We’ve all seen it happen before. Who could forget the absurd publicity stunt by Alex Rodriguez, who revealed that he was opting out of his contract to become a free agent during the World Series?
He got killed for it. Eventually, apologized and then Hank Steinbrenner anted up an even worse contract that everyone knew would blow up in their face. At least A-Rod finally delivered a World Series in 2009 with a memorable postseason. Then came more headaches followed by a nice comeback and retirement.
At least Rodriguez was relevant. He is considered one of the greatest players of this generation. Even if performance enhanced, “It’s an A Bomb from A-Rod,” became one of legendary Yankees radio voice John Sterling’s memorable signature calls. What else could you expect from a very enjoyable and personable broadcaster, who makes listening to any ball game fun.
St. John’s hasn’t been relevant for a long time. That’s why the timing of the news that Chris Mullin would step down as head basketball coach after four largely disappointing years was off. Why would they leak it right before tip off of the National Championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia?
That about sums it up with my former Alma mater who can’t seem to get out of their own way. Shall I run down the list of coaches since Mike Jarvis took Fran Fraschilla’s kids within an eyelash of a Final Four?
When does it end? Don’t tell me Bobby Hurley either. You damn well know he’ll use the St. John’s job as a stepping stone to help his candidacy for his dream job at Duke. He and about four other former players under Coach K. Johnny Dawkins is probably the leading candidate whenever Mike Kryzewski gets tired of coaching now that the one and done rule is becoming extinct in two or three years.
I won’t get into all the ugly accusations involving Nike and former Blue Devil Zion Williamson. Adidas has its own scandal involving big name schools and players. That’s the despicable side of college athletics nobody wants to talk about. Especially on CBS and ESPN. But the black eye for a corrupt sport that’s gotten rich off kids is coming. Don’t blink.
I understand why Mullin resigned after four years. Like most coaches, he wanted financial security. So, he asked for an extension with two years left on his contract. Athletic Director Mike Cragg wasn’t gonna bite. Had the recent team led by Shamorie Ponds performed better in March than a ugly loss to Arizona State in The First Four knockout stage, maybe Mullin would still be at the school he made famous while starring for the legendary Lou Carnesecca.
Sadly, 1985 is a lifetime ago. That Final Four will always be fondly remembered by St. John’s fans like me and my father, who also attended the school. I was raised on the Redmen. The chant was, “Let’s Go Redmen, Let’s Go Redmen,” before the PC era dictated a name change. I’ll never get used to Red Storm even if it’s not a bad nickname. These days, students and alumni chant, “Let’s Go Johnnies!” Not a bad replacement. It just doesn’t have the same enthusiasm.
I’ve always been the same on this issue. It’s Sports! Not political crap. I wish those people would go away and lock themselves in a cave. I hope the Redskins never change their team name. It’s coming.
I’ll never change my opinion on how I feel about Mullin. I knew it was a big risk by the University. They hired the legendary former player with the big name as a draw. It worked. Attendance went up. So did notoriety even if they didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament until Year Four. It’s a shame it didn’t work out better for the city’s favorite son.
This doesn’t make Mullin a bad guy. There have been plenty of former star players who failed as coaches or managers. For every Gil Hodges, Lou Piniella, Joe Torre or Steve Kerr, there’s a Ted Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Jason Kidd or Willis Reed.
What it means is that not all former great players make good coaches. Mullin will always hold a special place in St. John’s hearts. That’ll never change. He can take pride knowing they got to see their name revealed on Selection Sunday for the first time since 2015 in Lavin’s final year. He too went out similarly with St. John’s losing to San Diego State in the first round before wanting an extension. He now is back doing excellent work for Fox Sports in studio on Big East games.
With his older brother Roddy passing away after losing a battle with cancer, Mullin had personal reasons for leaving his dream job. Family is very important to him. Maybe his heart wasn’t in it. Judging from the way most St. John’s huddles were with assistant Greg St. Jean handling most of the coaching duties, it’s for the best.
I wonder why they couldn’t wait until a well played championship game won by Virginia in overtime over Texas Tech, was over. Would it have killed them to wait 24 hours for well respected CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein to break the story? Timing has been off for a while.
How did St. John’s go from Joe Lapchick, Frank MacGuire, Lapchick II and Carnesecca to this failed Error? I misspelled it intentionally. There are a variety of reasons starting with how poor the facilities are. Nobody wants to stay home anymore. Upgrading the campus life and facilities would really help the recruiting process. Something Mullin left for former top recruiter Matt Abdelmassih, who bolted to rejoin Fred Hoiberg, who was hired by Nebraska. They worked together at Iowa State before Hoiberg made a unsuccessful leap to the NBA.
Recruiting wasn’t something Lavin did well either. He didn’t go after anyone local. It’s so rare that a local kid like a Ponds chooses to stay and play for the hometown school. They lucked out. If only the former Jefferson High School star had made more improvement in his three years under Mullin and Mitch Richmond. They might be Hall of Famers. But they aren’t coaches. I never got what Richmond did during games. He seemed like one of the boys along for the ride.
The irony is I loved Run TMC at Golden State, featuring Tim Hardaway, Richmond and Mullin. I even had a classic gray and navy blue t-shirt with the three great Warriors on it in high school. Oh how I wish I had saved it along with my classic Marlins hoodie and Rockies jersey when both were expansion teams. Good times.
I wish the news on Mullin had come out today or tomorrow without the leaks on Twitter. Social media can have a negative affect. News travels faster. Sometimes, the reports are erroneous due to so-called reporters wanting to be first with the big scoop. Not to be political. There’s a lot of Fake News.
Virginia proved to be a team of destiny after somehow pulling off two miracles to stun Purdue and Auburn. Of course, Tony Bennett’s redemption team would need overtime to beat Texas Tech last night, going from the worst kind of history a year ago by becoming the only 1 seed to lose to a 16 against UMBC, to winning their first ever national title.
Full credit to DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome for delivering when it counted. Maybe there is hope for Hunter, who at times looked flat for his 6-7 size that will make him a lottery pick in June. He sure came up big in the second half, scoring most of his game high 27 in crunch time. That included the game’s biggest shot off a Jerome pass with a corner trey that forced overtime. A bad miscalculation for a well schooled defensive team like Chris Beard’s Red Raiders.
It’s astonishing to think that Texas Tech had a 29-6 bench edge and lost. Hunter locked up Jarrett Culver, who took too many shots (5-22) for his 15 points. Davide Moretti and Matt Mooney deserved more opportunities late along with Brandone Francis. They still only needed to let Jerome score and make it a one point game. Stay home on the shooters. Something they practiced and executed repeatedly under rising star Beard.
I shouldn’t say that considering Guy’s heroics against Auburn. The Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player scored six points in crazy fashion on a huge three and three free throws to stun Bruce Pearl’s Tigers. Guy had 24 yesterday including four from downtown like the clutch Hunter, who boosted his NBA stock. Jerome filled the stat sheet with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds. As a team, UVA made 20 of 23 free throws including all 12 in overtime.
None of this would’ve been possible without the whacky desperation play involving Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark against Purdue in the Elite Eight. The well executed missed free throw by Jerome off the front rim, allowing Diakite to tip it out to the back court. Then a hustling Clark running down the loose ball in reverse away from the basket before turning around and having the poise to see the clock and make a perfect pass back to Diakite for his 12 foot floater that sent that wild Regional Final to overtime.
There’s never been a more unpredictable play that saved a team than that. They overcame Carsen Edwards’ miraculous 42 points that included a jaw dropping 10 treys to pull that one out in OT. The three wins against Purdue, Auburn and Texas Tech all could’ve been losses. Let’s not leave out the missed double dribble on Jerome leading up to Guy getting fouled on a corner three- sinking all three free throws with one second left to break Auburn hearts along with Charles Barkley.
Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. You have to have luck to win. We’ve seen it so many times. The ’96 Yankees. The ’86 Mets. The ’90 Giants. The last three won by Big Blue all had that unique quality. The ’85 Royals benefitted from a missed final out call to come back and beat the Cardinals in seven. Not every champion needs it. Some dominate like the ’96 Bulls and ’99 Yankees. Most do.
What will happen with St. John’s? As I get ready to do a guest spot on Madison Miller’s podcast, here’s some friendly advice. Offer the job to Tim Cluees. He’s been with Iona for a decade and done an outstanding job. He has ties to our school. Though it ended badly. Make amends and get the local guy who won’t use the school to get another job like Hurley.
At some point, they had better get it right. Or what’s the point of even having basketball at the once proud school?