Wednesday, February 25, 2009
NEW YORK, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, The GREATEST VENUE in the WORLD -- The St. John's "Johnnies" took it on the chin tonight when Syracuse University earned the 350th BIG EAST coaching victory for Jim Boeheim with an 87-58 "ear-slapping" of their former New York State rivals.
It was once a mighty match-up, pitting the likes "Louie" Orr and (Roosevelt) "Bouie" against St. John's center Wayne McKoy or many more would remember the epic 1986 BIG EAST final (St. John's 70-Syr-69) of the wonder Orangemen named Wendall Alexis-Rony Seikaly-Raf Addison-and-Pearl Washington against a Johnnies team led by Willie Glass-Shelton Jones-Walter Berry-Mark Jackson-Ron Rowan -- never mind Marco Baldi's six point contribution.
But now-a-days, the world's most famous arena provides a road game atmosphere for St. John's as team after team (i.e. UConn-Duke-Syracuse) draw their loyal alum to The Garden for a slaughterhouse five walk-through at the hands of the Jamaica Mistakes.
It's been a rough road for Coach Norm Roberts, but the St. John's faithful still show support for the man who inherited the mess of the century from former coach Mike Jarvis. Roberts has the kids playing hard but the team's lack of experience and depth allows their opponents to wear down the Deadmen night after night. St. John's fights the uphill battle in a conference stacked with big-time coaches and powerful programs.
Roberts does his very best to compete against the likes of the conglomerates to be named later. I list them in no particular order:
Jim Cal and the UConn Huskies. (Don't get me started....Ray Allen..)
Pitt and a decade long streak of Top 10-25s.
In Boston, I have to whisper the name "Pitino" and his Louisville program. (Excuse the Queen's English) - "There ain't no Pervis Ellison's walking through that door... there ain't no Darrell Griffith's walking through that door...and there ain't going to be (no) Rodney McCray's walking through that door, either."
Villanova and the best coach in the conference in Jay Wright
The aforementioned Syracuse with Boeheim running the zone and a Top 10 college program playbook -- maybe the program of all-time when you think about it, as he recruits top players/teams year after year to a Carrier Dome setting in a city where the sun doesn't shine from November until April.
And, how about Marquette? The class program of the BIG EAST conference and lost a gem of Tom Crean as he took the mone$ and ran to Indiana.
I digress -- as I am not here to bury the Johnnies nor their coach. I am here to suggest they grab the likes of Providence (Rhode Island), Seton Hall (NJ), Depaul (CHI) and toss in a Northeastern (Boston), Niagara (Buff), Hofstra (Long Island), GW (The District), St. Joe's (Philly), or three and create the LITTLE EAST. At least one would make the Big Dance.
Notes: MSG announced 11,148 in attendance for the St. John's vs Syracuse tilt. Hey, that's only 8,352 short of the '86 BIG EAST Final crowd and "only" 21,234 fans short of the epic 1982-83 St. John's vs. 'Cuse match-up at the Carrier (Pigeon) Dome ... St. John's trails Syracuse 45-37 in the all-time series rivalry. The Red(blank) won the 2007 match-up at MSG, 64-60. (A distant memory)... St. John's plays at Depaul at Noon (EST) on February 28 and finish their season with a March 3 game against Georgetown at The Garden, then a March 6 grunge-match against Notre Dame in the shadows of touchdown Jesus. ND Irish will look to avenge their January 3rd loss to St. John's at MSG (71-65) which was the high point of the Red-blank season.
Roberts had this to say post-game when asked what his message was to his team after the loss: "We talked. I was frustrated that we didn't meet the intensity of the game early like we should have. In the second half, we started off getting a lot of stops. We stopped them - pretty much - six or seven straight times and we weren't able to convert. And, we needed to convert to get back into the game.
"We just played (somewhat) immature. Things didn't go our way and we got frustrated. We let one play affect the next play and you can't do that in this league."
"You've got to get ready for the next one, get re-focused and learn from what you didn't do right."
Buy the 100 Years of St. John's Basketball book if you can afford it.
By the way - click on the MSG headline above for a Feb 1 story that ran in the NY Daily Snooze. Think the prez and AD might be under some pressure soon, nevermind Norm?
Good luck to one and all. The St. John's faithful remain in their season tiks, even though we were moved out of the "Yellows" and into the "Blues."
So, we sing the "Blues" for the Red-Blanks.