The Rundown

The word “rebuilding” is a scary word in New York City. As sports fans, we are a breed that desires instant gratification. We live in a big market and feel we deserve to have winning teams. To rebuild means to start over fresh, to accept some losing in exchange for some hope in the future.

We are resistant to that. The best example is the New York Knicks, stuck for years in a middle ground between rebuilding and staying competitive. All they’ve managed to do is sacrifice the future and remain a losing team.

But sometimes, you have just got to realize the mistakes you have made, cut your losses and start from scratch. It’s a process-usually a long one but sometimes a necessary one.
St. John’s basketball teams, both the men and the women, have had the unfortunate experience of being at the bottom of the barrel. They’ve both had to rebuild in recent years, but both are in different very different stages of the process.

In basketball, the men usually get more coverage, fan attention, and are the ones who shape the reputation of the program. But, in this situation, it’s the men that have to catch up to the women. There is hardly any doubt that the women have surpassed the men. Last season, the women reached as far as the second round of the NCAA Tournament while the men missed out on the Big East Tournament with a 13th place finish.

The women have been through the tough times and emerged at the top. Over two seasons, from 2000-02, they went a combined 11-44. But, then they brought in coach Kim Barnes Arico and she brought in Angela Clark, Kia Wright and others.

Barnes Arico struggled for two years but showed improvement, going from an 8-19 record to a 10-18 record and then jumped all the way up to 20-11 in 2004-05. Last year they went 22-8.

Even though the women have had success, they face perhaps the hardest part now: maintaining a level of excellence. With their two best players from last season returning, it looked to be an easily accomplished task. But injuries have struck and the NCAAs will once again be a challenge to reach.

The men, meanwhile, hope they are on the same path. They are starting from a deeper hole, though. Under former coach Mike Jarvis, they went a combined 3-34 from 2002-04. (Some games were vacated by the NCAA.) And all of that while facing various scandals.

Norm Roberts came in for the 2004-05 campaign and went 9-18. Last season, he improved to 12-15. Though still not .500, he’s getting his own recruits on the team and improving in the process. His first two seasons look quite similar to Barnes Arico’s before her team broke out in a big way.

The women successfully rebuilt their program. And though it may seem that our men’s basketball program is in hopeless shape, it could be that the men are only a year or two behind in the same kind of progression.

At the beginning of any rebuilding process, the end result seems so far away that it’s not even worth the initial struggle. But the fans have shown their patience and the payoff is now.

This is the first year of the men’s turnaround, just like the women in 2004-05. This is the year for St. John’s to step up and prove the wait has been worth it.