I had it all planned.
The few and proud who put themselves through the weekly reading of the words in this space know that I have been saying the same thing, in different ways, for weeks.Norm Roberts and Lance Stephenson have been the protagonists of the story I’ve been trying to tell for a while now.
And I thought it would all come to a stirring conclusion this week before I sat down to write this, the last-ever “From Right to Left” I will ever write.
There were two possible endings:
Lance would announce his signing with the Red Storm and I would be forced to give Norm his due credit. I might have even apologized for some of the hard times I’ve given the polarizing Red Storm coach and commended him for what would have been (and may still be) the most successful moment of his time at the corner of Union and Utopia.
Or, Lance would announce his decision to play elsewhere, be it Kansas or Maryland or Katmandu, and I would allow myself to succumb to the urge – the same urge I’ve had to fight all year – to blatantly beg Father Harrington to let Norm go, something I’ve yet to do, in so many words. But, it’s true. The best laid plans of mice, men and sportswriters often go awry. Lance is yet to announce his collegiate decision and, at the rate he’s moving, it seems like he never will.
A great line playing off the Brooklyn phenom’s nickname appeared in this newspaper last week: Stephenson may have been “Born Ready,” but he was not “Born Decisive.”
But I wrote the first-ever “From Right to Left” last summer about my optimistic expectations for the upcoming Red Storm seasons and – though I could very easily do it – it’d be a sad full circle to end on a note of pessimism.
Good thing I met Lou Carnesecca for the first time Monday morning. And after speaking with him for about a half hour about the current state of the program he once brought to glory, it’s damn hard not to be optimistic, even for me. As I asked him question after question about the state of Red Storm basketball, I couldn’t believe it, but I was actually believing his responses. “This is one of the great powers of basketball of all time; it is,” Looie said.
“I know I’ve said we’re going through troubled waters now, but that’ll change… You can’t have it your way all the time.
“People are always impatient,” Looie continued. “It’s a natural inclination, but sometimes you have to wait. You’d like to rush things, especially today they want it right away. Look at the whole thing: How many years have we been in basketball? Over a hundred years.”
His words seemed to make sense so effortlessly, in the way that only the words of a legend can. The same arguments that I pass off as bad excuses when they come from Norm’s mouth in postgame press conferences seemed like revelations as they floated from Carnesecca’s lips.
If Looie had pulled out Norm’s infamous, “They’re young,” – a line that infuriates me for what it epitomizes – I may honestly have replied, “You’re right Coach. They are young.”
And even now in retrospect, Looie is right, about some things at least.
This is a hundred-plus-year-old program and one of the most successful teams in the entire history of the sport of basketball. And in the biggest of pictures, it doesn’t matter a bit whether Norm is the guy for the job during this millisecond in the history of St. John’s basketball.
Things will get turned in the right direction again in the long run and the Redmen will undoubtedly be the cream of the college basketball crop somehow, sometime in the future.
To be upset because it’s not going to happen before I graduate in May is too terribly short-sighted and egotistical than I wish to be in my last few weeks here.
Take it from the man that has been here since 1946. He knows better than I do.I mean, how many years have we been in basketball?