The passionate St. John’s fan base deserves so much more than what their favorite college basketball team gave them on Tuesday night as well as throughout the entire 2013-14 season
For the third straight season, the Red Storm men’s team failed to make the NCAA tournament.
For the second consecutive year, they failed to live up to the preseason predictions of postseason success placed on them by college basketball experts across the country.
After ending the regular season on a blistering tear, the Johnnies fell short in this year’s Big East tournament opener, missing the big dance and ending up in the consolation bracket known as the NIT.
With nothing but pride to play for, an extraordinarily inferior Robert Morris University squad came to Queens on Tuesday and blew the doors off the Red Storm on their home court, leaving some spectators in attendance to boo the Johnnies off the floor and take to social media to let off steam.
An 89-78 loss might not look terrible on the scoreboard, thanks to a late rally by the Red Storm that cut the deficit from humiliating to just bad, but the hilariously putrid spectacle that was St. John’s for the majority of the contest should rightfully embarrass anyone and everyone involved with and rooting for the storied program.
And St. John’s fans don’t deserve that kind of disappointment.
Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones combined to score 32 points per game this season for Robert Morris, but Anderson hung a shocking 38 points on the Johnnies alone, while Jones added 25 points.
The Colonials led 49-27 at halftime and were in front by as much as 26 points over the Red Storm early in the second half. The Johnnies went on a 24-6 run towards the end of the game, but it wasn’t enough to earn a come-from-behind win.
Struggling early before mounting a furious comeback that proves to be too little, too late, it was a perfect encapsulation of the Johnnies’ season.
I was a sophomore at St. John’s University when the Red Storm hired former UCLA head man Steve Lavin to replace the unpopular Norm Roberts as coach in 2010.
Once the consistently inconsistent Johnnies started knocking off top-tier squads like Duke and Connecticut that winter, “Lavinmania” swept across campus like a winter gale.
A big “Lavinwood” sign could be seen in the student section of every home game on the Red Storm’s march to the NCAA tournament, their first in years.
But that was four seasons ago. Since then, the undermanned and new-look Johnnies struggled in 2011-2012 and failed to realize their promise last year. Some, if not most, of that falls on their players not performing up to standard, but a third straight season of inconsistency and disappointing results is nearly inexcusable.
Lavin and St. John’s have been reportedly discussing a lengthy contract extension over the last few months. And while many would argue that Lavin hasn’t had enough time to turn the formerly floundering Johnnies around, the case can certainly be made that the slick-haired leader might not be the right man for the job.
Lavin is known as one of the nicest, most caring coaches (and people) in sports today. In a sport where loose cannon coaches like Bobby Knight and Frank Martin often garner headlines for their brutal sideline antics, Lavin sees his players as human beings first, students second and players third, and he deserves to be applauded for that.
But despite his ability to foster relationships with his players, the questions over whether he can fully extract the limitless talent from his potent team will never go away.
That is, unless, the Red Storm do next year like they were supposed to this season: make the NCAA tournament and wreak havoc once they get there.
It’s going to be a long offseason for Red Storm fans left with a bitter taste in their mouths, but with nearly every major player returning to school next year, hope will continue to spring eternal in the minds of the Johnnies in the fall.