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Bosco’s Corner: Just let the guy coach the team

Very few things bother me as much as sports fans who whine from the cheap seats, armchair quarterbacking their lives away, slinging insult after insult at athletes, coaches and anyone else attached to the team they are railing against. That kind of thing is my job.

But in all seriousness, I recently visited a fan Web site — www.Redmen.com — dedicated to St. John’s University athletics, with a heavy focus on the men’s basketball team. And while I am usually up for a healthy debate on the Red Storm, some of the stuff posted absolutely made my skin crawl.

As some of you out there may know, there is a sort of underground of St. John’s basketball fans who have been calling for the cleanly shaved head of Mike Jarvis since he stepped foot on the Jamaica campus some five years ago.

The reasons are numerous, as many posters on this Web site have voiced, some with some valid points. But others just seem asinine to me.

Jarvis came to the program after the very stormy and short tenure of Fran Fraschilla, the coach many thought would be the much-sought-after replacement of the beloved Louie Carnesecca, the last coach of the program to take the team to the Final Four.

Fraschilla landed some prestigious recruits while he was here, players such as Lavor Postell, Ron Artest, Bootsy Thornton, Anthony Glover, Erick Barkley, Chudney Gray and Tyrone Grant, but he never had a ton of success with the team. In his two years with the team he finished with a 35-24 record and made it to the NCAA Tournament once, a first-round loss to Detroit Mercy.

Jarvis took over the following season and immediately found success, advancing to the Elite Eight and a 28-9 record with a team that he had little to do with putting together.

This is a sticking point for a lot of Jarvis detractors, who credit Fraschilla’s recruiting prowess as the reason the team succeeded in the two seasons after his departure.

Even if they weren’t his recruits, they were still his players. Jarvis didn’t use Fraschilla’s playbook, run tapes of his inspiration practice diatribes or do anything else Fraschilla did. Fraschilla did a good job while he was with the team. He turned the club around after the less-than-successful tenure of Brian Mahoney, and all St. John’s fans should at least tip a hat to the guy for landing Artest, Barkley and Postell, if for nothing else.

But it was Jarvis who got the team in shape, helped mold them as a team and became a mentor to many. He coached that team to an Elite Eight appearance and a Big East Championship the following season. You can credit Fraschilla with a lot, but with neither of those two things.

Fans have criticized Jarvis’ ability to recruit since he first signed his contract. But there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. The first major recruit he signed was Omar Cook, a high school All-American out of Christ the King, the same season Willie Shaw, Kyle Cuffe, Alpha Bangura, Sharif Fordham, Mohamed Diakite, Abe Keita, Curtis Johnson and Jack Wolfinger made their debuts.

And let us not forget that Jarvis had gotten Darius Miles to commit before he bolted for the NBA straight out of high school.

This was a completely rebuilt team that had a tough first year; Cook was too much the focal point and the team paid dearly, finishing 14-15. Cook then left the school after one season to pursue a pro career.

What that left last year was a sub .500 team with no point guard.

In comes Marcus Hatten. How can anyone who calls himself a St. John’s fan think Jarvis is a bad recruiter with Hatten in uniform?

Last year Hatten played out of position most of the season, operating as the point guard and primary scorer. Had Cook stayed, who knows how good the team could have been, but there just was not enough talent to put the team over the top. Still, this team went 20-12 and made it to the NCAA Tournament.

To fill the hole left by Cook, Jarvis landed another All-American, Elijah Ingram from New Jersey. Ingram has started every game at the point this season, has shown an ability to knock down the three and likes to run.

The biggest problem Jarvis has had is his inability to land a quality big man. While both Diakite and Keita seemed prized recruits, neither has panned out quite the way Jarvis had hoped. Keita is a one-dimensional player who can’t score and Diakite has been hurt.

Jarvis had been eying Long Island’s Jason Fraser, a high school teammate of Smith, but the former chose Villanova instead, leaving the void in the middle to be filled this year by an assortment of players already in the fold, such as Cuffe, Keita and Johnson, a 7-foot-2 project brought in two years ago who is still a project.

Besides Ingram and Hatten, Eric King, Andre Stanley, Tim Doyle and Grady Reynolds round out the team’s recruits of the past two seasons.

As for pure coaching, it is hard for me to say. Can Jarvis be held accountable for every bad shot? Or can he be given credit for every miracle win, like the team’s recent victory over Georgetown?

The bottom line here is that St. John’s, while not exactly Duke, isn’t exactly Fairleigh Dickinson either. The team still has a good shot at the NCAA Tournament. So, hold off calling for Jarvis’ head till then. The team just might need him.

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

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