Tag Archives: goodfellas

Technical Knockout

St John’s suffered an improbable 75-70 loss to the number 23 Seton Hall Pirates New Year’s Eve in New Jersey. It wasn’t improbable because they lost – even the most optimistic fan could only hoped to have stolen a road win – but because they lost not nearly as badly as they should have with their two best players in street clothes. (Although in Lovett’s case I’m not sure what street, he looked like he was dressed for Mardi Gras.) I certainly didn’t expect them to win – I wouldn’t have expected it even if they were at full strength. I didn’t even expect them to keep it close. And so I sat down (or let’s be honest, laid down) with minimal expectations: I was hoping it wasn’t too bad a rout and even when SJ went up by nine points halfway through the first half I was expecting disaster to strike at any moment. Which it did: Seton Hall ended the half on a 38-19 run to take a ten point lead into the locker room. (Into the locker room, good grief, what a hack.) Which considering what they were facing and how awful they’d looked during the second half versus Providence, no one could have expected them to make a game of it, which they ended up doing. Seton Hall extended their lead to 15 midway through the second when SJ went on a 15-2 run to bring it within three. At which point I might even have sat up briefly, I don’t remember. I do remember though that down three after a questionable no call on Ahmed under the basket Coach Mullin got an ill-timed technical – it was ill-timed whether he deserved it or not and I didn’t think he did, you don’t call a foul like that at that point in the game; Seton Hall graduate Jerry Carino who covers Seton Hall basketball for a Jersey paper said it was deserved, although he also said he “didn’t hear” what Mullin said, so if he didn’t hear what what said it’s difficult to understand how he could judge whether it was deserved, and that Myles Powell missed both FTs lends credence to my skepticism, because unlike beat reporters covering their alma maters the ball doesn’t lie – which interrupted whatever momentum St John’s comeback had generated. A missed free throw here, a missed three there and St John’s drops to oh and two in the conference with a likely loss to Creighton looming. Let’s hope that the back court returns soon, because otherwise it’s going to be a long winter … By the numbers the game was more or less even. St John’s shot 46 percent from the floor to SH’s 42; St John’s shot 50 percent from three to SH’s 44; ST John’s shot 64 percent from the FT line, which stinks, but SH shot 60 percent; SH was plus eight rebounds and plus three assists but turned the ball over 17 times. The big difference was free throws: despite missing four of every 10 they took SH ended up making three more FTs than SJ attempted, the total differential being seven, which is a five point game seems something of a big deal. About which a bit more more below … I’d be remiss if I didn’t start the new year out with a gratuitous slap at dopey Steve Lavin. Although in this case it’s not that gratuitous, as two players the keen judge of talent Lavin thought couldn’t help St John’s – Kadeem Carrington and Desi Rodrigez (an in game bio of Rodriguez noted that his favorite band was Green Day, which as Mrs Fun said no one’s favorite band should be Green Day, especially anyone called Desi from the Bronx) – combined for 47 points and 15 rebounds. Credit rat face Kevin Willard: he was in filthy gyms in the Bronx and Brooklyn recruiting those guys while Lavin and his double chins were scouring the French Riviera for Marco Bourgault and Amar Alibgowitz, two of the best shooters he’s seen since Jason Kapono. Coach Lavs: the gift that keeps on giving.

PLAYERS: Justin Simon had 15 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds and five steals while playing a full 40 minutes at the point. He did though miss the front end of a one and one with 40 seconds late and St John’s down three … Tariq Owens had 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks which is not the most remarkable thing he did last night. The most remarkable thing he did was play 39 minutes without fouling out. He also made a couple of threes, which if he starts hitting threes he’s going to be a very interesting player … Marvin Clark – who did foul out, for the fourth time this year – had 18 points … Ahmed had sixteen point and four rebounds, including three of four from three … Yakwe and Trimble played 40 minutes between them and had two points, four rebounds and four turnovers, which combined doesn’t even comprise one mediocre performance … Alibegowitz played five minutes, averaging a missed shot, a foul, no points, no rebounds and no assists every 2 minutes.

NOTES: New Year’s Eve brings our annual death pool round up. Gone this year were actors Johns Hurt and Heard; Sam Shepard, who banged Jessica Lange before plastic surgery turned her into a hideous gargoyle; Moores Mary Tyler and Roger; Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Adam West, Martin Landau, Frank Vincent, Harry Dean Stanton, Robert “Benson” Guillaume, John “Higgins” Hillerman, and Chuck Low, a major in the US army who went on to appear in a number of Martin Scorsese films, most notably as Morrie in Goodfellas; dead musicians included Walter Becker, Glen Campbell, Chuck Berry Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, Fats Domino, Greg Allman and being charitable because it’s the holiday season David Cassidy; comedians Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Charlie Murphy and Dick Gregory; the only other columnist in NY worth reading other than me, Jimmy Breslin; former heavy weight champion Jake LaMotta; and miscellaneous celebrities Della Reese, the Honorable Joseph Wapner, former CIA agent Chuck Barris, the sybarite Hugh Hefner, Monty Hall, Erin “Joanie” Moran; and sneaking in just under the wire Rose Marie, who like as not pushed someone over the finish line. Congratulations winners … I wrote last time about a particular type of fan – the sky is falling type – and this time I’m going to write about another. I’m not going to make this a habit – let’s face it if I spent all my time chronicling your collective shortcomings I’d end up typing with Ray McKegney’s gnarled hands – but this story has a moral, as opposed to my usual cheap mindless viciousness.

The ones I’m talking about here are fans who claim to have secret insight into the way the program is run. Understand I’m not talking about good-natured fellows like everyone’s favorite poster P___________ , who seems to be a well meaning fellow with legitimate access to the program who shares what he hears in a good-natured way and adds a for-what-it’s-worth at the end. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about fans who make vague allegations and allusions to rumors they claim to have heard about some bombshell that’s about to explode, secret info about this player or that situation, which player or situation they have the inside dope on but can’t really be too specific about because if they were they’d burn their deep-throat source, who at great risk to him (or her) self and career has given the dope an inside scoop, probably in code and using a series of drop boxes. Whereas in reality mostly these guys are just sad wankers with no sources and no information. I’d ask why people behave like this but I know the answer: they lack self esteem. Some have micro penises; some are Iona fans; some are Iona fans with micro penises. Just like the chicken littles I don’t begrudge them the way they go about their hobbies, just as I trust they don’t begrudge me the way I go about mine, one of which is pointing out other people’s shortcomings in an attempt to make myself look better by comparison. Which is what I’m doing here except that this story has as I said something of a moral. But first the story:

A poster this week in a well read St John’s fan forum posted as follows. He said in reference to Chris Mullin that

The reports on him that the refs file on him after each game are not pretty. Also, the fact in year 3 he does not even know their first names are not helping his situation.

Which is quite a remarkable assertion on a number of levels: first this poster claims he is conversant with official sounding “reports” that are filed by referees with presumably some referee-ing authority; that these reports are unflattering to Mullin; that the attitudes toward Mullin reflected in the reports affect the outcomes of games; and further that Mullin is penalized for not fraternizing with the referees and conversely that other coaches who do fraternize with the referees benefit therefrom. (Which if true might explain how Villanova played an entire game earlier this year without a single foul being called against them.)

Now what can we conclude from this. It could be that the guy is just a sad plonker with a micro penis, that there are no reports, or in the alternative that maybe there are reports but he hasn’t seen them: that is, that he just made the whole thing up. That’d be sad, but in this case that’s the best case. The worst case is that there are reports, that he’s privy to them – presumably such things are confidential – and that he’s correct: that there’s an on going conspiracy among Big East referees to rig the outcome of college basketball games against coaches they dislike personally. If that’s the case I’d hope this poster informs the league offices, and the NCAA and the FBI. Because these crooked referees aren’t harming just Chris Mullin: they’re harming the league and their employers and the NCAA, the student athletes whose games they’re adjudging, the fans who pay to watch the games and ultimately college athletics itself. Its one thing to have an incompetent like Tim Higgins make bad calls because he’s hung over, or to have an incompetent like Jim Burr make bad calls because he’s hung over and dumb as a rock. It’s quite another to engage in a systematic conspiracy to defraud a sizable number of innocents and in doing so to affect the outcome of a sporting event upon which people wager. Which is quite possibly a felony under federal law and if this guy knows about it and doesn’t report it, that’s a felony too, misprision of felony as defined by 18 USCS § 4, which carries a max penalty of three years in the federal penitentiary. Advice to that poster: don’t drop the soap.

But we’ll never know, Because when I asked this poster for details on his lurid assertions – what exactly these reports comprise, how he access to them and so on he merely said “referees talk” and then refused to address the situation further. Which is par for the sad plonker course.

But I bring that up not to mock this dumb slob but to note that in St John’s five point loss to Seton Hall the Hall took twice as many free throws as St John’s (23 to 11) and made twice as many FT’s as St John’s (14 to 7); that St John’s was called for three technical fouls – one on the bench for god knows what, one on Mullin for jawing at the refs – which not for nothing but I used to sit behind Louie in Alumni Hall as a young impressionable lad and for a number of years thought that St John’s back court comprised two guards, one named FUCKING and the other BULLSHIT – and one on Tariq Owens for stepping to a Seton Hall player who’d just shoved a SJ player in the chest.

Which FT disparity I’d find highly suspect on the best of nights. But then I’m a bit of a paranoid. I do leave you with this however: this is a shot comparison between Kadeem Carrington and Bashir Ahmed. Carrington took 13 shots, 10 of them threes, for which he was awarded eight free throws. Bashir Ahmed took 14 shots, 10 of them moving toward the basket in his usual bull in a china shop fashion. Which for his effort he was awarded two free throws.

Which you have to admit is passing strange.

 

 

Phil Greene Is The New Black

Saint John’s defeated Depaul 79-73 Sunday afternoon in Chicago to move into a tie for first place in the Big East and are now two and oh in conference play for the first time since 2010. Anyone who expected that raise your hand so we can easily identify the liars among you … The game was the sort of exciting basketball that can sometimes occur between two not very good but evenly matched teams. Saint John’s came out flat and were down 12 midway through the first half but went on a 22-7 run after a Mullin time out to take a three point lead. Depaul answered with a 10-1 run of their own and were up seven at half time. Things went back and forth a bit until the middle of the second half when Saint John’s went on a 13-3 run to build a cushion that DePaul couldn’t get past, thanks in part to a leg cramp suffered by Eli Cain, who was in the process of killing us, and some timely for a change free throw shooting. Saint John’s ended up outscoring DePaul 46-33 in the second half which must have been the result of those half time adjustments everyone is always talking about. Congratulations Coach Mullin … The box score was about as even as the game: Saint John’s shot 47 percent from the floor to DePaul’s 42; both teams shot 40 percent from three; rebounds were DePaul plus four, turnovers also. Saint John’s ended up making 16 free throws to 14 for DePaul but most of those were towards the end when DePaul was fouling – before that DePaul got I thought the benefit of a bunch of calls and at one point were about 10 free throws ahead, without which things might have been a bit easier. (I thought the officiating was horrible but it would be mean spirited to call out Jeff Clark, Brent Hampton and James Breeding by name.) The one stat that jumps out is assists: Saint John’s had 18 on 27 made baskets, which might be more than they’ve had recently in entire seasons … Another nice job by the staff, which suggests they might know something about basketball after all. What a relief. Good game plan, solid use of time outs, solid rotation, and of course those half time adjustments. Mullin looks comfortable on the sidelines and energetic and engaged and is beginning to look like a head coach … Number ten Creighton and # 17 Xavier this week and then Georgetown and Villanova the week after that. Steal of those and we’re three and three and middle of the pack in the third week in January. Again, raise your hand if you thought that was possible. I Shirley didn’t.

PLAYERS: Marcus Lovett had the gaudiest numbers – 22 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds – but Darien Williams gets the game ball. His entry in the game in the first half coincided with a 22 to 7 first half run that got Saint John’s back in it and his energy in the second half was the catalyst that helped put DePaul away. Made one suspect play late where he walked away from an uncontested layup in hopes of burning some time off the clock but who cares: twelve points and nine rebounds is an impressive contribution from someone no one expected anything from ever …. Shamorie Ponds had a quiet 15 points and four steals … Fourteen points and 5 rebounds from Ahmed, including 4 of 6 from three … Nine points, five rebounds and four blocks from Tariq Owens. Committed a ridiculous foul on a three point shooter late in the first half with one second on the shot clock … Ellison: eight assists, seven points, six rebound and the box score says no turnovers but I remember yelling at the TV when he nonchalanted a touch pass into the first row so the box score is wrong … Yawke reverted to the fumbling Yawke I thought we might have seen the last of … Alibeoqwitch once again played 10 minutes without committing a personal foul. He did however commit euro-travel … Fredudenbergh played two minutes made a bone headed play and was not seen again … That’s three wins in a row with a certain someone missining from action. I’m not going to draw any conclusions because correlation is not causation but it is interesting and it’ll also be interesting to see what they do with him if and when he comes back because the team seems to be gelling nicely without him.

NOTES: Today of course is New Year’s Day and I trust you all spent last evening reveling into the late hours to the sounds of Guy Lombardo and have by this afternoon broken whatever resolutions you were foolish enough to make yesterday. Me, I went to bed early. To Catholics January One is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation that formerly celebrated the circumcision of the Baby Jesus. It’s a little surprising that two Catholic universities would schedule a game on so important a day – circumcision symbolizing as it does the covenant between Yahweh and His chosen people – but I guess anything is permitted since everything went to hell after Vatican II … 2016 was not a good year to be a star but was perhaps a boon for those of you sick bastards who participate in Celebrity Death Pools: fatalities last year included politicos Anton Scalia, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, John “Issue One” McLaughlin; mass murderers Janet Reno and Fidel Castro; traitors Tom Hayden and Daniel Berrigan; sportsmen Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Pearl Washington, Nate Thurmond, Ralph Branca and Pat Summit, who towards the end of her life forgot more about basketball than most of us will ever know; novelists Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), WP Kinsella (Field of Dreams) and Pat “Great Santini” Conroy; musicians Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Pierre Boulez, Pete Fountain, alto tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Beatle producer George Martin; actors Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jon Polito, Patty Duke and Gene Wilder; and a slew of television personalities including Abe “Fish” Vigoda, Florence Henderson, Garry Shandling, Pat “Snyder” Harrington, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Man from UNCLE Robert Vaughn, Doris Roberts and my sainted old Italian grandmother’s favorite nun, Mother Mary Angelica. Congratulations winners …. Finally, thanks to all who wrote with feedback following last week’s Arrivederci by Subtraction post, wherein I was less than complimentary about Federico Missini. The gist of many of the complaints I received is that because I think Missini is small, slow, weak, has a bad handle, turns the ball over too much, has a low basketball IQ, and couldn’t cover a mannequin, I’m a racist who’s prejudiced against Italians. (Do you believe that? In this day and age? What the fuck is the world coming to – a Jew broad – prejudiced against Italians.)

The theory seems to be that since I don’t root for Missini because he is Italian I therefore have it in for the eye-ties. Now, never mind for a moment that Italian is a nationality, not a race, so at best I’m a xenophobe; never mind too that my maternal grandfather – who coincidentally was born this day, January 01, 1906 – came WithOut Papers off the boat from Sicily about a century ago and bred to a Gragnano mare from whose spaghetti loins I directly descend; never even mind that I’m a misanthrope who hates everyone equally without regard for race, creed, color or religion. Let us stipulate that that’s all irrelevant. Let us stick to the facts, which are these: what I find odd and ultimately inexplicable re Missini is the solicitude extended to a marginally talented basketball player who would not see the floor on a real basketball team and the rancor directed at those like me who are willing to say out loud that the emperor has no toga. Instead of reasoned conversation about his obvious myriad flaws as an athlete – about which I am happy to admit there can be disagreement, because we all of us have our prejudices – I hear instead how he came here when the program was at its darkest, how hard he works, how he played last year out of position, how he’s a good team mate, how well he represents the university and how he never whines or complains, which even if those things are true and who knows, similar things can be said about pretty much every basketball player who attended Saint John’s since Jarvae’s crew of rapists were expelled and anyway none of those virtues make anyone better at basketball. I’m happy to stipulate that if they did Missini might well be an all-American. But I don’t recall anyone saying that Durand Johnson was a good teammate who never complained, I recall hearing that he was selfish and a chucker. I don’t recall anyone praising Ron Mvouika for coming to Saint John’s when the cupboard was bare, I recall hearing how lucky he was to be able to take advantage of Saint John’s misfortunes to further his career aspirations. I don’t recall hearing that the third leading scorer in Saint John’s history was a good citizen, but I do recall reading a lot about how he was an angry negro with a mohawk and tattoos. There’s a long list of players who never received the credit Missini does for doing what is expected at a bare minimum of every student athlete in Division One – being a good citizen – and many of those guys came from places and circumstances that presented a lot more difficulties than did growing up in bucolic Reggio Emilia. But he’s the one who gets the benefit of the doubt and it’s so passing strange that I’m forced to question the motives of some – some, not all – of his supporters and especially those who find the questioning of their motives disquieting. Consider: I spent in this space three years absolutely clobbering Phil Greene, another one trick pony, gleefully savaging his play and chronicling his every misstep and mishap and blunder. It got to the point where even I thought I was being unfair. Well guess what? In three years not one person complained and no one wrote saying what a good team mate Greene was and not one person called me a racist and Greene’s black. You don’t think that’s a little odd? Because I do … Speaking of Greene, he favorited this tweet of mine from last summer so at least he has a sense of humor. Either that or he didn’t understand it, much like he didn’t know the meaning of the word rebound.

 

 

Excuse Me

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RECAP: It seems like more but it was only a year ago that self-proclaimed king of February Steve Lavin had the signature victory of his SJU career, in his fifth and final December as head coach. Chris Mullin took the same magic carpet ride up Signature Victory Mountain on the second Sunday in his first December, when his Red Storm put something of a vicious beating on the 13-point favorite Syracuse Orange at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon. Last year Phil Greene, until then moribund .28 career three point shooter – he was 80 for 283 five games into his senior year – awoke from his three year coma and scored 11 straight points to put the Orange away late, much to the delight of the long suffering Saint John’s faithful. This year’s breakout performance was by just as improbable a suspect, but it led to a victory that at least one long-time fan found more satisfying, perhaps because one of our own was on the sidelines. Personally I don’t share the animus many SJU fans feel toward Syracuse. I mean, sure, they’ve kicked the shit out of SJ for years, but the way I see it everybody has to take a beating sometime, and if you have to, why not at the hands of a hall of fame curmudgeon like Jim Boeheim. As opposed to say Jeff Neubauer. But for now at least, Saint John’s is once again New York’s team. Merry Christmas … The game was actually over pretty early. Saint John’s went on a run midway through the first half and were up 9 at halftime, 40-31. Syracuse didn’t get within seven the rest of the way. Every time they looked to make a game of it they were repulsed. On offense SJU played a double high post that flummoxed the 3-2 and on defense Syracuse stunk on offense: they shot 35 percent from the floor, 20 percent from three, and 19-31 from the FT line. SJU on the other hand shot 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three, and had 51 rebounds and 22 assists, this from a team that scored 48 points versus Niagara on Wednesday. It helped that Syracuse didn’t press most of the game. Because when they did it was ugly … Mullin was dapper in a suit and tie for his first appearance at MSG, but then I suspect he always dresses up when he goes to church. It seems evident to me that he’s growing into the job and is going to be as good at this as he was at everything else.

PLAYERS:  I noted last recap that I had developed a sneaking suspicion that Amar A-L-I-B-E-G-O-V-I-C was starting to resemble a basketball player. To say that Sunday reinforced that impression would be an understatement: he scored 7 points off the bench in the first half to spur SJU to their lead and finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds; he was 3 of 4 from three, including one from the M in Madison Square Garden. Whether he can sustain it is another question, but better Phil Greene for a day than schmuck for a lifetime … Mussini had 17 points, including 5 -7 from three. He had a rough postgame interview though … Speaking of Phil Greene, Durand Johnson had 15 points on 6-16 shooting. Except if PG4 had 7 rebounds and 4 assists you’d throw him a parade … Sima had 9 points and 8 rebounds and was aggressive in the high post, albeit he threw a bunch of lazy passes … Yawke reminds me either of a left handed Malik Sealy or a shorter Walter Berry, I haven’t put my finger on it yet. He’s not as polished as Sealy was as a freshman or as imposing as Berry, but if he develops even a midrange jump shot he’s going to be a difficult proposition … Mvouika had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Currently he’s 4th in the BE in 3 point shooting at 46 percent … Christian Jones did nothing worth me even looking to see what Christian Jones did … Balawho? Felix tried one of his crazy drives to the basket and was not seen again. I didn’t miss him.

NOTES: The broadcast featuring Bill Rafferty was a delight, marred only by the appearance of Steve Lavin as in stupido studio guest. Attention was brought to the fact that Lavin had last week ‘predicted’ a SJU victory (perhaps Khadim Ndiaye appeared to him in a dream), for which I mocked him, for which he must be given begrudging credit, even though it’s a chickenshit prediction: if the underdog wins you’re a genius and if they lose no body mentions it. Also chickenshit, Lavin took credit for recruiting Federico Mussini, this after Mullin in the postgame interview gave special credit to Lou for his help in that regard, whose efforts Lavin dismissed because he’s, you know, so classy. He also he said the Big East is better this year than last, which of course it is, he’s no longer coaching in it. … This week saw the passing of Adolph “Dolph” Shayes, who was remarkable not only because no one names their kid Adolph anymore after that bit of unpleasantness in Germany in the last century. Nor was it merely because he was a Jewish basketball player who achieved success at the highest levels – a select list that includes coaches Reds Auerbach and Holtzman and Larry Brown, criminal mastermind Doug Gottlieb, Bernard King’s bff Ernie Grunfeld, Amar’e Stoudemire (huh?) and former SJU target Sylven Landesberg … It’s tempting, every time one of these old white players dies, to say to yourself well sure, but how would he have fared in today’s game, which includes negroes and other minorities. And the answer is probably not as well as he did 70 years ago. Because if you figure that all the bad white players in a particular segregated league were replaced by really good minority players, the good white players who were left would have fared worse. But on the other hand reprobates like e.g. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle would have had the benefit of trainers and drugs and other modern therapies to ameliorate their degeneracies, leading to longer more productive careers. And conversely all the really good minority players would no longer be playing against the bad minority players who populated the bottom half of their segregated league. So it seem to me to be all a bit of a wash. Ruth might not have hit .356 for his career if he had to face Satchell Paige and Smokey Joe Williams every four days, but he wouldn’t have hit .256 either … So if Dolph Shayes played in the 60s or 70s he might not have retired second all-time in scoring and third all-time in rebounding, but he probably would have been pretty good nonetheless. Against the players that were available to play against while he was playing, Shayes in high school won a borough championship in his native Bronx; went to the FF as a 16 year old freshman at NYU; and was the 4th pick in the NBA draft. He was a 12 time NBA all-star. His team made the playoffs 15 of his 16 years in the NBA. He won a championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955. In his career he scored more points that Earl Monroe, Rick Barry and Dave Bing, had more rebounds that Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor and more assists than Dave Debusschere, Billy Cunningham and Sam Jones. After his playing days he went on to be named as NBA coach of the year in 1963, when his 76ers lost to Bill Russell’s Celtics in the NBA finals. So all in all, nice job and RIP … Speaking of cross generational differences, this week the delicate progressive flowers at SUNY Albany were once again afforded the opportunity to alleviate the stress associated with their final exams by cavorting with therapy dogs, which are paid for by your tax dollars. It’s a shame their great grandparents were not afforded the same opportunity when they were storming the beaches at Normandy, otherwise the Nazis might not have won World War II. That’s apropos of nothing, except I saw it in the paper this morning and thought jesus what a load of pussies … And finally from the where are they now file, former SJU guard Max Hooper is lighting it up at Oakland University, where he’s averaging 14 ppg and shooting nearly 50 percent from three. When he recruited Hooper Steve Lavin reported that he was the best shooter he’s ever coached since Jason Kapono, so his success three years later at a mid major comes as no surprise to anyone. What might is that Hooper’s attempted zero 2-point field goals this year and only six 2-pt field goals in three years in Division One. Now that, my friends, is a role player.

Fredo, You Braica My Heart

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GAME: During the Steve Lavin era I used to lean forward in my seat to hear the inanities he’d spout in his postgame interviews. Sunday morning I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Chris Mullin to defeat Saint Francis Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden, which they did 63-56. What a difference a year makes – although not in terms of the Saint Francis Saint John’s rivalry: Saint John’s has won 32 of the last 33, their only loss recently coming on Lou Carnesecca Night in 2004, when some guy named Tory Cavalieri lit up Cedric Jackson for 26 points in a 53-52 squeaker … This game was even until Saint Francis went on an 11-2 run about halfway through the first period to go up nine; my notes accompanying the event read “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But lo! A Mullin timeout, after which everyone’s favorites whipping boy Durand Johnson scored 10 points to key a Severe 20-2 spurt by Saint John’s that left them eight up at halftime. Saint John’s had stretched the lead to 13 with 8 minutes left when Saint Francis it made a game: Amar Albivicwitch turned the ball over on 17 straight possessions and if it were not for the fact that his brutal play was met by an even greater level of incompetence by Saint Francis, the outcome would have been very different. Fittingly Durand Johnson made an off balance jumper and a couple of free throws to put the game away … Both teams shot poorly: a combined 35 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three. Saint John’s made their FTs, outrebounded Saint Francis by 12 (45-33) and had 12, count ‘em, 12 blocks. They turned the ball over 18 times though, which is not particularly good … A reader emails and says fun, “How come you give Mullin a pass on his wardrobe when you gave Lavin such a hard time about his.” Well reader, the answer is:

Seriously, who gives a shit what Chris Mullin wears? Chris Mullin can wear whatever he wants. There is in fact no aspect of Mullin’s tenure thus far that has given me a moment of disquiet. He’s clearly having fun on the sidelines, and it’s fun for me to see Chris Mullin having fun. He seems to know how to coach the team, even if the team does not know how to be coached by him – I almost get the feeling that he’s waiting for his roster to get to the point where it can benefit from his expertise. This doesn’t seem to be an issue, given the recruiting. In game I like his strategy and rotations, although I frankly don’t understand the Mussini dribbles around pointlessly at the top of the key offense he’s running – perhaps he’s just putting the system he intends to use in place for when he has an actual point guard … Riding a one game winning streak and up next Niagara, coached by another SJU alumnus Chris Casey. Fans might be tempted to sleep on Niagara but recall that the only non Georgetown loss in Chris Mullin’s Final Four year was to the Purple Eagles, although to be fair to Mullin starting PG Mike Moses did not play and the then #4 Redmen were force to rely on unreliable underclassman Mark Jackson, whose 3 TOs in the last 2 minutes sealed the loss.

PLAYERS: Sima had a double double (17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks) but Durand Johnson was the player of the game. He led the first half run that put them on top and made big shots late. I don’t know that he’s a starter at the three – maybe start Yawke there and bring Johnson off the bench. Although maybe I just think that because he has a little hitch in his jump shot that reminds me of Vinnie Johnson. Which is the only thing Durand does that reminds me of VJ … Former great white hope Frederico Mussini is now in his last two games 3 for 18 from the floor and 1 for 10 from three. Welcome to the NEC son. His struggles are so palpable that it’s almost worth putting up with Ron Mvouika at point guard. Which it’s probably not. Mvouika was awful Sunday, maybe he was hungover or something, quite the pathetic display … Christian Jones was solid: 13 point and 9 rebounds. If Christian Jones played for 30 minutes like Christian Jones plays for 12 minutes Christian Jones would be a hell of a ball player … Once again Balamou looked better posting up than he did driving wildly to the basket … Yawke looks like the real deal. He needs a little meat on him but he’s going to be a nice player  … Jessica Albawhatever really just almost gave the game away. I’m literally shaking my head thinking of something awful to say about him, but you people have eyes, he stinks.

NOTES: Most basketball fans would readily agree that Norm Roberts has had a marvelous career. As a teenager he won a PSAL championship at Springfield Gardens; he was a 1000-point scorer at Queens College, where his retired # 15 jersey hangs in the rafters; as a grown-up he’s been to three Elite Eights and a Final Four as an assistant to some of the most accomplished coaches in recent memory, Bill Self and Billy Donovan. That’s a hell of a resume and infinitely more impressive than those of the racist middle-management dopes who are continually bringing up his moribund record as a head coach Queen’s College as if it defines his career. Little noticed though is Roberts impressive coaching tree: three of Norm’s assistants have gone on to their own head coaching careers, Glen Braica at St Francis, Chris Casey at Niagara, and Jose Martin at Marist; his former assistants Kimani Young and Fred Quartlebaum are on staff at Minnesota and Kansas respectively. Compare that to Louie’s tree, which had one sclerotic branch in Brain Mahoney; or to Mike Jarvis, who was forced to drag his otherwise unemployable son Mike Junior around like a withered thalidomide flipper arm … Saint Francis Brooklyn is named for – wait for it – Saint Francis, this one of Assisi, who, if the stories are true, was a dyed in the wool lunatic. Amongst other things Francis preached the Gospel of Christ to birds, mediated a dispute between a wolf and a pack of dogs, saw apparitions of angels, and bled from his hands and feet in imitation of the Baby Jesus. If you saw this guy babbling outside Penn Station you’d cross the street to avoid having to talk to him. Instead he’s the patron Saint of Italy. Go figure …There are in the hierarchy of Catholic saints a total of nine Francises (Francisi?), including Francis Caracciolo , the patron saint of cooks; Francis of Paola, who raised his nephew from the dead and kept a pet trout called Antonella; Francis Ferdinand de Capillas, whose efforts to woo the heathens to the one true god ended unsuccessfully when he was decapitated in China; and Saint Francis Xavier, whose body travelled in death as much as Paola’s did in life. Francis X died in China and was buried there. Thereafter his body was disinterred and reburied in present day Malaysia. Later his patron Diogo Pereira removed the corpse from the grave and brought it his house for safekeeping until finally shipping it to India, where it now rests in a handmade silver casket. All except his right arm, the one he used to bless people, which was considered so holy that so it was removed and shipped back to Rome, where it is worshipped today by morbid supplicants who attribute to it various miracles and cures … Saint Francis alumni include Saint John’s own Barry Rohrssen; delusional presidential candidate Peter King; James Luisi, who played one year in the NBA for the Baltimore Bullets before going on to play Jim Rockford’s bete noire Lieutenant Doug Chapman on the Rockford Files; and former referee Dick Bavetta, who was investigated by the FBI for fixing the NBA finals at the behest of NBA commissioner David Stern.

God Ram It

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RECAP: I have to say, I halfway enjoyed that game. And not just because the harvest is in. No. And not because of the score obviously. No. Because Wednesday night the lowly Fordham Rams defeated Saint John’s 73-57 at Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx. That certainly wasn’t enjoyable: Saint John’s was awful, except for about five minutes in the first half the game sucked, the on-line feed was blurry and the announcers were atrocious, although to their credit they were still better than Bill Walton. But I enjoyed the game nonetheless. Maybe it was the atmosphere: NYC college basketball in a band box gym and in this corner an underdog with a chip on their shoulder and their rapid snarling fans. It was for a bit reminiscent of the good old days. Speaking of the fans, I halfway expected them to storm the court like they did the last time they won and was almost disappointed when they didn’t. Despite it being the preseason they were louder than pretty much any CA crowd ever: I suppose if you’ve had one winning season since the Reagan administration even beating a program as moribund as Saint John’s is cause for celebration … So like I said it was not much of a game. Fordham went out to a quick 6 point lead that led to a quick  Mullin time-out – and might I say what a pleasure it is to watch even a simple thing like a time out being called when a simple time out should be called. Saint John’s got back in it briefly and played FU even for a couple of minutes until it all went quickly down rose hill. Fordham ended the half on a 25-8 run and didn’t look back. To the extent that there was a moral victory, SJU played them even in the second half 32 to 32. There are no moral victories though, at least not against Fordham … Saint John’s shot 40 percent from the floor and 18 percent from three. Which was not surprising: on offense they failed to move the ball and when they did they moved it off their feet out of bounds, turning the ball over 19 times – 12 times in the first half. Fordham didn’t shoot particularly well despite the fact that SJU barely bothered to play defense but they made enough when it mattered, led by 48 year old Ryan Rhoomes (26 points and 12 rebounds) and Jon Severe, neither of whom were good enough to play for Steve Lavin. Altogether it was an abysmal performance about which the less remembered the better … Mullin had some words for Fordham’s coach – don’t know the guy’s name, can’t be arsed to look it up – first mocking him for taking an ostentatious time out up 20 with 2 minutes left and then later jawing at the guy during the handshake line for leaving his starters in right to the end of the game. On the one hand, Mullin should worry about coaching his own team and learn to take it like a man. On the other hand I kind of like the fact that Mullin wanted to backhand the guy and will undoubtedly lay some sort of Joe Pesci go home and get your fucking shine box beat down on him in the near future, which gives me something to look forward to.

PLAYERS: This SJ team really could have used Rysheed Jordan, and not only because basketball is hard game to play without a PG. Which SJU does not have, because Mussini isn’t one. He had no points, no assists and three TOs in the first half, after which half the game was over. Welcome to the A-10 son. It’s a shame that Mvouika (an efficient 9 points) can’t dribble, because he would be the natural choice to play at the one. The only other candidate is Durand Johnson, but even if he was twice as good at that as he has been at doing anything else he’d still be awful. It’s a little early to start ripping Johnson as the biggest transfer flop since Curtis Redding but it’d be nice if he got it going – if he could raise his production from say 1-8 to 2-7 he’d be in Phil Greene territory, except unlike Greene he gets the occasional rebound … Felix Balamou has the makings of the perfect 6th man: he brings both offensive and defensive energy off the bench. It’s unfortunate that (a) the roster is so poorly constructed that he’s the featured offensive player and (b) that the guy who constructed the roster couldn’t find any playing time for him the previous three years, because he could have used the experience. Oh well, what’s one young man’s life ruined more or less when you look at the big picture because some things are more important than winning. I thought Felix looked better earlier in the season when they were posting him up, but they seem to have gone away from that now, no idea why. As opposed to the Felix takes his man off the dribble from the top of the key offensive set, with which I’m less comfortable … Sima had no points and got pushed around by the bigger stronger player. Can you spell weight room … Jones had 11 points and 5 rebounds but is alternatively impressive and invisible. Banked in a FT which is always nice to see … Ablivitowhich missed his only three but made a nice move to the basket and dunked albeit in garbage time. He is a frustrating player: sometimes he almost looks competent and other times like John Hemphill with a head injury .. Kassoum Yawke was impressive in his debut to the extent that he did not look overwhelmed by the college game. I was going to say he reminded me of Shelton Jones, but because he’s a lefty I’ll dub him the next David Russell.

NOTES The game was not on regular TV, but fortunately the A-10 network carried it – otherwise you would have been deprived of my trenchant commentary. Thank goodness Fordham belongs to a conference that allows fans to watch the games if they cannot attend in person. Hopefully someday SJU moves to a major conference so that its fans are afforded the same opportunity … Evidently Steve Lavin provided the halftime commentary on the SJU women’s game on Fox Sports One. That seems like a good place for him, at least until there’s an opening on The View … I didn’t catch the names of the Rams announcers on the A-10 feed. Which is a shame, because they were awful and I’d like to mock them personally. (Turns out it’s https://twitter.com/MikeWattsOnAir and https://twitter.com/andrewbogusch.) The animosity they felt toward SJU was palpable, which is understandable, considering that Fordham  is a perennial laughingstock playing in the shadow of one of the most successful programs in college basketball history. The one guy, Watts, yelled “oh my god …holy lord” after a nothing special dunk in the second half, which I’ve been less excited while having an orgasm. His Twitter profile proudly proclaims that he’s “Jesuit educated,” although he must have missed the bit about taking His name in vain. And speaking of orgasms, the Bogusch guy noted that a big factor in Fordham’s first half run was that “there was a Severe spurt.” Peter North to the white courtesy telephone … The problem with playing the same cupcakes every year — in Russia, sometime cupcake eats you! — is that by year three I’ve run out of fun and interesting anecdotes with which to amuse and beguile my readers. I have already for example pointed out in previous missives that Fordham is just about the worst college basketball program in the country and that its coaches going back to Digger Phelps comprise a conga line of the worst and most incompetent hacks in college basketball history, from the utterly appalling mediocrity that is Tom Pecora to Derek Whittenburg, whose greatest and most important basketball moment was an airball he shot in 1983. I’ve pointed out the rich tradition of Fordham academics and even did a bit of a riff about its most illustrious graduate Bob Keeshan and his best pal Mister Greenjeans. So other than this I got nothing.