Thomas Wolfe spent an entire novel warning us that You Can’t Go Home Again. Chris Mullin did not face the same problems that the protagonist in the novel did, but Mullin tried to go home to St. John’s and resurrect the basketball program there. His abrupt resignation earlier this week ended that attempt short of the mark. Indeed, the Johnnies did make the NCAA tournament field this year – but losing in the early rounds is not what St. John’s basketball once was when Chris Mullin was playing there. In fact, Mullin’s record over his 4-year tenure in Queens was sub-.500. [Aside: Perhaps this is an ominous sign for Patrick Ewing who is the best player in Georgetown history and who has returned to the school to resurrect the basketball fortunes there…]
Rumors say that St. John’s wants to hire Bobby Hurley; the question is whether Bobby Hurley wants to leave Arizona St. – a team that also made the NCAA tournament this year and then took an early exit. The fact is that St. John’s is not an easy place to build a powerhouse program these days; it used to be that lots of kids wanted to “stay home” and play basketball; today, kids want to go somewhere and to be on TV a lot.
If the school decides to give the “star player returning home” gambit another shot, reports today say that Metta World Peace – Ron Artest when he played for St. John’s about 20 years ago – wants the job. I know that Peace has not had a head coaching job anywhere to date; he may have been an assistant somewhere; but in any event, he would have a learning curve to ascend.
The NY Post reported that based on a phone interview, Rick Pitino would take the job but would want an apology from the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York for leaking his name in association with the prosecution of the Adidas folks who were improperly paying recruits. Pitino maintains he is innocent and was never even charged in the matter but putting his name out there cost him the job at Louisville. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the prosecutors will issue no such apology…
From this perspective, the best thing that can happen to St. John’s here is that they do not have to suffer the embarrassments that UCLA experienced in its coaching search. The Bruins fired Steve Alford on New Year’s Eve and stumbled through the season as a .500 team. There was a time when the UCLA coaching job was at the pinnacle of college basketball, but this year’s hiring processes show that is no longer the case. Rick Barnes, John Calipari and Jamie Dixon all turned the UCLA job down and finally the Bruins convinced Mick Cronin to abandon Cincinnati to move to Westwood. And along the path that led UCLA to those three blind alleys, Rick Pitino’s name flashed once again. Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that puts a punctuation mark on that:
“Pretzel logic: When Dick Vitale says that big-time college hoops is a ‘cesspool,’ it’s reminiscent of Howard Cosell decrying boxing after years of burnishing his brand through the fight game. Dickey V is a sweetheart, but the same man who worries about the sport wallowing in a septic tank wrote a tweet encouraging UCLA to hire Rick Pitino, who was fired from Louisville in the wake of a recruiting scandal. I don’t know how you can reconcile those two thoughts.”
One more thing here… I mentioned the novel You Can’t Go Home Again earlier on. That was not a recommendation; I was assigned to read that for English class in high school; if you have dodged that bullet, count your blessings and find something else to read.
The Masters begins today. Jim Nantz will be the anchor this weekend and he has probably spent the last couple of days practicing his “whispering” so that he does not appear to be too forwardly emotional while golfers are lining up their shots. I will tune in until I hear one of the whispering voices ask one of the other whispering voices this pregnant question:
- “What do you think he wants to do with this shot, Joe?”
At that point, I will yell, “I think he will try to put the [bleeping] ball in the [bleeping] hole, you twit.” And then I will calmly reach for the remote and take my eyeballs and earpans elsewhere…
Greg Cote had this comment on The Masters in the Miami Herald last weekend:
“It’s Masters Week. Let us pray: The Masters is this Thursday through Sunday at Augusta, maybe the holiest-feeling annual event in sports. You can’t even talk about it without hearing soft violins and tinkling pianos. Rory McIlroy is the betting fave at 7-1, then it’s Dustin Johnson 10-1. At 12-1 are Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and some guy named Tiger Woods.”
Last week, Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL. Even though his career was shortened by injuries, I think he is certain to be admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame one of these days. As I was glancing at his career stats at pro-football-reference.com to assure myself that he was a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame, I noticed a couple of interesting stats:
- Gronk played in 16 NFL playoff games in his career. That is the equivalent of an NFL regular season and those are games played against competent opponents.
- In that “extra season” of his career, Gronk had 81 receptions for 1163 yards and 12 TDs and all came against “playoff quality opponents”.
In addition, Gronk had a total of 603 touches in his career (regular season plus playoffs). In his career, he only fumbled the ball 4 times.
Yesterday, I read that the Patriots have signed free agent tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – late of the Bucs and Jets. Presumably, he will compete for Gronk’s spot in the Pats; no pressure there, young man…
Finally, Dwight Perry had this observation in the Seattle Times regarding another NFL free agent signing:
“Ryan Fitzpatrick has now been employed by 25 percent of the NFL’s 32 franchises after signing after signing with his eighth team, the Dolphins, last week.
“Which certainly makes him a quarterback in more ways than one.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………