no look pass to a Fox cameraman; clanked a three off the side of the backboard; fouled a three point shooter with 10 seconds left in the first half; and turned the ball over at game’s end on a breakaway versus MU’s walk-ons. I’d ask what he was thinking but if you look into his dead great white shark eyes you know he’s not thinking anything
NOTES: When I start writing these essays in the fall everything is fresh and new. It’s a new season and there are new players and new vistas and hope springs eternal. So I don’t have too much trouble producing a free 2000 word essay for 500 readers most of whom can’t stand me two or three times a week. (No, I don’t think I’m wasting my life, thanks for asking.) Come February though when the end is near – and there are only about four games left in the season and it’s only two months until the first Saturday in May – it becomes a bit of a slog and so as soon as the last one is written I look ahead to see if there’s something on the horizon to get the juices flowing for the next one, because let’s face it if you and I were five months into a romance that started in November I’d be sick of the sound of your voice by now and sleeping with your best friend. Last week when I looked ahead I saw that February 20th was Presidents Day and I thought great, I did MLK Day last month and this’ll be a nice bookend to that, because whereas MLK Day excludes from celebration every other civil rights icon from Crispus Attucks on down Presidents Day celebrates the life of every incompetent overweening scoundrel who ever took the oath of office, even Jimmy Carter. Which makes a nice counterpoint. So I wrote that essay, which is appended below, but in between something happened that I also found interesting and which I also wrote about. That essay, regarding St John’s ace recruiter Matt Abdulwhatevr, however quickly took a left turn and as my left turns often do ended with me ranting about slavery, the Bubonic Plague and Auschwitz. Which you might think, how did you get from an assistant coach at St Johns to the Holocaust and I have to tell you, it’s not that hard. Every day the voice in my head plays six degrees of separation, except instead of Kevin Bacon he uses Heinrich Himmler. Watch: Kevin Bacon –> the film JFK –> Khrushchev —> Stalin —> the Hitler Stalin pact —> jews being baked in ovens like Pop Tarts. See? Easy peasy. And I can do that all day and do. As amusing as my rant was though I thought to dial it back because it got a little long and let’s face it I can do man is the most pernicious species of vermin that nature has suffered to crawl across the face of the earth shtick in my sleep and most of you are sick of it. I did though want to touch on the assistant coach thing, but just a bit:
St John’s fan boards were hot this week with a rumor concerning Matt A’s possible defection for parts unknown. Things started innocuously enough. A well-meaning well-respected poster said the following, which as far as I can tell arose unbidden:
“Just thinking out loud, Matt A is close with Will Wade, VCU HC and other coaches who could be up for high major jobs this coming spring … We would be in some serious trouble if he moved on … the future of the program [is] directly tied to him. Maybe I worry too much.”
My immediate response to which was yeah, maybe you do worry too much, if I worried that much I’d never leave the house, because I’d be too busy hiding under the couch from the AIDS infected meteor that’s speeding directly towards my brain tumor.
This post – which as I said was relatively innocuous and which was perhaps just the ossified musing of a lonely misanthrope and lord knows I’ve just described my own career as a writer – spawned because I just counted 40 pages comprising 200 posts about how the St John’s basketball program hinges on the precarious allegiance of an assistant coach no one had ever heard of two years ago: not on the long and illustrious history of St Johns basketball from the Wonder Five forward; not on the legacy of Sonny Dove and Mel Davis and Walter Berry; it does not stand on the shoulders of giants Buck Freeman, Joe Lapchick, and Norm Roberts; it does not depend on the presence of the greatest player in St Johns history on the sidelines. No. It hinges on some chubby assistant coach whose name I couldn’t begin to spell. Except the A and the B obviously, I could get that far.
I say all that to cite this, which is from a NY Times article about Matt’s hiring as an assistant at his alma mater in the home town he professes to love, which I am continually assured is the greatest city on earth: “[Matt] grew up enamored of everything related to St. John’s”; he said of his hiring that “It’s surreal, it’s amazing. Words can’t describe it … [Mullin’s] an absolute legend.” Question: does that sound to you like someone who might uproot his young family after two years and follow Will “whoeverthefuckheis” Wade to whereverthefuck he’s going; and even if so, will that really doom the St Johns basketball program? Personally I don’t think so. I think a basketball program that survived Steve Lavin’s prostate can survive anything and to show you how sure I am I looked up how to spell his name: it’s A-B-D-E-L-M-A-S-S-I-H. And I will every time I mention his name spell it just like that. All I can figure is that St John’s has been a laughingstock for so long and its fans are so beaten down that they are conditioned to enjoy failure. They associate nostalgically with Saint John’s basketball, which has disappointed them their entire lives. So that when it seems like something good might be happening they reach for the bad because the pain makes them feels pleasure. It’s like cutting, there’s just less blood … So then there’s this, which short attention span readers can skip if they’re still awake:
Yesterday was Presidents Day, to commemorate which CSPAN polled a group of academics – an academic loosely defined is one whose credentials outstrip his wisdom – as to who were the greatest American presidents evah. If you needed proof of the failings of the US educational system and the group think that exists in academia – and if you need proof you’re blind so you’re not reading this anyway – you only need look at the list. Every democratic president in the 20th century is in the top 15 except Jimmy Carter – and he’s 25th, as opposed to what should be a preemptive 70th, considering that his foremost achievement in office was the hilariously named Operation Rice Bowl, which comprised crashing several helicopters into each other in the middle of a desert in a failed attempt to end the Iranian hostage crisis.
Franklin D Roosevelt, a patrician communist sympathizer who returned boatloads full of doomed German Jews back to Treblinka (I would have said Auschwitz but variety is the spice of life) and who appointed Ku Klux Klansman Hugo Black to the US Supreme Court is number three; Harry Truman, an actual member of the KKK, who incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians with nuclear weapons, is number six; John effing Kennedy, whose greatest accomplishment – besides an impressive scorecard that included Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson and Gene Tierney – was getting his brains blown out by someone other than his long suffering cuckolded wife, is number eight; Lyndon Johnson, who urged democrats to hold their noses and vote for the 1965 civil rights act by telling them that “We’ll have those darkies voting for us for 200 years” is number 10, except he didn’t say darkies; Woodrow Wilson who resegregated the government and lobbied for antimiscegenation laws lest virile black men – he called blacks “an ignorant and inferior race” – defile the delicate flower of white womenhood was number 11, although to be fair he was incapacitated by a stroke and spent the last several years of his second term drooling on himself while his wife ran the country, so she deserves some credit; Barack Hussein Jugears is unfathomably number 12; and rounding out the top 15 is the satyr Bill Clinton, a creditably accused rapist who was impeached for masturbating on a fat girl.
Of course some of the rankings make sense. Franklin Pierce for example was an alcoholic who thought the movement to free the slaves was the greatest threat to the union since King George III, he came in at number 41; it will surprise absolutely no one who did not attend a public school that Pierce was a democrat. Andrew Johnson, a democrat impeached by republicans opposed to his plan to transfer jurisdiction over the civil rights of freed slaves to their former southern masters is 44th. James Buchanan, whose best political impulse was ambivalence toward the evils of slavery and the preservation of the union was last, surprise he’s another democrat. And the moral is: it’s not for nothing democrats are called the party of slavery and sedition.
Also not for nothing, my list:
1. George Washington: the father of our country defeated the Brits in the war for independence and retired to the life of a gentleman farmer when he was through; never told a lie
2. Abe Lincoln: preserved the union, freed the slaves, good size for a point guard
3. Ronald Reagan: destroyed the Soviet Union, the greatest existential threat to freedom in the history of the universe and banged more hot broads than that poseur JFK, including Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Doris Day, Joan Blondell and Lana Turner
4. Andrew Jackson: arguably the most important American historical figure besides the founding fathers; yeah he owned slaves and killed Injuns but so would I had I been born in Tennessee in 1767 and so would you
5. Thomas Jefferson: not much of a president but he wrote the declaration of independence and the constitution and that’s got to count for something; made jungle fever socially acceptable
If pressed for six man I’d pick William Henry Harrison, but only because he was president for only 31 days, which wasn’t enough time to do any serious damage to anything.