Tag Archives: red storm

Bare Marquette

RECAP: Other than picking the Derby winner or seeing Tom Brady snap a fibula if there’s anything sweeter than watching dwekies fail at basketball I don’t know what it is and Saint John’s 82-76 win over Marquette at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night was no exception. Sure Marquette isn’t the evil empire per se but the presence on the sidelines of floor slapping dope Steve Wojowhatever makes it close enough and especially the way the last couple of years at Saint John’s have gone. The look of bewilderment and impotence on Wojo’s face as his team’s post season hopes swirled down the toilet wasn’t priceless, but it was easily worth a sawbuck and the outcome finds me in such a good mood this morning that I’m barely able to work up the bile necessary to write one of these things and probably if I hadn’t drunk enough gin last night to kill a less hardy man probably wouldn’t bother, but why waste a good hangover … So where was I oh yeah Saint John’s defeated Marquette 82-76 at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. It was their fifth conference win of the season – their fifth – and moved them into sixth place – sixth – in the Big East, ahead of Georgetown, Providence, and Seton Hall and only a half game behind Marquette. I noted after it might have been the Villanova game that Saint John’s was starting to put it together but that it was hard to tell because they had been playing a couple of weeks worth of ranked teams. At the risk of injuring myself patting myself on the back too vigorously I think it’s fair to say that that assessment was correct: they beat Providence in Providence and played Xavier tough and last night spanked Marquette on their home court the way a good team should. Dopey Steve Lavin always talked about getting his team to play its best ball in February, which in his case was just an excuse for his team’s lousy play the other 11 months of the year. This year I think it might be happening, a case of the freshmen maturing and the team coming together and Mullin getting his coaching legs under him. That having been said no doubt Nova beats them by 40 on Saturday. In event it’s welcome and if I didn’t feel like dying I might even be in what passes for me as a good mood …


If you didn’t know the outcome you’d think that Saint John’s was the thin blue line above, because that’s how lots of their games go: they keep it close for a while, go down big, make a feeble aborted comeback and come up short. Last night the opposite happened. Saint John’s went into the locker room up eight by virtue of a 10-2 run late in the first half and except for an 8-0 Marquette run early in the second the outcome was never really in doubt. Offensively Saint John’s did what they do more or less: they shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three, albeit 17 assists on 32 made baskets is a bit more than usual. What made the difference last night was rebounding and defense. It wasn’t just the obvious stuff, like Ponds and Lovett making Marquette’s guards look foolish by stripping them of the ball half a dozen times at midcourt. It was the effort and the little things they usually don’t do: fighting through screens and boxing out and, you know, stuff that good basketball teams do. Speaking of defense, since Saint John’s allowed DePaul to shoot 15 of 16 from the free throw line a couple of weeks ago their opponents are 56 of 93, which is about 60 percent. Credit to whoever’s been working with the kids on that in practice, probably Saint Jean … Mullin coached I thought a marvelous game. He waited a minute or two longer than I would have to call a timeout in the second half – Marquette had gotten to within five when he finally called one but maybe he was waiting to see if they could fix things on their own. Other than that I had no complaints and especially not about the two white lummoxes not seeing the floor: neither Alibegowitch or Freudenburgh played, which is fine by me. Amar is hopeless and the German is still a couple of steps slow. People talk a little bit of shit about the fact that Mullin’s less than articulate in the huddle, which yeah he is, but for the most part if the difference between winning a game and losing it is a couple of minutes worth of sideline exhortation then you’re not doing your job the rest of the week. I mention this because FS2 – horrible picture by the way, it reminded me of watching porn on my Commodore 64 – cut to Wojo during a time out yesterday when he said this, verbatim:

We won that last four minutes by eight points. You know why? Because we’re competing. We’re competing. No. We were not playing scared. We’re competing. Compete for this last eight minutes.

So to recap: they’re competitive because they’re competing. And this guy went to Dook, the finest Ivy League school in the entire ACC. Remember that next time Mullin mumbles something incoherent … Next up Villanova away. Gird your loins.

PLAYERS: JUCO bust Bashir Ahmed who needs to be benched until he learns to play basketball the white right way had easily the best game of his brief college career: 23 points and six rebounds, including a huge one in traffic with about two minutes left. He was aggressive but for the most part under control. Nice to see because he plays really hard … Also nice to see Kassoum Yakwe, who for the first time this year looked like the player he was going to be this year last year at about this time. (Read it again, it makes perfect sense.) He fumbled one pass but the rest of them he caught and finished. Add to that six rebounds and yeoman defense on Marquette’s big front line and you have a pretty good day at the office. Hopefully this was the start of his resurgence and not an anomaly … Ponds and Lovett had between them 35 points, 10 assists, and seven steals – most of the latter around midcourt, where as I mentioned they made Marquette’s guards look silly. Ponds had seven rebounds as well …. Tariq Owens: 11 rebounds in 20 minutes … Malik Ellison took his rightful place in the offense: behind nearly everyone else. When he doesn’t try to do too much he looks like he’s doing more than he is, which is almost enough … Mussini [sic] hit a couple of threes. On the first he head faked the MU player aside, set his feet and swished it. Very pretty, I watched it a bunch of times. His other one came late in the second half when MU got within seven. If he does that every game I’ll have to find another dead horse to beat … Williams played 10 uneventful minutes and no one else played any

 
NOTES: When I switched the game on last night around nine Missus Fun said something about me not having my notebook that I use to write my “little blog,” which sometimes she has to get her digs in and I let her because believe it or not I can sometimes be something of a long day. So we got to talking about my little blog and she asked why I don’t reply to the comments that people leave – which are generally favorable – and I said for the same reason you don’t thank construction workers when they whistle at you on the street, it’s unseemly, and that anyway what little conversation these gambols provoke take place in fan forums and have less to do with my incredible basketball insight and more to do with what picture I stick at the top of the page. This week for example I wrote three of these and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was why last time I used a photo of Lisa Whelchel from the Facts of Life instead of Phoebe Cates, who the guy who banged Mindy Cohn banged in Fast Times. The answer’s simple: I already used Phoebe Cates (many times, believe me) and anyway sometimes I feel like a blonde. To her credit Missus Fun stayed awake for most of that conversation and almost the entire game, so that I didn’t have to implement my new draconian no snoring during basketball regimen, but since I know now that she’s a fan, she’s forewarned.

Friar Suck

Saint John’s defeated Ed Cooley’s diseased head 91-86 in Providence Wednesday night. In the aftermath of which I am not making up any of the following: it was Saint John’s fourth conference win of the year, two of which were on the road; the win left Saint John’s in sole possession of sixth place in the best basketball conference in America; Saint John’s is in conference as many games behind #10 Creighton and #16 Xavier as they are ahead of Georgetown and Providence; and they have only three fewer conference losses than Villanova, the defending national champion and current #1 team in the country. With 10 games left in the season Saint John’s has two more wins than they had all of last year and had they won a couple of gimmes in November they’d be sitting at 13-9 – which is just where ratface Kevin Willard is, and he’s been at Seton Hall for seven years. Not bad for the least experienced team in the country coached by a guy who’s in desperate need of X and O help from washed up nobodies like Tom Pecora … Wednesday’s game really comprised three mini games: the first half, in which Saint John’s defeated Providence 46-37, courtesy of ten PU turnovers and half a dozen missed free throws; the first seven minutes or so of the second half, where Providence outscored Saint John’s 22-7 on their way to a six point lead, this courtesy of a vintage display of Saint John’s ineptitude; and then the final ten minutes or so – after Mullin used his third and final timeout to calm things down – which was easily the most exciting ten minutes of basketball Saint John’s fans have seen in quite a long time, up to and including scoring the last six point of the game. Yes, the defense was atrocious and yes there were some questionable shots and bonehead plays. So what. They went up and down the court and traded punches and it was fun to watch. It wasn’t Hoosiers and no doubt some of the he-doesn’t-play-basketball-the-white-right-way crowd might have gotten overexcited and soiled their nappies and had to have a lie down afterwards, but it was about the most enjoyable ten minutes I’ve spent since my honeymoon night. And like that night Missus Fun slept her way through most of it. Her loss …. Usually when I post this graphic it’s to show how bad things got. This one shows how close things were

 
As does the box score. Saint John’s shot 50 percent from the floor, PU 60 percent; Saint John’s shot 47 percent from three, PU 40 percent; rebounds were more or less even (SJU +3), as were turnovers (PU +2), as were assists (PU +5). Oddly for a game with such prodigious offensive output the game was won and lost at the free throw line, where Saint John’s was a stellar 17 of 19 and PU a putrid 18 of 27 – and Diallo and Holt were a perfect 10 of 10, meaning the rest of them were 8 of 17. Speaking of defense, over the past two games Saint John’s opponents are 32 of 52 from the free throw line … I talked a couple of recaps ago about how enjoyable it is to see Mullin engaged and energetic on the sidelines as he grows into his role as head coach. Last night was no exception. Despite some questionable personnel decisions – like having Alibagodonuts and Missini on the court at the same time and having Oppengruppenfuhrer Freudenburgh on the court at all – Mullin did a good job of keeping his players heads in the game and deserves special credit for calling his final timeout with about 15 minutes to go, when things were in danger of falling apart completely. It was a risky move and it took huge balls and it paid off. As he said in the post-game press conference, what’s the use of having a time out at the end of a game you lose by 20. Mullin incidentally is now 8-1 this year when leading at halftime, which need I say it: that’s all adjustments baby.

 
PLAYERS: Lovett led all scorers with 26 points and together with Ponds (22 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) accounted for half of Saint John’s points. Of course they also accounted for half of Saint John’s 17 turnovers but they won so who cares. Lovett made huge plays late in both halves: at the end of the first he nailed a 35 foot three and at the end of the second saved a ball going out of bounds by throwing it over his head and halfway down court where it was retrieved by Ponds. For his part Ponds made six free throws in six attempts in the last minute, accounting for SJU’s last six points. Onions …. Ellison had 15 points and 6 rebounds. Took the ball to the basket impressively several times – he’ll be even more impressive when he learns to finish and make more than half of his free throws. Threw one of his patented lazy half court passes in the first half, which led to a PU layup, after which he was immediately pulled …. Ahmed (15 points) fouled out when he committed a curious intentional foul in the back court with a minute and a half remaining and Saint John’s up one. My lip reading isn’t expert but in the aftermath he seemed to be saying that he heard Mullin yelling at him to foul and so he fouled. Which if that’s what happened that makes him a good soldier and Mullin a bad general. It seems more likely that Mullin was jawing at the officials about some foul that was called or not called – he pretty much is on them from the opening whistle – and some wires got crossed … Darien Williams didn’t do much in the box score but was involved in three plays late that pretty much sealed the deal: in the first he pulled Tariq Owens away from a PU player after a block under the basket and shh-ed him like a librarian, saving what might have escalated into a technical; in the second he clanked a jump hook so badly that it got stuck in between the rim and the backboard and Saint John’s retained possession on the arrow; and in the final seconds he inadvertently blocked the potential game winner on the baseline, with his elbow …. Owens didn’t do much but had a huge block at the rim with 45 seconds left. He was fortunate he didn’t get T’ed up for looming over the fallen PU player and jawing at him. Earlier he was called for goaltending when he stuck his hand up through the rim to block a shot. Before Wilt Chamberlain that play was legal; much like the NBA widening the free throw lane, making that play illegal was one of a number of rule changes made by basketball authorities to stop Wilt Chamberlain from being so good at basketball … Yawke was pulled about 30 seconds into the game for loafing after a loose ball. He barely returned and contributed little … For some reason Freduenbrh played 11 minutes. All I can figure is that Mullin can write that off on his taxes … I’m wont to say that Missini (three points) can’t guard a pillar or a stanchion or a lectern, which is true. This is as opposed to Alibeghwitch (0000100010) who is a less effective defender than a pillar or a stanchion or a lectern.

 
NOTES: This is the second game in a row where color man Tarik Turner was not aggressively stupid or annoying. Keep up the good work Tarik. I thought Ashton Kutchner Justin Kutcher screamed a bit too much and was a bit of a Providence homer – he’s from New England and went to Boston College, so maybe, although I only mention it so I could stick a Mila Kunis photo at the top of the page … Usually when Saint John’s plays Providence I can get a paragraph out of the back of Ed Cooley’s head, because what the fuck is that and why doesn’t he mitigate it with some Rogaine or a wig or some Chia hair, but even I can’t go to that well anymore. Fortunately he wore a white vest with a white shirt and matching yellow tie and pocket square so I can describe him as looking like a polar bear with hepatitis. Other than that I got nothing.

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.

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.

 

 

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

 

Inexcusable

That pitter patter you heard Wednesday night after Saint John’s improbable 93-60 demolition of New York’s team at the Carrier Dome was not the premature roof-top clatter of Santa and eight tiny reindeer bearing a sled containing toys for all the good girls and boys. No. What it was was the sound of a pack of rats clambering back up the gang plank of the vessel they’d spent the last seven days deserting in a lurid and embarrassing the-ship-be-sinking circle jerk the likes of which we had not seen since year five of the Norm Roberts regime. When they weren’t posting pictures of the Titanic and creating from whole cloth phantasmagorical scenarios wherein every Saint John’s player on the roster save Elijah Holifield got hardship transfers to Rutgers they were firing off angry emails to the new university president threatening to withhold their annual $ 50 donations until things were put right again, tax right offs be damned. And then last night happened and suddenly Chris Mullin knows something about basketball and maybe even Mitch Richmond too and let’s not forget the young phenom Greg Saint Jean who designed the system that for two years now has dismantled Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone and all is right with the world and god bless us everyone as we all go happily to the grave. Because to truly appreciate sports you must either be top of the world ma or clutching your pearls and taking to the divan with the vapors – there can be no middle ground. All kidding aside there are Frenchmen I’d rather have in a foxhole with me than some of the alleged fans who post in various SJU forums. Which lack of middle ground is why there is this morning giddiness on the one hand and why on the other there’s still a few diehard haters and Lavin toadies and Iona fans who were not impressed by this fluke; to the extent that they point out that this is not a vintage Boeheim effort I agree but on the third hand beating even a shitty Orange team is better than loosing [sic] to LIU, can we at least find some common ground there? The irony is that both camps are bound to be disappointed, because this is what happens with young teams: some nights they bring it and some nights they leave it home. When they turn the corner and bring it every night, that’s when things will begin to get interesting. Undoubtedly we’re not there yet but you have to start somewhere …. Rereading that it was probably a bit over the top but it felt good and I’m not changing a word. If anyone asks tell them it was meta commentary …. This was the first game in a long while against a real opponent where Saint John’s put their foot on the victim’s throat early and went on to tear out the windpipe. They went into halftime up ten aided by some pretty good three point shooting and some atrocious and sometimes comical play by Syracuse that included 10 turnovers, most of them unforced. Syracuse got two quick baskets to start the half and my notes read quite clearly “and then the roof caved in,” which I and every other fan who’s watched this team blow leads in their last couple of games expected except it didn’t – Saint John’s scored six straight points and eight of ten led by of all people Kassoum Yawke, who had two FGs and an assist before hall of fame coach Boeheim used his final TO of the game with 17 minutes left. There followed a remarkable sequence: Syracuse was fouled and made one of two free throws, then they got the rebound and got fouled and missed both free throws and then they got the rebound and made a two and then missed a free throw and got the rebound and missed a field goal. I mean look at this

 

16:52             Foul on Kassoum Yakwe. 47 – 35

16:52             John Gillon made Free Throw.   47 – 36

16:52             John Gillon missed Free Throw. 47 – 36

16:52             Tyler Lydon Offensive Rebound.           47 – 36

16:51             Foul on Kassoum Yakwe. 47 – 36

16:51             Tyler Lydon missed Free Throw.            47 – 36

16:51             Syracuse Deadball Team Rebound.      47 – 36

16:51             Tyler Lydon missed Free Throw.            47 – 36

16:51             DaJuan Coleman Offensive Rebound.  47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III missed Jumper.         47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III Offensive Rebound. 47 – 36

16:50             Andrew White III made Two Point Tip Shot.  47 – 38

16:50             Foul on Bashir Ahmed.     47 – 38

16:50             Andrew White III missed Free Throw. 47 – 38

16:50             Tyler Lydon Offensive Rebound.           47 – 38

16:48             Frank Howard missed Jumper.  47 – 38

16:48             Andrew White III Offensive Rebound. 47 – 38

16:48             John Gillon missed Three Point Jumper.

 

Syracuse took nine shots and got seven rebounds in FOUR SECONDS and the score went from Saint John’s plus 12 to Saint John’s plus nine. And that just broke their spirit. Saint John’s went on to outscore them 24 – 10 over the next five minutes and by 24 over the remainder of the game including a sequence of punks and dunks and alley oops the likes of which Saint John’s fans have not seen, well, maybe ever … Usually when I say there’s no point in looking at the box score it’s because Saint John’s was so awful but this time it’s because their opponent was: Syracuse shot 30 percent from the floor, 16 percent from three, 50 percent from the foul line and had 19 turnovers and 24 fouls. Saint John’s shot 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three and had a mind boggling 27 assists (that’s 15 percent of their season total) versus only nine turnovers. The only shit lining on the silver cloud is that they were 13 for 25 from the free throw line, which isn’t very good even if you factor in the walk-ons, who missed all their tries …. This was the 4th time this season Saint John’s has gone over 90 points, which some years it used to take them two games to do. One wag recently complained that what Mullin was bringing to the table was “not redmen basketball” to which I say halle-fucking-lujah. I’ve watched redmen basketball for 40 years. I want to watch winning basketball for a change … So the preseason is over and now the real games begin and where are we heading into conference play? I don’t know. On the plus side we’d be hard pressed to lose any that we’re supposed to win –  mainly because we’re not supposed to win very many – and on the other hand we have the talent to steal a couple when the other guy isn’t looking. On the minus side there are going to be those days when they just don’t show up and those days where they do show up but they show up as freshmen making dumb freshmen mistakes. Hopefully they play hard and stay healthy and steal enough wins to get a CBI bid and then wait till next year bums except next year might really be next year this time.

PLAYERS: Usually I do these profiles in the order in which the players played from best to worst which is why it’s so surprising that the first player up is Malik Ellison, who scored 16 points and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 31 minutes. Over his last two games Ellison is 8 for 11 from three, which if he shot even half that well you could overlook all the boneheaded things he does. He has the makings of a nice complimentary player although you get the impression by watching him that he thinks himself more than that. That will be a bridge to be crossed once and if his skills grow to match his opinion of his skills … Shamorie Ponds had 21 points – including a couple of threes he took from Rochester – six rebounds and seven assists … Batshit Ahmed, prior to last night a “bust” who “should be benched” had 20 points, 5 rebounds and three assists versus a single turnover. One astute observer (okay it was me) had observed earlier this week how much more effective he’d be posted up inside or on or about the foul line, where he wouldn’t have to dribble to get near the basket, dribbling not being his strong suit. You’re welcome  … Marcus Lovett, decried by some as a “shoot first” guard had nine assists and six rebounds versus only six shots. At one point came precariously close to letting a ball roll out of bounds in the back court while he was adjusting his shorts …. Yawke seems to be getting his sea legs under him after an atrocious start to the season: seven points and eight rebounds including a thunderous dunk where he took off just short of the free throw line … Freudeburgh made a couple of threes early and was pretty quiet after that but baby steps. Speaking of steps he nearly looked the fool when he grabbed a rebound and raced down court (for data sets where “raced” is defined generously) to euro step his way past the four SU players between him and the basket but fortunately he got fouled while fumbling the ball out of bounds and it was the other guy who was beclowned …. Four blocks and four rebounds for Tariq Owens, who managed not to foul out …Williams, Holifield and someone called J Cole got some run during garbage time …. Conspicuously absent and not missed one iota was Wally Pipp Federico Missini. If he is ill as has been rumored we wish him a speedy recovery. If he does recover speedily it will be the first thing he’s done speedily since he first donned a Saint John’s uniform.

NOTES: I’ve beaten Syracuse into the ground over the past several years and so would be left with no anecdotes with which to beguile my readers were it not for the serial malapropisms of color man Mike Gminski, a former college all American at DOoK University and subsequently an NBA first round draft pick. Those of you who are as old as dirt will remember that Gminski was the starting center on the number one DoOk Blue Devil team that lost twice to Saint John’s in the 78-79 season, first in the consolation game of the Holiday Festival and later in the Black Sunday defeat in the NCAA tournament, where Gminski got punked by chronic underachiever Wayne McCoy. Gminski went on to a respectable NBA career, as opposed to the conga line of buffoons first round draft picks Doook has sent the NBA subsequently: Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, Alaa Abdulallahakbar, Antonio Lang, Grant “Golly I seem to have snapped another bone” Hill, Cherokee Parks, Chris Carrawell, Shelden “Forceps Head” Williams, Jay “Look out for that tree” Williams, Josh McRoberts, Daniel Ewing and however many Plumlee brothers mother Plumlee squirted out and that’s not even the full list. Anyway Gminski called Saint John’s a “high school coaching job” when he described asking Mullin whether he would have coached anywhere else than Saint John’s, claimed that Saint John’s was coming off a 46 point loss to Penn State (it was 16 although it might have seemed like more) and in what may be the single stupidest sports analogy ever uttered stated that “waiting to take over from [Jim Boeheim] is like waiting for Castro to die,” which it is if Boeheim has a prison complex beneath the Carrier Dome where he tortures and murders his political opponents in the name of a failed and discredited ideology that was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th century and also if Boeheim had to die rather than just retire to Florida with his hot wife and spend his days drinking Mai Tais and fishing off his deck … Speaking of DoOk Grayson Allen – the poster child for the sort of smug entitled white piece of shit scumbag fuck heads that are treasured by Mike Schrewshrenski – for the third time in recent memory attempted to cripple an opposing player by sweeping the leg. Let’s go to the video tape:

So to recap: Allen attempts to seriously injure an opponent, acts like he was fouled while doing so, talks shit to the opponent afterwards and whines like a little bitch when he’s T’ed up for his behavior. Coach Rat face – who you may recall last year lectured Oregon’s Dillon Brooks on good sportsmanship after Brooks made a three late in Duke’s NCAA tournament loss – called Allen’s behavior “unacceptable” and “inexcusable” but also has no plans to discipline him beyond the couple of minutes he sat him down afterwards, which doesn’t seem like the appropriate punishment for something that’s inexcuseable, an adjective meaning too awful to be tolerated. If Ratty won’t do anything I’d hope the ACC steps in and metes out the proper retribution, which would be that he be taken to the place from whence he came and there be kept in close confinement until next Thursday and upon that day that he be taken to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until dead. And may God have mercy upon his soul.

 

 

 

Nittany Loins

When Saint John’s lost to Delaware State a couple of weeks ago I was surprised. When they lost to LIU a week ago I was disappointed. Sunday afternoon, when Saint John’s lost 92-76 to the Penn State Kiddie Fuckers at alleged home court Madison Square Garden in what is for some reason still called the Holiday Festival was the first time since the repulsive Steve Lavin was head coach that I can recall being disgusted … Things started out promisingly enough: Saint John’s took the same 7-point lead they did last week again LIU before the falling sky hit an iceberg and burst into flames. Penn State went on a 35-5 run to end the half – a display babbling idiot Ron Thompson called the “best nine minutes of college basketball” he’d ever seen, which means only that he didn’t watch the Kentucky North Carolina game yesterday – and led by 23 at the half. Despite some brilliant halftime adjustments by coach Mullin that allowed Saint John’s to outscore Penn State by nearly 20 percent in the second half Saint John’s never got closer than 16, and that after a 12 to 2 run …. There does not seem to be much point in mentioning the box score but I will anyway: Saint John’s shot 37 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers and that wasn’t even the problem. The problem is the defense, which once again was atrocious. When unguarded shooters were not burying 13 of 23 threes they were blowing by their defenders for drive and dumps: it was very hard to watch and almost embarrassing and I don’t embarrass easily. Suffice it to say that no one covers anyone. The ones who seem capable of playing defense – Owens, Yawke, Ponds, Lovett, Ahmed – don’t seem to be trying very hard and the other ones – Ellison, Mussini and Freudenburhger – are hopelessly slow, uncoordinated and lacking in awareness. It’s a difficult situation and one that needs remedying. Freshmen in general are horrible defenders and being charitable Mullin didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about defense in college or the pros. He’d best start thinking about it soon, because this season is suddenly beginning to look bleak.

PLAYERS: When the best player on the floor is Malik Ellison, well, let’s just say that that’s not a recipe for success. Probably everyone wants to talk about his career high 22 points. I want to point out that for the second time this year he received a pass in the corner with his feet out of bounds. How can you perform well on the court when you don’t even know where the court is … Tariq Owens had a double-double in 22 minutes before fouling out for the fourth time this year … Signs of life from Kassoum Yawke: eight points, seven rebounds, three assists. In an article in the NY Post this morning Yawke opined that he was overthinking things, which if he read this blog he would have known that a month ago when I opined the same thing … Shamorie Ponds had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists but was a dreadful 3 of 17 from the floor … Lovett had six turnovers in his first game back … Ahmed had five turnovers and doesn’t have that excuse. Forced things a bunch of times and was generally awful … Freudenbrheger had five points, which would have been more had he not had a couple of threes go in and out. His presence on the floor is either a sign of desperation or an indication that Mullin is playing the long game. Because he’s not ready for prime time … Federico Mussini shot an air ball and that was about the best thing he did all day… I thought Darrien Williams might get some run after his showing last week but he played only four minutes

NOTES: Penn State are the Nittany Lions, Nittany being a reference to Mount Nittany, a local Pennsylvania landmark that overlooks the Penn State campus bathroom when Jerry Sandusky raped many little boys during his long and illustrious career as an educator. I mention that only to point out that Nittany rhymes with Britney, which gives me an excuse for the picture which adorns this post. You’re welcome Desco … Unremarked upon in Saint John’s fan forums – where this Sunday morning I was treated to an amusing essay the gist of which was that negroes who play in the NBA go broke because they spend too much money tricking out their Escalades – was Rollie Massimino, who on Wednesday won the 800th game of his illustrious career when the Keiser University Seahawks defeated Trinity Baptist University 77-47, making the 82 year-old Massimino only the third active college basketball coach with 800 wins, Mike Scherwrenky and Jim Boeheim being the other two. And what a long strange trip it’s been. Massimino first coached at Stony Brook – the Seawolves, which almost brings him full circle but not quite – in 1969. Despite having no college coaching experience and being a Rutgers graduate he had immediate success, going 34 and 14 in two years before moving on to Villanova University after a year as an assistant to former Piston coach Chuck Daly, then at Pennsylvania University. Massimino won 300 plus games at Villanova in 19 years, including an improbable national championship in 1985, the year Saint John’s made its only final four in the modern era and its first since Democrats elected former Ku Klux Klan member Harry Truman president of the United States. It turns out that that championship was the apex of Massimino’s career – and the glory from that dimmed somewhat when it was revealed later that most of Massimino’s players were degenerate junkies who were snorting cocaine in the locker room at halftime. Massimino resigned from Villanova in 1992 to take the head coaching job at UNLV, where he was a respectable 35-21, but was fired after it was discovered that – in an ironic turn – Massimino was receiving payments under the table from the university president. After Nevada Massimino turned up at Cleveland State where he was a moribund 90 and 113 and where once again his players ran amok, forcing Massimino to resign amidst allegations of drug abuse, criminal behavior and academic fraud. In 2006 after a three year hiatus Massimino took the coaching job at Kaiser – then Northwood University, the Timberwolves, not the Seawolves – where his record stands at 245 and 61: he’s won 30 games three times, never lost more than 9 games in a season and made the NAIA tournament every year, including a loss a few years back in the national championship to powerhouse the Oregon Institute of Technology Hustlin’ Owls. Congratulations Rollie …. Speaking of Jim Boeheim, I took a few minutes to read Syracuse’s fan forum after yesterday’s home loss to Georgetown. The consensus among the delusional fans there is that college basketball has passed Boeheim by – this would be the same Boeheim who went to the final four last year and the elite eight a year before that and four sweet sixteens in the last five years – and that the only person who can save SU’s program from oblivion is Jay Wright, although Billy Donovan might be able to and also Greg Marshall. Since Wright isn’t going anywhere and Donovan is in the NBA and Greg Marshall earns three million dollars a year – which is nearly 20 percent of the budget of Wichita’s entire athletic department – it seems that once JB leaves after next year Syracuse will finally receive its well-deserved and long due comeuppance, once again leaving Saint John’s as New York’s team. Or possibly LIU, depending on ow things shake out. But at least the crown will be vacant at long last, which is something to look forward to on this otherwise sad afternoon.

Blackbird Down

Usually when I tape a Saint John’s game I make sure to avoid venues where I’m liable to see the final score. I didn’t think Twitter was one of those, so imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon at around 2:30 when LIU Brooklyn started trending. Ah ha, I thought, a clue that things have gone south. And gone south they had, as Saint John’s lost a squeaker 74-73 to the LIU Blackbirds Sunday afternoon at Barclay Arena. The good news is there was no one around to see it …. Saint John’s came out flat. I think probably it was a combination of things: the early start and that they didn’t take LIU very seriously – much like they didn’t take Delaware State seriously a couple of weeks ago – and that they had been playing too well to not have a bit of a letdown and the Sima thing and that Marcus Lovett was out again didn’t help either. Whatever it was LIU went out to a 10 point lead but Saint John’s got back in it mostly at the free throw line and at halftime it was tied. Due to some brilliant halftime adjustments by Coach Mullin SJU pulled ahead by seven with about eight minutes left when suddenly it all fell apart. Mullin said in the postgame press conference that “when we had a seven point lead we got sloppy and didn’t take care of the ball,” which is an understatement. Up 58-51 the following SJ possessions ensued: Darien Williams travelled, Mussini missed a three, Williams missed a chippie, Mussini missed a three, Freudenburg fumbled the ball out of bounds under the basket, Ahmed travelled, Ponds missed a layup, Ahmed missed two free throws, and Mussini missed a three – at which point the seven point lead was a two point deficit. Things went back and forth a bit after that and Saint John’s actually led by four with 1:13 left but being forewarned I knew it was not to be and so was not surprised when Ponds front rimmed a jumper at the buzzer. A tough beat but a few more foot pounds from Ponds and everyone would be dancing a tarantella about how these brave young kids gutted out a gritty victory and maybe they’re not so bad after all and thank god we have Chris Mullin to lead us to the promised land towards which we have finally turned the corner… Saint John’s shot 40 percent from the floor and from three and rebounds were plus four 39-35. The ball did not move the way it has of late though – they had only 11 assists on 24 made baskets – and they did not help themselves with 18 turnovers, which is way too many turnovers, and they also did not help themselves by missing eight free throws in a one point game. And once again the defense was atrocious: the guards can’t keep anyone in front of them and except for when they’re blocking shots (they had 8) the bigs don’t even seem to bother. It doesn’t help that they’re all twigs – someone called James “Professor” Frink who weighed more than the three of them combined pushed the whole lot of them around for 37 minutes on his way to a 20 point 12 rebound double double … It also did not help that the referees called a foul a minute for 40 minutes, 24 in the first half. Even though Saint John’s ended up taking more free throws the constant stoppages of play inures to the benefit of the team that doesn’t want to go fast, and Mullin wants to go fast. On the other hand those fans who like hearing the sound “tweet” and watching free throws being shot – for my money the most exciting play in all of sports – probably had a great time. I just got annoyed …. As usual after one of these unfortunate losses in the various SJU fan forums last night and this morning the sky is falling; no doubt Pete Gillen’s ear are ringing in the old folks home where he’s spending his golden years. The players stink and Mullin’s a moron: the usual suspects taking to the divan with the vapors. Zzzz. Newsflash: yesterday Malik Ellison started and Federico “Oompa Loompa” Mussini was the first man off the bench and SJU was shorted handed because the great Amar Alibegowitch was unavailable. At their best those players are not very good and the ones like Ponds who are good are terribly young and they just plumb got beat and they’re going to plumb get beat a bunch more times and clutching your pearls and cursing Chris Mullin when they do is like watching Gone With the Wind for the 19th time and thinking that this time the Confederates are going to win the war and then blaming David O. Selznick when they don’t. That’s the definition of insanity you know: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I mean, I’m crazy, but not that crazy.

PLAYERS: Ponds had 18 points and six rebounds. It’s a measure of how well he played the last couple of games that this one seemed a bit of a disappointment … Bashir Ahmed – who one enormous basketball mind claimed should be “benched until he learns that basketball is a team sport” and another deemed “a bust” – had 14 and 6 and is now averaging 12 and six and shooting 40 percent from three for the year. Twelve and six is about what Jakarr Sampson averaged his one year in college and as I recall people wanted him benched as well. As for me I want more players who you can pencil in for 12 and 6, not less … When Federico Mussini dies they should carve on his tombstone a little Italian guy in baggy shorts chasing two steps behind a quicker taller black guy, because that’s what he spends most of his time doing on the basketball court: chasing his man around in a futile attempt to catch up. If it were not for Malik Ellison he might be the worst defensive player I’ve ever seen. Three for 10 from the floor, one assist (that’s one fewer than greedy selfish Bashir Ahmed for those of you scoring at home) and two turnovers in 28 minutes. Color man Jim Spanarkle described him as “almost like a point guard,” which is technically correct if you put the emphasis on the almost … Ellison had eight points on a couple of nice drives to the basket and five assists but gets the coveted GOAT OF THE GAME award for two boneheaded plays coming down the stretch: on the first one he crossed midcourt line and leapt gracefully into the air to laser a pass to the peanut vendor in Row 11 and later on down one with ten seconds left he spent six seconds dribbling pointlessly at the top of the key and then drove to the baseline where he cleverly picked up his dribble before throwing a bounce pass no less to Kassoum Yawke no less in traffic no less in the lane no less. I hate to keep repeating myself but he might be the dumbest player I’ve ever seen. And oh yeah he missed all his free throws and is now shooting 50 percent for the year. From never nervous Purvis to always bleak Malik: the apple has indeed fallen far from the tree … Tariq Owens had five rebounds and four blocks in 18 minutes but only two points … Not to be out done Yawke had two points and three rebounds and fumbled the ball out of bounds wide open on a set play with under a minute to go. I don’t know who’s calling plays for the big men with games on the line (I recall they lost one last year when they ran a set play for Sima with a couple of seconds left) but that guy should be flogged and I’m pretty sure it’s Saint Jean. Whereas anyone who’s watched Hoosiers knows you don’t use Jimmy Chitwood as a decoy, you let him take the last shot. Too be fair to Yawke we should remember that this should be his first year in college and he’s still very young. But he is not the player he was last year when he was an all BE freshmen and that seems very far away and that’s troubling and hopefully he gets his head out of his ass pretty soon, because it would be helpful if he stepped up … Richard Fredenburgh made his second three of the year – the German deadeye is now 2 for 15 on the year – but had six rebounds. To be fair he does seem to have a nose for the ball. Hopefully he starts working on his other senses soon …. As you might have heard Yankuba Sima has departed Saint John’s for greener pastures. You’d think that in his absence everyone’s favorite towel waver Amar Alibeowitsh would have been itching to step up and support his teammates in this difficult time. Instead because he’s a dumbass he injured himself celebrating Saint John’s important win over Fordham a couple of days ago; my sources tell me he may never walk again, god willing. In his place Darien Williams – whose claim to fame heretofore has been doing interpretive dance steps on the side lines after made threes – was forced into action; he’s played 13 minutes total the previous 10 games and had twice as many personal fouls as points. So naturally Sunday afternoon he had 15 points, seven rebounds and a block and would have earned the game ball if they gave out the game ball on shitty teams that lose to LIU. But they don’t so he gets nothing  …. Now that we’re down to a seven man rotation and our best big man is evidently a guy with no shoulders who hasn’t played organized basketball in two years, any of you still think throwing Chris Jones over the side was a good idea? The sad thing is that probably you do.

NOTES: I was going to just say notes, schmotes, I have no notes and be done with it but then I remembered that LIU used to be coached by the legendary Clair Bee, who Lou Carnesecca will tell you practically invented basketball. Bee was 413-88 lifetime as a college coach: 360–80 in 20 years at LIU, where he won two national championships – LIU was undefeated in 1936 and 1939 and at one point won 43 games in a row – and before that 53-8 at Rider. Eleven of his 88 career losses came in 1933, his second year at LIU, when he went 6-11 – no word whether disgruntled LIU fans were hoping that he could be replaced by Pete Gillen, who was then a sprightly 35 year old. Bee resigned in shame in 1951 after several of his players were implicated in the well-documented CCNY point shaving scandal and went on to coach in the NBA where he lost more games in two years than he had in three decades in college: as coach of the Washington Bullets he was a moribund 34-116. Perhaps he could have done better had he had the smarts to hire an experienced X and O coach to help him on the sidelines but at this late date that’s probably something of a moot point.

 

 

Play It Again Ram

It’s a measure of how bad things have been in Jamaica that Thursday’s 90-62 win over the hapless Fordham Rams was seen as payback. Because the case can be made that Fordham is the worst program in the modern history of college basketball and perhaps ever. They have a record of futility that is virtually unmatched – and this is in the A 10 mind you – and have been coached by a conga line of losers that runs the gamut from appalling mediocrity Tom Pecora to giant nothing-burger  Derek Whittenburg, whose most impressive basketball feat was an airball he shot in during the Reagan administration. All of which being said it was pretty pleasurable watching Mullin rub their faces in last year’s game and I taped it and later I’m going to watch it again … SJU jumped out to a 10 point first half lead and looked to be on their way to an early blow out when a combination of events – a loss of focus and the arrival on the court of the bench – let Fordham back in it, so that a made basket after Federico Mussini dribbled the ball off his foot got FU within three. Saint John’s though went on an 8-0 run to end the half and a 15-5 run to start the second (halftime adjustments baby!) and that was all she wrote … Regarding that run, one thing that this team has demonstrated early is that they can take a punch. They bounced back from a loss to Delaware State that could have been demoralizing with their best performance of the year versus Tulane. They lost an 8 point lead versus CSUN and went on to win easily without their point guard on the floor. And last night instead of rolling over when FU cut the lead to three they responded with a run of their own. It’s refreshing to see a team this young have so much poise. Because that’s something that usually takes years to learn … Even considering they were playing Fordham, SJ’s offensive output was prodigious: they shot 60 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three, were plus 20 rebounds, had 10 blocks and 24 assists on 32 made baskets. Once again the defense was atrocious – two giant Eastern European dorks hit 9 three pointers between them – but all in all there is not a lot for even a curmudgeon like me to complain about … Regarding the remarkable three point shooting, is it too soon to credit Mullin and Richmond for that? They are two of the greatest shots in the history of the game after all. Every time some dope dribbles the ball off his foot or misses a free throw a Greek chorus starts chanting that Mullin needs the aid of some washed up loser wizened sage like Tim Welch or Pete Gillen. So do we start crediting Mullin now when every little thing goes right? He’s got four guys shooting over 40 percent from three and Mussini’s over fifty. Is that the result of being coached up and being put in a position to succeed or are we still in the “anyone who thinks Mullin knows what he’s doing is kidding himself” stage. Are any of the little things they’re starting to do right the coach’s fault? Is their resilience a reflection of his own self confidence? I guess the question I’m asking is: is it possible that Chris Mullin knows something about basketball? Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but personally I’m starting to get the warm fuzzies, or at least as fuzzy as I get anyway – I’m starting to see what they’re supposed to be doing, even if they’re not doing it yet: the spacing and ball movement, the pick and roll and back door, the emphasis on the three. They’re still a few pieces short of the puzzle, but all of a sudden they’re starting to look like a basketball team and I think I’m starting to buy in. I guess we’ll know in a couple of months

PLAYERS: Shamorie “WTF” Ponds had a night so _______ that I’m not going to diminish it by picking an adjective to describe it. It was pretty _______ though: 26 points on 9-13 from the floor, 7 of 11 from three (one off the school record set by the legendary Avery Patterson), nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals. The most ______ thing about his game is not his ________ skill set, which is _________ – it’s how calm he is, and how poised, and how the game comes to him. Demeanor-wise he’s already a senior. I can’t imagine what he’s going to be in a couple of years … Mussini had another nice game, but not nice enough for me to eschew adjectives: 20 points in 20 minutes, including a remarkable full court dash and lay in to end the first half. He even drew a charge. Five turnovers is way too many, but I’ll let that slide. For now …. Missus Fun announced last night that Tariq Owens was her favorite player. After cross-examining her to make sure this was not a case of depraved jungle fever I acquiesced. I’m wondering whether Owens moribund start and resurgence of late is the result of his shaking off the cobwebs, having not played for several years, as opposed to incompetence, which was my original theory …. Ahmed had a quiet 12 and 6. Only two turnovers though and an assist, his 13th of the year. Contrary to popular slander, Ahmed is fourth on the team in assists, averaging 1.3 per game. As opposed to say Federico Mussini, who averages less than one …  Kassoum Yawke – who also averages more assists per game than Mussini – fouled out in 12 minutes. To be fair a couple of those were blocks that could have been charges and a couple were chippies. He did though finish with authority on a pick and roll early which was good to see …. Dennis Rodman Amar Alibegovith had eight rebounds in 18 minutes, doubling his total for the year. If this is a sign that he’s realizing that his only value to the team is down low – much like Sean Evans realized in Lavin’s Year Zero – that would be a welcome change. It might even be worth putting up with him clanking threes and bouncing the ball off his feet and decapitating opposing players, which things comprise his skill set now …. Malik Ellison started. In the first two minutes he threw a lazy cross court pass that was nearly intercepted, blew a layup and let a pass go off his fingertips out of bounds, after which he was immediately pulled. Good for Mullin. Other Ellison highlights included receiving a pass in the corner with his foot out of bounds and throwing the ball away on a break. He really is one of the dumber players I can remember … Speaking of highlights, Obergruppenfuhrer Freudenberg made the number three slot on ESPN’s top 10 plays by virtue of a block late in the second half. It was a fine block , but Yawke and Owens make three similar ones a game. Maybe because he’s white, who knows. Also he made the first three of his career. Congratulations Ricky …. Darien Williams also made ESPN: his sideline antics were featured during a piece on the game – a piece in which Shamorie Ponds was barely mentioned. Perhaps if Williams spent as much time working on his game as he does choreographing his end zone dance he wouldn’t suck at basketball and so could get a few minutes actually on the court, as did walk-on Elijah Holifield, who hit a garbage time three at the buzzer …. Sima did not start and barely played and seems to be out of favor for the time being.

NOTES: Really I got nothing. We play Fordham every year and so I’ve plowed that field fallow up to and including an essay about Captain Kangaroo. Donny Marshall and Rick Ackerman are no great shakes but they’re not so awful that they’re worth ranting about and Jim Jackson and whoever the other guy is in the studio at half time, while a little too convivial for me (to be fair Calvin Coolidge was a little too convivial for me) have the virtue of not being Steve Lavin. So I got bupkis …. Apologies to those of you who wrote complaining that my last recap was not adorned by a piece of eye candy at the top. (See Rule 5.) I can understand your disappointment: this is one of the few places on the internet where you can go to see near naked women. Truth is I spent more time than I care to admit looking for a suitably risqué version of Eve Plumb, but couldn’t find anything that wouldn’t have ended up with Chris Hansen showing up at my front door. Plumb gave an Oscar worthy performance as a prostitute with a heart of gold in the underrated 1976 classic Dawn Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, but there aren’t many stills on line, which is weird because you can watch the whole thing on you tube … And finally, yesterday was Tom Waits birthday. Most of you philistines have never heard of him but he is, as the kids say, the balls:

 

 

Ain’t No cSunshine

a5fe7d31d307c3a5eeb41d82625e083d_h

RECAP: Despite the absence of starting point guard Marcus Lovett Saint John’s defeated Cal State Northridge 76-70 at Carnesecca Arena Monday night. With Lovett it’s a game you’d expect SJU to win – I’ve never heard of CSUN before but you have to figure that they didn’t schedule them in the preseason on campus if they were a powerhouse like, say, Delaware State. When I found out he wasn’t playing I said aloud “well they’re never going to win this,” which it turns out is one of those rare times I didn’t know what I was talking about. Because win they did and pretty easily, despite a scare in the second half when a relatively stable eight point lead evaporated and SJU found themselves down 62-61 with six minutes remaining. At which point they could have rolled over and no one but haters and Iona fans would have faulted them for it, missing as they were their most important if not their best player. Instead they grinded out the victory, just as Chris Mullin exhorted them to during a late televised timeout. That’s all coaching baby …. Statistically SJU was creditable: they shot close to 50 percent from the floor and from three, were plus five rebounds, and had an equal number of assists and turnovers. CSUN on the other hand was pretty atrocious: they were 2 for 14 from three and turned the ball over 17 times. What kept them in it was two things: free throws and Saint John’s really appalling defense, which allowed their opponent to get to the rim at will. I’ve faced stiffer resistance in a Bangkok brothel … Speaking of the officials, they were horrible, led by Brian O’Connell, who’s proof of the old adage I just made up that says never trust a man who spends more time doing his hair than his wife. And by that I don’t mean doing his wife, although I’m guessing BOC spends more time on his hair than on that as well. Forty three fouls in 40 minutes is carry the one more than a foul a minute, which is just too much and the first time it’s been called that way all year … Unless Mullin has a bunch of blue pinstripes in his locker he looked to be wearing the same suit he wore on Monday although to his credit he changed his shirt. Hopefully this does not devolve into a lucky sweater situation …. At 4 and 5 SJU is just about where you’d think they should be in early December. Best case scenario is they stole a game in the Bahamas and Delaware State obviously but they’d still be .500 plus or minus one. They better do something about the defense though because otherwise they’re going to get chewed up in conference play.

PLAYERS: A hack writer would say that Shamorie Ponds had a coming out party last night. I’m not going to say that, although he was pretty spectacular – 25 points, five assists, and only one turnover. The one sour note was an ill-advised blown dunk that might have gotten him on ESPN and instead was just a miss. On the bright side I don’t remember a true freshman playing like this for a long time. Omar Cook maybe …. Ahmed was 2-9 from the floor but 8-12 from the FT line. He finished with a near double double, 13 and 8, which is a nice line, although the five turnovers are a problem . He’s averaging 12 and 6 for the season, which led one astute observer to question whether his play thus far has been “detrimental” to the team. I’d point out to that genyious that David Russell averaged 15 and 7 as a senior, whereas Ahmed is seven games into his career …. Those boings you heard when Rico Mussini scored 9 points in a single minute in the first half were some of the first erections to emanate from the Red and White Club since Jimmy Carter was president. Unfortunately like the Red and Whites Mussini was flaccid the rest of he game – he scored 3 points in the other 39 minutes and turned the ball over four times … Signs of life from Yassoum Yawke, who had six points, five rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes … Another creditable effort from Owens – five points, seven rebounds, four blocks. Is he the new Costco? In one remarkable sequence he stole the ball in the back court, flushed a dunk on the ensuing break and then took a charge on the next defensive possession. It was an impressive 45 seconds. Unfortunately he’s being asked to play 28 minutes …. Speaking of unfortunate, Malik Ellison played 29 minutes in Lovett’s absence, the upshot of which is let’s hope Marcus gets back on the court real soon. Ellison’s best play of the evening was faking out whoever was screaming by double pumping a free throw …. Sima played 17 minutes, most of them pointless … Alibeowitch beat his personal best by fouling out in 13 minutes … Freudenberg played only 10 minutes, it just seemed longer

NOTES: California State University Northridge, aka CSUN, are the Matadors, coached by Reggie Theus. Theus was an all American at UNLV, a top 10 draft pick, and is the only player in NBA history to be top 50 all time in scoring and top 25 all time in assists (he averaged 19 points and six assists over 14 years in the league) who is not in the hall of fame. The only other shooting guard to meet those criteria is Jerry West, who got in on the first ballot. To put that in perspective there’s someone called Hortencia Marcari in the hall of fame who played for Brazil in the Pan American Games a couple of times; Mendy Rudolf and Earl Strom are in there and they’re referees – that’s like giving an Oscar to the guy who catered Citizen Kane; and Senda Abbott, who coached women’s basketball in the 19th century at a time when women were not permitted to dribble or steal the ball from their opponents, she’s in the hall of fame. Reggie Theus and his 20 ppg average playing the actual game of basketball, he’s on the outside looking in. Theus was a successful coach in his first go round at New Mexico State (despite the canard that successful players cannot make successful coaches) although not so much in the NBA where he coached for a couple of years or as yet at CSUN …. I find the Matadors an odd choice for a team name in these times and especially in California, the snowflake capital of the world. In the first place, you have a bunch of privileged white California residents usurping the cultural heritage of a poor Latino fighting to death a ferocious bull and in the second place you have a guy who stabs a poor defenseless bull to death for sport. Where’s PETA? Where’s LA RAZA? Where’s the outrage and solidarity from my LGBGTEIEEO brothers and sisters? Hopefully after they’ve coloring booked away their disappointment over the recent election they’ll get on this important issue …. Although only founded recently in 1952 CSUN has a lengthy list of notorious alumni, albeit many of them are vapid television personalities: Paula Abdul, Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman, Teri Garr, Phil Hartman, Helen Hunt, Evas Longoria and Mendes, Mouskateer drummer Cubby O’Brien, Eve “Jan” Plumb, and Debra Winger. Others include former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi; former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle; Doors drummer John Densmore and Police drummer Andy Summers; and the wonderful bassist Leland Sklar, whose career ran from the ridiculous – he played with such bubble gum acts such as Air Supply, David Cassidy, Peter Allen Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Neil Sedaka – to the sublime: he’s recorded with Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, Warren Zevon, Billy Cobham Lee Ritenour and tenor alto (I never get tired of that one) saxophonist David Sanborn … Which brings us finally to CSUN graduate Lyman Bostock, an outfielder who hit .311 in four years in MLB in the 70’s before being murdered – mistakenly it turns out – by a jealous husband. His killer pled guilty by reason of insanity and having been adjudged sane seven months later was released to die peacefully in his sleep 35 years later. Who was is that said that justice is blind and juries stupid? Someone. Anyway, Bostock’s wiki page links to a page that lists MLB players who died during their careers. I was struck in perusing it how much things have changed in the 100 short years since the century turned. Most of the players listed as dying in the early part of the century passed from now defunct diseases – typhoid, typhus, influenza, tuberculosis – and from pathologies that tend to effect the lower classes – murder, suicide, cirrhosis. Whereas nowadays you have well to do healthy players dying accidental deaths, like Danny Frisella flipping his dune buggy and Thurman Munson flying his personal aircraft into a cornfield and Jose Fernandez drunk piloting his yacht into a dock. There’s a lesson here about something, civics maybe, or popular culture, but it’s too early in the morning for that. Here’s this instead