Sometimes the man speaks and I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
“I think there’s been production this year. We’ve had a pretty good year this year.”
That was Norm Roberts in his postgame press conference after Marquette pounded his Red Storm on their so-called home floor, beating them by 29 points and holding the Johnnies to a record-low 10 points in the first half of their second-round game in the Big East Tournament.
Fine. Keep your guys’ heads up. Let them know you appreciate the hard work they’ve put in for you over the past few months. But don’t treat your fans like fools in the process. This is what Norm wants us to believe is a “pretty good year” for St. John’s basketball:
A below .500, 16-17 record with just six of those wins coming against Big East opponents.
An 0-10 mark against the top 8 regular season finishers in the Big East with those Big East foes averaging a 19.6-point margin of victory in those ten games.
A 13th place finish in the Big East.Five losses by more than 20 points, and 16 of their 17 losses by more than 10 points. Norm’s definition of a pretty good season makes me hope desperately this team doesn’t have his definition of an off year next season.
But the Storm did get invited to the CBI. That’s something, right?
Frankly, I could care less about their recent invite to the College Basketball Invitational and, in complete transparent honesty, I didn’t even know what it was until Sunday. I had to look up the year-old tournament when I learned that the Red Storm had been graced with the privilege of playing in the Gazelle Group sports marketing firm’s exciting postseason “classic” on Sunday.
In last year’s inaugural tournament, perennial basketball powerhouse Tulsa beat Bradley (I had to look them up, too) in a three-game championship series for the title.
“CBI, NIT, NCAA, it didn’t really matter to me,” Tulsa forward Calvin Walls said after the big game last year. “I said, `You know, if we’re going to be in this tournament, it gives us an opportunity to go out there and show people what we could do and how good of a team we are and that we could win a championship, no matter what tournament it was.”
I almost hope that St. John’s doesn’t win this thing, because if I were to hear Norm say something like that about a tournament as insignificant as the CBI, I would not be happy.
And as always, what’s most frustrating to me is that no one seems to care. At least no one that can do anything about it. University President Rev. Donald Harrington is in clear support of Norm.
“Fair, unfair, I understand why people really want us to win on a regular basis at the top immediately,” he told the Torch on Thursday, just one day after the Storm’s embarrassing loss to Marquette. “I don’t think anybody’s more in that category than Norm Roberts.
“But I’ve also seen what has to get done to get where we are now, and I think we’ve made great progress, and I have great confidence that Norm is going to be able to bring us back there. He’s a fine man and a fine coach.”
Certainly a CBI championship won’t save Roberts’ reputation for the creator of the recently discovered firenormnow.com, or the 255 people who have signed the Web site’s petition calling for his release. But there is something that may help the man’s appearance under the New York media’s microscope and New York sports fandom’s telescope. Lincoln high school star Lance Stephenson’s collegiate decision is presumably less than a week away, and many feel that he is what Norm and the Storm need to fix this mess.
And, I don’t typically believe much in messiahs, but I admittedly hope like hell that Lance and Anthony Mason, Jr. have the chance to become great pals next year.
But, as much as I’d like Stephenson to be a Johnny, at this point I don’t see how he can pick St. John’s over Kansas or Memphis. If the rumors are true and Lance is a guaranteed one-and-done, the kid has got to be thinking about national attention next season. He couldn’t expect to help his draft pick on a team that’s going to be entering the season with dreams of the NIT.
That said, Lance, please. I can’t keep listening to Norm talk like that.