St. John’s star Dwight Hardy (above).

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As St. John’s opened the season at St.Mary’s in Northern California, alum and New York basketball demigod Chris Mullin looked on.  Sure Mullin is also connected through the Warriors to the Northern California basketball scene, but we thought that it was a good pull for Lavin in his debut.  We’ve watched, and been critical of this current team, while placing every possible faith in new coach Steve Lavin, who has quickly genereated a buzz.  In our critical mind, the losses to Fordham and St. Bonaventures, were ominous signs for the current squad, and made us temper our enthusiasm for the Lavin buzz, because as great as the recruiting has been, a season is going on, and the team right now is the team you have on the floor.

We watched as St. John’s slithered through the Holiday Festival, and went on record as saying we thought they’d take Northwestern, even if we couldn’t tell you why.  We watched as St. John’s scored a miraculous upset at West Virginia over a coach we respect in Bob Huggins, and then followed it up with the nice win at Providence.  But tonight, now that was some shit.  The Garden had a buzz about it.  Lou Carnesecca was seated in his perch in row 4–the Godfather.  Dejauan Blair of the San Antonio Spurs, in town to play the Knicks, was on hand to watch Pittsburgh buddy Dwight Hardy.  And the ever stylish Allan Houston of the New York Knicks front office–a good basketball man, was also there to see New York City’s finest college basketball go down.

Dwight Hardy didn’t disappoint his big name friend in attendance, scoring several clutch baskets down the stretch after St. John’s blew the lead in the final 5 minutes, and for the guy that Lavin called perhaps the best shooter he has ever coached, including UCLA stock such as Trace Murray and Jason Kapono, it was Hardy off the dribble that really killed Georgetown.  Hardy made 5-10 from the field and 10/1o at the line, and broke Georgetown down at will with a lightning first step.  St. John’s received impressive play–standout–from Justin Brownlee, who in addition to scoring 15 pts, added a very well rounded 7 rebounds and 6 assists in 40 minutes, and from the guy who Lavin called his “Bruce Bowen”, and who we had no idea had it in him–Paris Horne.  Horne, in one succession, had an immense defensive play in which he drew a charge, then grabbed an offensive board and in watching, we had to admit that the guy was everywhere.  And it was Brownlee, who, trailing 58-57 crashed the boards on an impressive run to the hoop that Hardy couldn’t finish, and converted the put back to take the lead once and for all. 

Lavin has said things all along that we attributed to him as having to say in order to get the most out of this basketball team.  Like after the upset at West Virginia, he said that the team is coming together and that their best basketball was ahead.  And after bad losses to the Bonnies and Fordham, Lavin said that he could feel the team improving and coming together.  Though we didn’t necessarily buy it, and chalked it up to coach speak, he wasn’t lying.  Lavin is showing himself as not just the king of networking–the guy who has been able to access and accentuate every aspect of St. John’s heritage, NYC, and the Garden as a home court to bring 6 top 70 basketball recruits here in next year’s class–but also as a supremely gifted coach with the talent he was given.  College basketball–the game in its purest form–is simple really when one breaks it down to the game’s common denominator, which is defense.  This team plays defense, and when you are in a 1 point game with a few minutes left, you have a chance, despite the names on the back of the jerseys.  Then there was the deft coaching move of shelfing both of the team’s horrible point guards, Malik Boothe and Malik Stith, who did not see a minute between them last night, instead opting to ride Kennedy, Hardy, and Brownlee for 40 minutes each.  Horne and Kennedy, taking the lion’s share of minutes in the backcourt–two guys who give you scoring (Hardy) and intangibles (both), have seen the Johnnies settle into this admirable identity, and have grown as a team.

With consecutive wins over Davidson, Northwestern, at West Virgina, at Providence, and at home versus #13 Georgetown, the team has already made a case for inclusion into the tournament, which would be its first such appearance in 10 years, if they could squeeze say another 10 wins out of the schedule, which they have navigated to an impressive 10-3 so far and a 3-0 count in the Big East.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/memo-to-fordham-curb-your-enthusiasm/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/defense-wins-st-johns-great-alaska-shootout/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/growing-pains-for-st-johns-hear-lavin-interview-audio/

We couldn’t be happier with Lavin’s hiring and we’re sharpening our cutlery for the next time, say, a team like Fordham pops up on the schedule.  Tom Pecora?  You catch that game last night, troop?  Even though we didn’t want you, buddy, we hope you’re watching to see how a real coach does it.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)