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A few weeks ago I dedicated this space to my long and apparently solo campaign of defending St. Johns University mens basketball coach Mike Jarvis from the steady stream of barbs and catcalls that have plagued his tenure at the Queens school.
Now, my lone crusade seems like it has reached its conclusion. After back-to-back losses at Alumni Hall, the once promising SJU hoops season has all but faded to black and Jarvis stay at the school, while certainly not at an end, seems to have seen its best days.
The chants of Fire Jarvis echoed through Alumni Hall near the end of Saturdays debacle. And while I am not there yet, at least I am beginning to understand that feeling. At first I thought some of the anti-Jarvis sentiment might be racial, a knee-jerk reaction to the replacement of the well-liked Fran Fraschilla. That may be why some feel SJU needs a new coach, but this awful season has given them a legitimate reason.
Jarvis has two years left on his contract, which will reportedly net the coach in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. I do not expect nor do many insiders the school to fire Jarvis and buy out the remaining two years of his deal, which means Red Storm fans will just have to accept the man as the coach of the team for at least one more year, if not the full two.
Until his deal comes to some sort of conclusion, sights such as Saturdays disastrous loss to Providence may become the norm more than the occasional fluke Alumni Hall losses have been in the storied basketball program at St. Johns.
The Red Storm blew a 13-point halftime lead (the lead was 16 at one point in the first half) and was in turn blown out in the second half, allowing what seemed like an out-manned Friars team to completely dominate the second half en route to a 69-59 loss for SJU.
The week before, St. Johns was run off the floor by a Virginia Tech team that had not won a road game all year long. The result, a 71-54 defeat, was the second worst in the history of Alumni Hall for the team and the worst in 15 years.
To say things have hit a new low is an understatement.
Promotional posters all around the St. Johns campus show a picture of Red Storm guard Marcus Hatten inside a No. 1 under the slogan There Is Only One, a clever reference to both Hattens star ability and jersey number.
Unfortunately, it also points out the glaring problem with the Red Storm. There is only one player who shows up night after night, only one player who plays hard consistently on both ends of the floor, only one player who can score, only one player the coach, teammates, fans and opposing teams know is the key to SJUs success.
Hatten is perhaps the best player I have seen at St. Johns over the past decade. In my opinion, the 6-foot-1 guard has the most natural feel for the game, the best instincts and the best all-round game of every player I have ever seen wear the Red and White, with the possible exception of Ron Artest.
My point is that as good as Hatten is, he cannot carry the team alone. To say that Willie Shaw and Anthony Glover have been disappointments this year is also a vast understatement. Both have shown flashes of their best selves, but that has been the exception, not the rule.
Elijah Ingram, the McDonalds High School All-American freshman point guard, has also been incredibly inconsistent, both with his outside shot and ability to run the offense. He is nowhere near the assist man either Erick Barkley or Omar Cook were and seems to suffer from a lack of confidence on offense.
Coming in to the season I thought the teams surprise strength would be its small forward position, with guys such as Shaw, Grady Reynolds, Eric King, Kyle Cuffe and Tim Doyle all vying for a spot in the starting line-up. But none of these players has elevated his game to emerge as a legitimate starter. King may be the best of the lot, but erratic just the same.
And the center position ... ugh. Abe Keita plays hard, but he has no offensive game and is prone to picking up bad fouls. Curtis Johnson is a 7-foot-3 project in his junior year and we are all waiting to see if he will ever produce. My bet is no, Im sad to say. Cuffe has played the No. 5 spot, too, but after sitting on the bench all of Saturday, it is a safe bet he is deeply and I mean deeply in Jarvis dog house.
St. Johns is now 12-9 on the year, 5-6 in Big East play. With its remaining schedule, it is hard to see the team come away with a winning record, let alone an NCAA berth.
Jarvis seems helpless to stem the negative tide that is slowly sucking this team under the .500 mark.
It is clear that the coach needs to focus on recruiting if he wants to save his job. He needs to get a legitimate big man, he needs to replace Hatten after this season, he needs to totally change the attitude of his players and he has to figure out once and for all how to attack a 2-3 zone.
If the opposing team goes into a zone, like Providence did Saturday, Jarvis has to have a better solution than just letting his guards pitch it up from the outside when their shots arent falling. The team was 0-for-13 in the second half from three.
I like Jarvis a lot. He runs a clean program, is well-respected and has proven his ability as a coach. But for some reason things are not working, and if the situation doesnt start shaping up soon the school will have no choice but to look for a replacement.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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