If you leave anything stagnant for long enough, it’s bound to begin to rot. It happens with food, with feelings, and even with history. Has it now happened with the St. John’s basketball tradition?
No one with a background in college basketball would ever diminish the impact that St. John’s has made. But that impact has been missing in recent years. It has been missing long enough to make some people forget.
“I thought St. John’s played as well as at any time since Chris Mullin,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told Newsday after the Red Storm’s 76-74 loss to the Orange.
There is little doubt that Boeheim meant the comment as a compliment-St. John’s played hard and played well. It can certainly, however, be taken as a backhanded one.
Firstly, it was a well-played game, sure, but it was still a loss. Secondly, Mullin has not played at St. John’s for more than 20 years.
Even worse, Orange senior forward Demetris Nichols, who scored a career-high 37 points, said, “Coach said this was the best they played since Chris… Chris… Chris Someone. Coach is pretty old, I guess.”
Nichols is relatively young but Mullin was still playing in the NBA as recently as the 2000-2001 season.
Forget about not knowing St. John’s heroes of old, though-how about not knowing even the current head coach’s name? The public address announcer introduced coach Norm Roberts as “Norm Stewart,” a former coach of Missouri.
Like Lenn Robbins said in the Feb. 12 edition of the New York Post, “Can you imagine a PA announcer introducing Carnesecca as Lou Stewart?”
It would never happen. Of course, it is unfair to compare Roberts, only a third-year coach, to Carnesecca, but it still says something about Roberts, his success, and the diminishing tradition of St. John’s basketball. That message is not lost on the coach.
“He (Stewart) won a lot of games at Missouri,” the coach said when asked about the botched introduction. “I thought he was a terrific coach. You got to win more games to get your name called right.”
Norm has got it right. When the team has not seen its glory days for so long, it cannot be expected to be known for them. You can only continue to ride the same old wave for so long.
The Red Storm’s old identity of glory and winning is fading in this new generation.
Fans and players do not remember anymore.
Who can blame them? The Storm has been a no-show at the Big East tournament for long enough that even seniors cannot say they have experienced one. And this year, they are just barely hanging on at 11th place (the top 12 teams make the tournament.)
Maybe the only reason St. John’s still managed to get attention in the press is because of the old wave it is still trying to ride.
St. John’s has let something special slip away: their identity. Now the identity is just the empty name on the front of their jerseys that used to mean something. Perhaps it is unfair, but all St. John’s teams will be compared against the best.
Thankfully, they have been making improvements and now they have a real (good, even) chance at making the Big East tournament. It will be heart-breaking if they miss out now after working so hard to get on track to get in.
Now is the time to make their move. They have to make the tournament this year to start to fulfill that “St. John’s” on their chests.
Then, perhaps, a public address announcer will call some other striving coach “Norm Roberts” by mistake instead.