Bosco’s Corner: Will Jarvis fill Pitino’s Celtic shoes?

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Remember, of course, these tidbits are only speculation and nothing more.

Pitino, who grew in Cambria Heights and played high school ball on Long Island with St. Dominic's, started his coaching career as an assistant at the University of Hawaii for one season and then two as an assistant at Syracuse before taking over the head coaching job at Boston University, his first.

For five years Pitino guided the Terriers, collecting a 91-51 record and taking the team to the NCAA for the first time in 24 years. His success at Boston University would lead to his first professional position, as an assistant under then Knicks coach Hubie Brown, under whom he served for just two years.

In 1985, Pitino returned to the Big East as head coach of the Providence College Friars and immediately made a name for himself as a top flight coach. In his time in Rhode Island Pitino amassed a 42-22 record and led the Friars to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament during the 1986-87 season, the same year the Sporting News named him College Coach of the Year.

But once again success led Pitino to higher office, this time taking the head coaching position with the Knicks. In his two seasons in New York Pitino led the Knicks to the playoffs twice, including the Atlantic Division title during his second year, when the team went 52-30.

Success in the pros, however, must have been unrewarding, as he again turned his sights back to the college ranks, taking over the program at Kentucky. Pitino rebuilt the then struggling Wildcats and quickly turned the program into one of the nation's elite.

In 1992, Kentucky lost to Duke in overtime in the East Regional final on Christian Laettner's now-famous last-second shot. A year later the Wildcats lost to Michigan in the Final Four and a year after that Pitino completed the rebuilding process with a 26-1 season and an NCAA national championship with a win over Syracuse.

Kentucky made it back to the finals the next season, losing to Arizona in Pitino's last game as coach.

From there it was back to the pros and Boston, where Pitino made an immediate impact, raising the team's win total by 21 in his first year, as the Celtics finished 36-46. But things would get no better. A year later Boston finished just 19-31 and a last season Boston was 35-47, despite relying on another Queens native, standout point guard Kenny Anderson.

Just before stepping down this year Pitino's team had lost 11 of 14 games. The coach had said earlier in the year that he would finish out the season, but frustrated that he was unable to save the sinking ship, he bailed.

Pitino will not be unemployed for long. The scuttlebutt has him returning to college next season, with a whole list of schools lining up, from Michigan to UCLA, his alma mater Massachusetts, Kentucky and what looks like the leading candidate, UNLV.

Pitino could take the year off from coaching, regroup and do television analysis, something he seems made for. There was even speculation that Pitino might end up right here in Queens, his native soil, and take over St. John's if Jarvis were to leave at season's end.

Of course, that will not happen, at least according to sources at St. John's. Pitino is a big name who demands an even bigger pay check, and while St. John's can afford a lot, it probably could not afford Pitino.

The next coach of St. John's University will have to wait on Jarvis, the current head coach who could well leave the school after this season, if history is any indicator.

Last season Jarvis was in serious negotiations with Michael Jordan and the Washing Wizards, a deal that never became reality, reportedly because Jarvis' contract demands would not be met. But things would probably go more smoothly after this season if the Boston Celtics go after Jarvis.

Jarvis is a Boston native who cut his coaching teeth at Newton North High School and Huntington Prep, both of which are in or near the Boston area. He was also the freshman coach at Harvard and served as special assistant to Tom Sanders in 1978, then coach of the Boston Celtics, before taking over the helm at Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School, where he coached Patrick Ewing.

In 1985 Jarvis became the head coach of Boston University, where he became the winningest coach in school history, surpassing Pitino, and taking the Terriers to two NCAA tournaments.

From there Jarvis went to George Washington, leading the Colonials to four NCAA appearances, three NITs and six conference finals. His success at GW led to his coming to St. John's, where he helped the Red Storm win the Big East title last season and an Elite Eight appearance the year before.

Jarvis has never had a losing season as a college coach and always seems to be able to turn struggling teams around or make a good team better. He is a prime candidate for a pro job and Boston could very well come calling, soon.

But, of course, this is just speculation.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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