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Bosco’s Corner: It’s time to give Jarvis, SJU respect

I never knew Donald Emanuel was a comedian. The 6-foot-8 senior forward on the St. John’s men’s basketball team provided the media perhaps the most reason to smile at the school’s “Selection Sunday” event this past weekend.

Emanuel deadpanned with the best of them when, after teammate Sharif Fordham told the audience how he wanted St. John’s to win the NCAA Tournament, the Houston native said, matter of factly, “That’s going to be tough though. Don’t think it’s that easy. You say that, but it’s a little tough to do. I want you all to know that its not that easy winning a championship.”

The room busted up.

It was that kind of atmosphere Sunday night at the University Center. The Red Storm, which had been listed as one of the dreaded “bubble teams” practically since they laced up their sneakers back in October, finally got off the bubble when it was announced that they had indeed made the field of 65.

Sitting there with my colleagues in the media on a dais-like setup facing the team, which, in turn, was watching the television off to our left, the tension was palpable as the selection show began. The players were not locked in conversation with each other, they weren’t smiling or mugging for the camera when the CBS live feed televised them nationally. They were serene and sullen, awaiting their fate.

Even one member of the media — whose identity I shall protect for fear of retribution — confided that he didn’t think St. John’s would even make the tournament. That’s how precarious the Johnnies’ position seemed to be after losing in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.

And just when it seemed like the tension could build no more, it was released, like air out of a balloon. The second pairing shown pitted the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers against the No. 9 Red Storm of St. John’s. And then elation.

It was almost a delayed reaction. I saw the name pop up on the screen and turned my head to catch the team’s celebration and they seemed to be stuck in time for a split second, just sitting there open mouthed. Their season-long goal was achieved, they were in and, for a moment, it seemed they didn’t believe it.

But no sooner did that moment come, than it was gone and the players were jumping up and down in elation. Head coach Mike Jarvis, ever careful not to wear his emotions of his sleeve, let his guard down for a brief moment, as he hugged his players and assistants, clearly struck by the significance of the achievement.

For whatever reason, Jarvis seems to have not been fully embraced by the entire Red Storm’s fan-base, something that has boggled my brain for a while now. But in this, his third trip to the Big Dance with the Johnnies in his four seasons at the school, maybe some of those stubborn fans who hearken back to the days of Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin perhaps too often, may finally come around.

The enormity of what Jarvis and his team has accomplished could easily be lost on fans who think that a successful St. John’s team is one that is among the five best teams in the nation, which they are not. But this is a quality team and program, one Jarvis has helped resurrect for the depths of mediocrity.

For all those who have attributed much of Jarvis’ early success to the team handed to him by the departing Fran Fraschilla, it’s time to put that argument to bed. This team is all Jarvis’ — no matter who recruited who — and to say this team and its coach are not a success is ridiculous.

There are those that say Jarvis can’t recruit with the best coaches in the nation and they may be right, in the long run. But Jarvis has still managed to land Blue Chip prospects during his short tenure, Erick Barkley, Omar Cook, Marcus Hatten and the incoming Elijiah Ingram. No, he doesn’t land them all, but no one does.

Then there are those that say he isn’t the greatest game coach in the world and, of course, he may not be, but he’s as good as just about anyone in the collegiate ranks, in my opinion. The 20-win seasons, three trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Big East Tournament championship in four years is a pretty decent resume, for anyone.

And can any of his detractors, those who posted on the internet earlier this season that this may be the worst St. John’s team in history, honestly say that Jarvis, his staff and players, have not done a superb job this season? The number of people who thought St. John’s would make the tournament this season back in October was frighteningly small and all of them were probably at the school’s University Center Sunday night.

Jarvis and his team played under a microscope all season and some were quick, too quick, to call for the team’s collective head on more than one occasion. And I’m sure they will do the same if the Red Storm’s exit from the tournament is quick and unimpressive.

Regardless, no one can take away from what the team did this season.

On a similar note, I’d like to congratulate the Queens College men’s team for its second straight berth into the Division II NCAA Tournament and for winning the NYCAC Tournament. Both are accomplishments coach Kyrk Peponakis and his players can savor for a long time to come.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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