Malik Sealy Jr., all of 8 years old, spoke in front of hundreds at the St. John’s legacy honors ceremony Friday night. The namesake of one of the night’s honorees, the son of the second-leading scorer in St. John’s history, was poised and calm as he addressed the crowd that included living St. John’s legends Lou Carnesecca, Chris Mullin, Walter Berry, Dick McGuire and Mark Jackson. St. John’s Athletic Director Chris Monasch called the youngster the hit of a night filled with many memories.
“It was the best night of my life,” the third grader told his mother on the ride home from Carnesecca Arena.
But it was one that he could not get to spend with his father. The senior Malik Sealy, playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the time, died May 20, 2000 before he could ever see the 10 banners hanging from the ceiling of what he knew as Alumni Hall, before he could stand on the fabled court of Madison Square Garden and watch his name unveiled on a red banner on the arena’s fa√Éßade.
There was no reason for St. John’s to wait this long to honor these great players and great men.
Perhaps if the school had held the ceremony sooner, Sealy and the other late members of the inaugural class (Sonny Dove, Joe Lapchick, Tony Jackon) could have enjoyed the moment with their friends, family and former teammates.
The private ceremony Friday was, by all accounts, beautiful.
The showcasing of the banners
at halftime of the men’s game Saturday was flawless. The gather-
ing and honoring of the legends?
Why did it take so long?
Schools like Duke, Kansas and North Carolina retire the numbers of greats shortly after they graduate or enter the NBA. St. John’s has a policy against retiring numbers and the idea of names hanging from the rafters of Carnesecca Arena is a fine one. But where was this idea in the ’80s when Berry, Mullin and Mark Jackson all starred? Or the early ’90s when Carnesecca retired and Sealy graduated and went to the NBA.
During the decision process of the legacy honors, Tony Jackson passed away – another legend lost.
Alan Seiden, who was supposed to make the trip to enjoy the festivities, was bed-ridden with complications from his second stroke.
“St. John’s has so much [tradition] that it was almost criminal not to recognize that,” Mark Jackson said Saturday. “But thank God the people that are in the position to make the decisions, they put together a heckuva group.”
Jackson is right.
Kudos to Monasch and the other members of the committee that put together an excellent program and gave these greats the recognition they deserve.
But it is so strange that a school and basketball program that prides itself so much on its tradition, a school that seemingly would rather talk about yesterday than the future would never get the idea to honor those that came before them prior to this.
It just doesn’t make sense.
“I think these were things we were talking about for so long,” Carnesecca said. “And now that they have come to fruition, it’s just wonderful.”
There are more players from the past to be honored. But for future players, change this process. If a player has a great career at St. John’s, one befitting of this kind of honor, don’t wait until 20 years later to raise his banner.
Take note from the baseball’s Hall of Fame. Give the player a five-year grace period between the time he leaves St. John’s and he is honored. That way it’s still soon enough to appreciate the things he’s done.
When asked about the odd timing of this event, Carnesecca did not have a straight answer.
I’m sure the coach would have loved to have done this many years ago.
“I’m going to use the old cliche: better late than never,” Carnesecca said.
For some, Coach. But not for Malik Jr.