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Broken Heart

GAME: St John’s put a 35-point beating on Sacred Heart University Saturday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena. On the one hand it was a game you’d expect them to win by 35 but on the other the last two years happened, when they lost to Old Dominion and LIU and Incarnate Word and Fordham and NJIT, so I’d think that long-suffering St John’s fans would be wary of thinking too many teams gimmes.  But they’re not. Sacred Heart kept it close during the first half by virtue of some otherworldly three point shooting. After though what I presume was a rousing win-one-for-the-big-Indian halftime speech – Joe Lapchick’s statue was unveiled before the game – and some ingenious half time adjustments, St John’s put Sacred Heart away quickly and never looked back.

You’d think it’d be hard to say something negative after a game that St John’s won by 35, shot 55 percent from the floor, held their 6th opponent of the year under 61 points, were plus eight rebounds, had 15 steals, eight blocks, and forced 25 turnovers, but St John’s fans are nothing if not resilient, and so there was some grumbling this morning on various St John’s forums, the gist of which was sure they beat Sacred Heart by 35 but they’re supposed to beat Sacred Heart by 35 and now they have to move forward without Marcus Lovett, who twisted his ankle this week in practice. To which I say: last year the team was 2-5 after seven games, this year they’re 7-1 after eight. Last year they were 302nd in scoring defense at nearly 80 points a game and this year they’re 24th, at 60 ppg. That constitutes improvement by any standard. That a couple of the wins were over just the sort of cupcakes that Lou Carnesecca used to feast upon on his yearly trek to a first round NCAA tournament loss – e.g. the year they went to the final four the pre season comprised Lafayette, St Bonaventure, Fordham, Davidson, Rutgers, Niagara, and Old Dominion – well, last year this time they’d given up 80 points in a loss to Delaware State. So I’ll be happy with this. Because you can only beat the teams you play and you can only beat them one at a time. It’s like what Coach Lavs said after one of his signature wins over mighty Fordham: “Focus on the path of incremental progress, because that’s what ultimately positions a team to do something special come March. Focusing on growth doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s proved to be the most effective approach to enhance the percentages or probabilities of playing your best basketball in the postseason.” Percentages or probabilities, what a maroon … A two game west coast swing looms on the horizon. Assuming a split they’ll be about 8-2 going into Marco Baldi’s Superbowl and Christmas all rolled into one, aka Iona at MSG in the Holiday Festival. Anyone who wouldn’t have signed up for 9-2 after 11 games raise your hands. After someone reads this to you obviously, because you’re gym teacher stupid.

PLAYERS: In the absence of Marcus Lovett Shamorie Ponds handled most of the point guard duties and handled them quite well, finishing with 22 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly he looked to have gotten his swag back: he threw a behind the back pass that was so good that even dopey Amar Alibegowitz was able to finish on the break and then later a through the legs pass to Trimble for a three on another … Tariq Owens double doubled (12 points, 11 rebounds) and threw down a sport center top 10 dunk on a poorly thrown lob … Simon once again stuffed the stat sheet: 14 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds  … Ahmed had 13 points on 5 of 7 from the floor: it’s amazing how good he looks when he lets the game come to him as opposed to how he usually plays … first vaguely good game by the wildly over estimated Marvin Clark, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds … Yawke had 5 plus rebounds for the third time in four games, which doesn’t sound like much but at least he’s been looking interested lately. He also drew a couple of offensive fouls, which I don’t know if that’s much of a skill, but he’s good for a couple a game … Trimble played 22 minutes in Lovett’s absence and didn’t embarrass himself except a couple of time on defense … Alibegowitz wasn’t as awful as he might have been

NOTES: Sacred Heart is behind BU the second largest catholic university in New England, which perhaps explains why they’re on the schedule instead of say Yeshiva. The university was founded in 1963 so there’s not a lot about it to say. Famous alums include unfunny comedian Kevin Nealon, the actor John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Klavin) and Lydia Hearst, a “fashion model, actress, and lifestyle blogger,” she being the daughter of Patricia “Tania” Hearst, which makes her heir to the 35 billion dollar fortune earned by her grandfather, the publisher William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for Citizen Kane. Speaking of unfunny comedians, Hearst recently married the abominable Chris Hartwick …. Michael Rappaport showed up during the broadcast for an interminable appearance, about which I’m not going to say anything, because I like Michael Rappaport … Speaking of the gift that keeps on giving, it was discovered this week that a serial killer plaguing the Tampa area was formerly a member of the St John’s basketball team under – you guessed it – the repulsive Steve Lavin. It turning out that one of Lavin’s walk-ons savagely murdered more people than the late Charlie Manson should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his career, Coach Lavs being a bit of a sociopath himself. Obviously the fact that Lavin once mentored a player who turned out to be a mass murderer doesn’t make him equally guilty of the crime, but it does call into question his self serving some-things-are-more-important-than-winning mantra – and that’s leaving aside the fact that Lavin did very little in the way of winning. Because just like Mike Jarhead, a similarly sanctimonious nincompoop, Lavin prided himself on his role as a teacher and molder of men’s character. Jarvis wrote a book called skills for life and Lavin – when he’s not playing the role of halftime bobblehead – gives motivational speeches to groups of impressionable young men. No doubt that he mentored a mass murderer doesn’t come up in conversation. Relative to which – because I’m nothing but scrupulously fair – I’ve gone back looked at Lavin’s recruits, 17 of whom made it to campus. They are Dwayne Polee, Mo Harkless, Nurideen Lindsey, God’s Gift Gazunheit, Phil Greene, Amir Garrett, Dom Pointer, D’angelo Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, Jamal Branch, Chris Obekpa, Marco Bourgault, Christian Jones, Felix Balamou, Rysheed Jordan, Orlando Sanchez, Max Hooper, Amar Alimakeawish and Joey de la Rosa. You have in there two sociopaths – Jordan and Obekpa – one bona fide NBA player (Harkless, who fell into Lavin’s lap and got off it as soon as possible), two guys who had an NBA cup of coffee (Pointer and Sampson), a professional baseball player (Garrett), one great college player (Harrison), one charitably speaking average college player (PG 1V) and eleven mediocrities and nobodies (Polee, Lindsey, Gift, Branch, Bourgault, Jones, Balamou, Sanchez, Hooper, Alibegowtiz and de la Rosa). Which carry the one means that Lavin recruited twice as many attempted murderers as he did great college players; the same number of attempted murderers as players who were the best shooters he’s seen since Jason Kapono (Hooper and Bourgault); and as many transfers (7) as graduates, those seven graduates being only three fewer than the number of victims of Lavin’s serial killer. Say what you will about the Jarvae – and I have, both he and Lavin have me blocked on Twitter – at least his recruits confined themselves to petty thievery, drug dealing and sexual assault. So I think it fair that at least some of the stink rubs off on Lavin and especially because you know that if one of his walk-ons won a Nobel Prize Lavin would be standing in the front row with a big smile and shining eyes, clapping enthusiastically, and that afterwards he’d be available to the media. Whereas I don’t expect to see him at this kid’s trial as a character witness. The university otoh is another story. Serial killers come from all walks of life and social strata and any number of them were educated and some highly so. Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber graduated from Harvard and received a PhD from the University of Michigan; Ted Bundy – who kept the severed heads of his victims in his refrigerator – graduated from the University of Washington and later attended law school in Utah; the rapist slash murderer Michael Ross received a degree from Cornell; clown killer John Wayne Gacy graduated from Northwestern Business College; Dennis “BTK” Rader (BTK stands for bind torture kill) received an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Wichita State; the Dating Game Killer – he appeared on the show during his spree – Rodney Alcala earned a degree in fine arts from UCLA and was attending NYU film school with another rapist – Roman Polanksi – when he was arrested for the sex slaying of an 8 year old California girl; former Oakland Raider and St Louis Cardinal Roger Rozier graduated from UC Berkeley before joining a black supremacist cult and murdering seven whites as part of an initiation ritual – turn about being fair play he was then himself murdered after testifying against the cult; Ed Kemper – who at 6’9″ 240 pounds could help St St John’s in the front court this year – was attending Santa Clara Community College when he murdered his mother and sodomized her severed head; Michael Swango MD murdered 60 plus patients after graduating from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; and Doctor Herman Webster Mudgett, aka HH Holmes, murdered god knows how many people in the specially constructed murder palace that he operated in Chicago during the world’s fair of 1893. Are you going to blame Harvard for Ted Kaczynski? I think not, no more than you’d blame the university for how godawful Barack Obama turned out.

Foul Play

Al Bundy gun to head 1

I went yesterday afternoon to meet with my accountant Sol to go over the final figures for the 2015 tax year and to sign the various forms and checks and the fucking I got from New York State and the Internal Revenue Service was less vigorous than the one Saint John’s got Wednesday night on their alleged home court Madison Square Garden in a 101-93 first round BE tournament loss. Let’s skip the jokes and trenchant commentary and go directly to the box score:

FG percentage was even, 54 vs 55.

3 point percentage was even, 50 vs 50.

Rebounds were even, 28 vs 27.

Turnovers were about even, 17 vs 14.

What wasn’t even? Free throws. Marquette took 43 and Saint John’s 23. And that was the difference in the game. Marquette scored 20 points in the last seven minutes, on two field goals. Things were so egregious that the usually go-along get-along Gus Johnson described the officiating as “terrible” and wondered how Saint John’s was going to be able to play defense if they could not use their hands. Official lickspittle of the Big East Bill Raftery thought the refs did a swell job, but he hasn’t disagreed with a call since Nero was given a flagrant one for kicking his pregnant sister in the stomach. As for me, I flashed back to the rigorous rogerings Lou used to get regularly in the post season, and seeing that floor slapping dope Wojowhatever on the side line didn’t help … Speaking of Wojo, he’s so pinguid that his upper lip was beaded with sweat during the pregame interview and by the first TV time out his shirt was festooned with half-moons of perspiration that would have made Al Bundy blush. Hey stupid, it’s called antiperspirant, try it … Oh well. It’s not like they were going to make a run and there is some solace in the fact that they played hard when they could have rolled over. Wait till next year bums

PLAYERS: I figured yesterday afternoon that SJ would get the snot kicked out them yesterday night and so after meeting with Sol wrote some end of season stuff that I figured to post instead of the normal PLAYERS section I usually include. That follows. I did though want to note that Chris Jones had a spectacular 29 points and 7 rebounds and to shout out a hearty fuck you to one particular poster who spent much of the early season maintaining that Jones did not have the makings of a BE player. Seems that dope was wrong, once again. A person has to work pretty hard to know so little about so much. That or maybe he’s just very very stupid.

Final season grades, on a curve. A is outstanding, C is average, F blows.

Yawke: B Somebody had to get a good grade. For most of the season he held his own against guys bigger stronger and older than him – once again, he should still be in high school. Needs to develop a midrange jump shot and do some curls. The sky – which incidentally he can touch from a standing leap – is the limit.

Jones: C + Almost a B minus, just because no one expected anything of him. One rebound shy of four double doubles. Has only two moves, a jab step step-back jumper and a spin thing in the lane but seemingly they’re hard to defend. Not a world beater but hopefully he comes back for his senior year. This is a program that needs some continuity.

Johnson C+. By far the best offensive player on an offensively  challenged team. Got better as the year went on and the rust wore off. If he were white the Red and White Club would have been slobbering over his play instead of drooling on their sweaters. Not being white, he became their bete noire.

Sima C. He was probably a C + before his injury and a C minus afterwards, so I rounded. Not the defensive force or rebounder he seems he should be and his shot selection is atrocious and the shots themselves dangerous to anyone in the vicinity. Still, you can’t teach 6’11” and he’s only 19.

Ellison C. Was awful the first half of the season and merely atrocious the second half. Too confident for his own good. Hopefully over time his skills grow into his opinion of his skills. Has to learn to shoot, doesn’t defend anyone, and loafs back on defense after his frequent turnovers. OTOH nice size, good body, and a basketball pedigree. He is the advertisement for the old saw that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.

Mvouika C Was ill suited for the role he was thrust into, that of a Division One basketball player. Probably would have been a nice bench player on a good team – he shot nearly 40 percent from 3 and is a very good rebounder when he wants to be – although he wouldn’t have been on a good team. On the other hand he’s an awful defender and whines constantly. The faster he fades into the mists of my memory the better. Au revoir.

Alibegovic C-. Makes a great play one minute and an absurd one the next. Unfortunately there are more of the latter minutes than the former. If he’s going to be a stretch four he needs to learn to make threes and even if he’s not he needs to learn to rebound, there’s no point to being 6’10” otherwise. If the Freudenberg kid is any good I don’t see where his minutes come from next year as they seem to be the same player. His toadstool hairdo is one of the stupidest to ever adorn a SJU player, which is saying a lot. Still on schedule to graduate as the best white player at SJU since Bob Werdan.

Mussini C- The latest great white hope – one delusional racist called him the best shooter SJU had seen since Chris Mullin – went from a legend in November to an afterthought in February. He’s as tall as Frankie Alagia, as quick as Billy Singleton, jumps as high as Sean Muto and shoots threes as well as Avery Patterson. Doctor Frankenstein couldn’t work with those parts. He is though a freshman and he-a seems-a like-a he’s a nice-a boy. A good FT shooter, gets to the basket and has sneaky fast hands in the passing lane. Hopefully he works hard on his game in the off season and grows half a foot

Balamou C –. Tough call here as Felix got screwed out of a  year by Lavin, who only recruited him because he was Obekpa’s buddy anyway. Unfortunately for Felix I am not much of a sentimentalist. Got to the basket really well and threw some nice passes inside. Unfortunately he did everything else poorly and had the ugliest jump shot in Division One. Like Mvouika he was an appalling defender and a whiny little bitch and like Lavin’s other leftovers it’s a shame he got no floor time over the past several years because he seems like he could have developed into a nice player if his opportunist of a coach had given the opportunity.

Mullin C. Some would argue that this year was an incomplete but he did in fact coach and this was nothing more than an average coaching debut. I do agree that you can’t judge anything by the results he achieved this year. You could have sewn Pete Carill’s head onto John Wooden’s body and attached Schrewshrinksy’s whiskers and tail and nothing would have changed. It seemed to me mostly like Chris Mullin spent much of the year waiting around for players to arrive who were good enough at basketball to learn basketball from Chris Mullin. If scouting reports are to be believed, they are on the way. As to the rest of it, where he sat, and whether he crossed his legs and how much he talked or didn’t talk in the huddle, most of that came from rubes still enamored with dopey Steve Lavin and I have no time for the idiotic opinions of imbeciles like that. Chris Mullin has never failed at basketball before and it seems to me that he did not return to Saint John’s to start now. In his short tenure he has assembled a killer staff and a couple of good recruiting classes. Next year the basketball begins. As jaded as I am – and I am at this point so cynical that I don’t even trust my own skepticism – I remain pretty not pessimistic about things moving forward.

NOTES: Since this is the last of these till next year and maybe forever I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to once again call Steve Lavin a repulsive unctuous fuckhead. Because that never gets old. Last night Lavin, who last year described himself as “a poor conference tournament coach” after going 1-5 at Saint John’s in five years, sat at half court explaining what the coaches who did not get fired for being miserable cretinous failures would have to do to succeed where he repeatedly had not. A more self-aware individual would have felt chagrin or shame, but walking bobble head that he is Lavin sat there with a stupid self-satisfied grin balanced above his multiple pasta chins. So for the final time this year, a hearty fuck you to Steve Lavin, one of the worst human beings who ever lived … So yeah, that’s that: another losing basketball season closer to death. This is now my third or fourth year of writing these dopey things and looking back no, I don’t think at all that I’ve been wasting my time. I mean sure, I could have been applying my genius to curing cancer or working to effect world peace but where’s the satisfaction in that. There is none, because no one deserves anything, much less everything. Quite the contrary: my sincerest hope is that you all win the Powerball, just seconds before a nuclear war eradicates every vestige of life on earth just ahead of its destruction by an asteroid. LOL, just kidding, not all life, I hope the bugs survive. Because let’s face it: we are you and I meaningless carbon based life forms on a small rock hurtling through an infinite and uncaring universe, whose petty hopes and desires are a cosmic joke created by a god who doesn’t exist. So I cannot help but think that my time was just as well spent as anything else chronicling the pathetic doings of a sad sack basketball program that has not won anything ever, for a small group of readers, most of whom either didn’t understand what I was saying, or didn’t care, and maybe a couple who got the joke, and not just because I managed to remain pretty much shit faced the whole time. That in fact seems to me to be a life pretty well and fully lived. So thanks for reading and see you next year. Unless one of us has the good fortune to die.