The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Don’t Miss This

We all know St. John’s is so much more than its men’s basketball team, but take the team away and what becomes of this university?

Silly question? Not really.

Wait until you graduate and you find yourself talking to a stranger who is so interested in asking about your alma mater. It happens more than you think. And, inevitably, the conversation will center on hoops.

So much went on in the world during my four years at St. John’s, from the big scale (The President of the United States was impeached after a sex scandal) to the small scale (the advent of dorms on the Queens campus).

Yet whenever I wind up discussing my time at St. John’s, 1996-2000, here are three questions I am most often asked:
What was the buzz on the campus when the basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight in 1999?

(Pretty indifferent, actually.)

What exactly did Erick Barkley do that got the NCAA so perturbed at him and St. John’s the next year?

(One word: Perks.)

And did Fran Fraschilla really drop his pants in front of his players in an awful effort to prove his point?

(Yes, sadly.)

Whether or not it’s right, St. John’s is known for its men’s basketball team more than anything else, and that’s something I didn’t fully grasp until after I graduated. And looking back, I kind of, sort of wish I knew it then.

Now, I have no regrets whatsoever. I thoroughly enjoyed my collegiate experience, having spent nearly all of my waking hours at The Torch acquiring the hands-on experience needed to be a journalist.

Excuse the clich√©, but I wouldn’t be where I am today, covering the Yankees for Newsday, if not for the lessons I learned from being a reporter, an assigning editor, a copy editor–all in one day-at The Torch.

Just the other day someone with the Yankees complained to me about a story I had written, and I think I handled it well-because it was no different than when a basketball player named Bootsy Thornton came to The Torch’s office during my senior year to complain about a story we ran.

But when the current editors of The Torch asked me to write a column for Courtside (which was always my favorite issue to produce), I racked my brain thinking of a message that I wish I had been given when I was there.

Of course I could tell you to work hard, blah, blah, blah. And how thankful I am that the upperclassmen back when I was a freshman, such as Joe Schad (who is now at ESPN) and Rob Reheuser (who is now with the NBA), did nothing but encourage me to spend more time at the paper.

But far more importantly, this time is about your college experience, not mine. So here’s my message, what I wished I realized sooner.

Of course your successes at St. John’s (and beyond) will be determined only by you, and not by the on-the-court success, or failure, of Norm Roberts’ basketball team. But at the same time don’t look past the impact that this basketball team has on the University community-and you.

Because some day you will meet another St. John’s graduate in a bar, in an airport, or some subway, and all they will want to know are the details of the basketball team, your team. Don’t miss out on the answer.

Jim Baumbach is the New York Yankees beat writer for Newsday and is a former sports editor for The Torch.

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