When it rains, it pours.
And boy has it been a stormy couple of months for the St. John’smen’s basketball team.
Those five words best describe the 2003-04 season for the RedStorm. Everything that could have gone wrong has, and it doesn’tlook like that theme will change anytime soon.
From its head coach being fired six days before Christmas to oneof its senior leaders being arrested, suspended, and thendismissed, this has been one of the worst seasons in the history ofone of the most legendary college basketball programs in thecountry.
And the sad part is that there are still 11 games on theschedule. Although it will come and go sooner than Omar Cook’s stayat SJU, it feels like an eternity at this point.
Instead of cats and dogs, it’s been more like elephants andgiraffes.
By the time it is all said and done, this season may go down asthe bleakest season in SJU history. For the second straight season,third time in four years, the Red Storm will not hear its namecalled on Selection Sunday, but instead have enormous amounts offree time to study for their upcoming final exams.
Even more shocking, St. John’s may not qualify for the annualBig East tournament that is held on its home court at MadisonSquare Garden for the first time in school history.
As of today, the Red Storm has lost six straight games, allagainst conference foes (the program’s first-ever 0-6 start inschool history) before it suited up for its final home game thisseason at Alumni Hall, as it welcomes the Mountaineers tonight.
After playing tough at defending national champion Syracuse (a65-59 loss), the Red Storm gave up in the second half, en-route toa 17-point loss to Seton Hall.
SJU followed that by giving a must-win game away to the visitingHurricanes at Alumni Hall, as Miami capitalized off 19 SJUturnovers, winning by six. The loss ensured St. John’s its firstlosing record at Alumni Hall in its 43-year existence.
Despite the excessive amount of hardship and losses that theteam has experienced this season, the players who wear red andwhite have come so close in almost every loss.
Fans would prefer the Storm get blown out by 20 rather thanlosing by two points in the final seconds, like it did on Jan. 20as Georgetown’s Courtland Freeman dunked with 0.5 remaining.
Perhaps the lowest point of the season came via the Miami losswhen SJU allowed UM’s Robert Hite to throw down monstrous jams atwill. Hite had a wide-open path to the rim for a number ofrim-shaking dunks that put an exclamation point on this forgettableseason.
The fact of the matter is that St. John’s basketball has lostits luster. Last week’s game against Georgetown was not even ontelevision. In 1985, the Johnnies-Hoyas rivalry received thehighest TV ratings for a college basketball game.
Following Saturday’s loss at Rutgers, St. John’s remained deadlast in the conference. Its record stands at 4-12 and it is on itsway to, if it is lucky, an eight win season, which would make itonly the ninth team in the program’s 97-year existence not torecord 10 wins.
Adding to the horrendous start (the worst five game start sincethe 1921-22 season), which included losses to lower caliberprograms like Fairfield and Hofstra at Alumni Hall, was the arrestand dismissal of Willie Shaw. The Bronx native, along with formerstar Marcus Hatten, was busted for smoking marijuana in lateNovember after an SJU loss to Fairfield.
The marketing committee at St. John’s should add the words TOTHE EXIT DOORS at the end of its “It’s a Rush” posters that wereprinted for this season.
Students and fans who purchased season tickets should not onlybe given back its money but also offered a chance to walk-on to theteam.
Perhaps the only good thing that players, coaches, fans, alumniand the athletic administration can take from this season is thatit is almost over.
After tonight’s game against the Mountaineers, St. John’s has 10games remaining on their schedule, including match-ups with BigEast and national powerhouses Pittsburgh and Connecticut, whichshould be crushing blowouts.
While most college basketball fans are anxiously awaiting Marchand the madness it brings along, students and followers of the RedStorm have only one thing to look forward to: the signing of a newhead coach.
After firing Mike Jarvis on Dec. 19, this signing may be themost important in the program’s history. Jarvis was highlycriticized for his pompous attitude and lack of recruiting in NewYork City. Whoever roams the sidelines at Alumni Hall and MadisonSquare Garden next season must have ties to NYC high schools andits coaches.
When it comes to Mark Jackson, who recently came out ofretirement to play for the Houston Rockets, Chris Mullin, whocurrently holds a front office position for the Golden StateWarriors and current Manhattan head coach Bobby Gonzalez being thenext head coach at SJU, I have five syllables for those who believeone of the above mentioned three will land the job:FUH-GEDD-A-BOUT-IT!
Instead, say your prayers that St. John’s can land a Tim Welsh(Providence), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), John Calipari (Memphis)or Matt Doherty.
The next head coach must be someone who will make people say”ooh and ahh,” someone who will guarantee top-notch recruits andsuccess within two years.
Whoever signs on the dotted line in the upcoming months mustmake sure he knows what he is getting into. He has a lot of weighton his shoulders to turn around what is supposed to be the city’sjewel college basketball program.
Some would say the task that awaits is heavier than Jarvis’sBoston accent.
One thing is for sure: When it rains, boy, does it pour.