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Mike Jarvis Fired

December 19, 2003 Columns No Comments

Mike Jarvis Out at St. John’s

by Phil Kasiecki

St. John’s fired head coach Mike Jarvis on Friday, news that comes as little surprise to anyone familiar with the program in recent times. Jarvis had plenty of success prior to St. John’s and in his early days there, but the Red Storm has struggled in recent times with troubles on and off the court.

When Jarvis first took over as head coach in 1998, he had never had a losing season in his career at Boston University and George Washington. He took the Red Storm to the regional finals of the 1999 NCAA Tournament with a 28-9 record, and the next season a small but well-coached Red Storm team went 25-8 and won their first Big East Tournament since 1986.

After that, things went steadily downhill for the Red Storm, even with last season’s NIT championship. At the time, winning the NIT kept Jarvis’ job, but he didn’t have many lives left. He was constantly getting hammered in the local papers and by fans at home games, and top recruits even from New York City have not been choosing St. John’s like they once did. As evidence of it this year, the top players in the area have all signed elsewhere next season – point guard A.J. Price (Connecticut), shooting guard Russell Robinson (Kansas), and wings Gavin Grant (North Carolina State) and Brian Laing (Seton Hall). The Red Storm has not pulled in the blue-chip recruits in recent years that they used to on a consistent basis from talent-rich New York.

Off-court troubles have plagued the team recently. Just before last season, junior college transfer Grady Reynolds was arrested on charges that he attacked a female student in a dormitory. During the summer, he was ordered to perform community service and undergo anger management counseling; the charges will be dismissed if he is not arrested within six months.

Last month, guard Willie Shaw, who had his share of off-court troubles after a promising freshman season three years ago, was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and dismissed from the team. He had been suspended at the end of his sophomore season after testing positive for marijuana.

Despite posting a 20-11 record in 2001-02 and making the NCAA Tournament, Jarvis was on the hot seat. The recruiting troubles were showing and the Red Storm barely made the NCAA Tournament, then lost in the first round. The seat got warmer last season as it looked more and more like the Red Storm would at best be NIT-bound, and that is where they wound up.

The continuing inability to land blue-chip recruits only added to the problems. The Red Storm’s talent base during much of Jarvis’ tenure was appreciably below what it had been in the school’s best days, but for a couple of years he did well teams that had good chemistry and knew how to play the game. Starting with the one season Omar Cook was at St. John’s, the caliber of players, regardless of talent, that were playing in Alumni Hall went steadily downhill.

Finishing the job was the Red Storm getting off to a 1-4 start this season, the first time that has happened since 1922-23. Included were home losses to Fairfield and Hofstra, the latter being a double-digit loss – things that used to be unthinkable. Something like this was inevitable given the lower talent base they consistently had in recent years; it was likely just a matter of time before the Red Storm went low enough to mean the end of Jarvis’ tenure.

Jarvis will be replaced by associate head coach Kevin Clark, and the school will search for a permanent replacement. The Red Storm next play on Sunday in Atlanta against Georgia Tech.


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