Category: basketball

March Madness is Just What Major League Baseball Needs

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

  Pitchers, catches and cheaters report in less than four weeks.

The winter stretch from late-January to March has traditionally been a slow spell in sports. That’s one recent Sports Illustrated used to give us the swimsuit edition in February. Now it’s May. Enough of that.

This is not your typical year. MLB is giving us the Rocky Horror Sign Stealing Show.  Need to focus on the something less tainted? Consider this:

 Based on the many college basketball results in this week alone we’ve seen enough head-scratching results to make a safe bet, (sorry MLB)  that this has the potential to be the most maddening, thrilling, impossible to predict NCAA Tournament in recent time – if not all time.

Considered these results:

Unranked Alabama crushed No.4 Auburn, 83-64.

No. 18 Seton Hall slapped No.5 Butler, 78-70 in Indianapolis. South Carolina stunned No. 10 Kentucky, 81-78. Fear not Kentucky, here’s as good a place as any to point out that the Gamecocks got plucked by Northern Iowa, 78-72.

Struggling Georgetown edged No. 25 Creighton, 83-80.

Clemson shocked No. 3 Duke, 79-72.

Wisconsin tripped up No.17 Maryland, 56-54.

Minnesota banged No. 19 Michigan, 75-67.

Oregon State humbled No. 24 Arizona, 82- 65.

And Purdue humiliated No. 8 Michigan State, 71-42.

Defending national champ Virginia is not ranked.

Indiana and Syracuse (see 1987 NCAA National title game finalists) are not ranked.

Man, this his is fun:

Duke was upset at home by Stephen F. Austin, 85-83.

“We played young,” Coach k told reporters. “You gotta get old. You get old by experience, and I can’t teach them to be 22. They’re 18, a lot of them.”

Young gets you beat in the big Dance.

Kentucky fell at home to Evansville, 67-63.

“Stuff like this happens,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “You wanna grow from it, you wanna learn from it. We may look back in a couple weeks and say ‘this is the greatest thing that happened to this team.'”

Or not.

Georgia was blown out at Dayton, 80-61.

“I knew we were going to be coming in against a whole different level of intensity, physicality, the way guys play,” Bulldogs coach Tom Crean told reporters. “That’s where we’re at and we got exposed by that.”

Exposed.

LSU got manhandled at home by East Tennessee State, 74-63.

“Obviously, this was a tough night,” LSU coach Will Wade told reporters. “East Tennessee had a great game plan. They shrunk the paint on us and then just pinned their ears back and killed us on the offensive glass. They got 15 more shots than we did and that really, really hurt us. It was too much for us to overcome.”

Killed us.

Boston College has become an attractive game for every mid-major, having lost to St. Louis, 64-54, and Richmond, 64-44. Richmond also owns a 93-92 win over Vanderbilt.

Santa Clara might be pushing for membership in the Pac 12 after knocking off Washington St., 70-62 and Cal, 71-52.

And our most convincing argument for March insanity is this:

North Carolina isn’t even listed in ‘Others Getting Votes.” North Carolina. Take that Rob Nelson, Channel 7!

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Roy Williams said after a 79-76 home loss to Clemson, which had lost 60 straight to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Why apologize? It’s not like anyone cheated. In fact, North Carolina could have a starring role in the maddest March of all time.

From the Deli to the Penthouse: Stern Lifted the NBA to International Fame

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Before there was Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, before there were vloggers and people earning a living as influencers, heck, before there was an Internet, there was a force of nature known as David Joel Stern.

Almost anything and everything you see today in marketing and branding, probably makes its way back to the man who took the National Basketball Association from the brink of irrelevancy to one of the most successful sports leagues in the world.

Many NBA fans are young enough to not know of a league in which playoff games took place with little or no television coverage. Or an NBA Draft Lottery that didn’t exist.

“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of his friend and mentor. “But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world.

“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation. Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”

Stern died yesterday at the age of 77. He suffered a brain aneurysm hemorrhage about three weeks ago and never recovered. Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Under Stern’s New York City brash and confident persona (he worked at his father’s Manhattan deli), the NBA saw the birth of seven new franchises, the relocation of six other franchises and the creation of the WNBA and the D-League (now the G-League).

The value of franchises exploded. Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Chicago Bulls for $16 million in 1985. Less than 30 years later (2014), Steve Ballmer bought the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion.

The secret to Stern’s success was as simple and complex as this: He marketed the league’s stars as never before. He became commissioner just as Michael Jordan was emerging as a star of stars. Stern road Jordan, Magic, Bird, Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing to international superstardom.

It was Stern’s vision to sell the stars that ingratiated the commissioner to the players even as he played hardball in negotiating. The NBA endured its first four lockouts under Stern.

By the time Stern handed the reins to Silver the NBA had a unique dynamic with its players: We’re in this together. The end result was that the players went from well-paid to millionaires and the owners left the millionaire club to become billionaires.

During his tenure, the league went from about $10 million a year in television revenue to more than $1 billion. NBA games became a place to seen by actors and musicians. Prince William and Duchess Kate attended a Brooklyn Nets game with Jay Z and Beyonce’!

“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today,’’ Jordan said in a statement. “He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.

“His vision and leadership provided me with the global stage that allowed me to succeed. David had a deep love for the game of basketball and demanded excellence from those around him — and I admired him for that. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Need a Resolution? Stop Going to Knicks Games

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo /The New York Extra

Unless you’re in that top one-tenth of one percent, it’s difficult to think your voice matters. It does.

Consider what recently transpired at Rutgers University. Fans, alums, students, professors had one wish for Christmas – Greg Schiano.

The former football coach is the only man to have turned the Scarlet Knights from a punch line to legitimate program. When negotiations broke down between Schiano and the athletic director, everyone with a scarlet sweater went bonkers.

They rose up with a passion and intensity usually reserved for regime changes. They threatened to withhold their donations, big and small. It worked.

Schiano now is back on the banks and hope floats at the state university of New Jersey.

Back across the river, smack dab in midtown, another fan base has been pushed to its limit. The Knicks have become to the NBA what the sideshow used to be to the circus – something freakish at which to gawk.

Like the world’s strongest man, the sword swallower, the elephant man, the Knicks have gone from sideshow to sideshow under James Dolan’s 20-year ownership.

He’s overpaid for past-their-prime free agents and has funded Phil Jackson’s retirement account. He’s brought in general managers that believed The Garden demanded superstars, to GMs that preached patience and player development.

There has been one constant with Dolan – losing. Miserable, astonishingly consistent, losing.

In the last 20 years the Knicks have had four winning seasons. Four! They’ve won one playoff series. One! Dolan has gone through 12 coaches, one for each day of a scrooge Christmas.

Dolan is almost always at Knicks games, sitting in his courtside seat wearing funereal colors, black on black. Dolan has said he attends games to show fans that he’s engaged, that he cares.

But what if there were fewer fans in The Garden to see the Ringmaster of Losing? What if Knicks fans, some of whom come to be seen and care little about basketball, simply stopped being witnesses to one of the worst franchises in sports history?

The Knicks are 9th in attendance in the NBA, one of only two franchises in the Top 10 with a losing record. The other is Portland, a playoff team last season, that has one of the league’s best backcourts but whose frontcourt has been ravaged by injuries.

There still is hope in Portland. Not in New York.

Coach David Fizdale was fired on Dec. 6th, just 22 games into his second season. President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry could be (should be) next. 

credit Twitter

But will that change anything? Dolan has tried to sell the narrative that he leaves the basketball decisions to the basketball people, that he is not involved in the day to day.

Perhaps. But losing season to losing season, Dolan is the constant. And he has no motivation to sell. Not when an average 18,928 fans show up for every home game and many purchase $12.50 beers.

Knicks fans need to pull together and allow their anguish and frustration to be seen as well as heard. They need to stop going to Knicks games. Just stop.

You might wonder why we write this now, why today? The Knicks are coming off a respectable win, 94-82 over the Nets in Brooklyn. The victory gave interim Knicks coach Mike Miller a 4-6 record since Fizdale was fired.

There’s a sense of resignation, of learned helplessness. Knicks fans have been so abused that 4-6 seems like a good deal. Heck, if the Knicks can win 40-percent of their remaining games, they’ll finish 28-54, which looks good compared to the 15-win pace they were on under Fizdale.

It’s not a good record. It’s terrible. It’s more losing. It’s another season of losing, of no playoffs, of another coach and probably another front office.

The Knicks, no longer worthy of Christmas Day TV games, play at the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Don’t watch. They return home on Jan. 1st to face Portland. Don’t go.

If you’re a Knicks fan without a resolution, consider this: Don’t attend another Knicks game until Dolan sells. Honestly, what will you miss?

Some Holiday NY Sports Cheer

So it goes. Another holiday season is here and from yours truly to yours a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays.

There were the usual highs and lows during the 2019 sports year in New York. From the abysmal Knicks, to the continued regression of the Jets and Giants, the Yankees failure to close the decade without another championship. 

And the Mets, of course, awaiting the check book of billionaire Steve Cohen as they try to contend and deliver.  Hockey is healthy as the Rangers and Islanders are at a pace to be contenders for playoff position.

With all of this, and more, here is that annual Christmas list for the New York sports fan. A little of everything and not being naughty but nice.

Yankees: The Gerit Cole signing to a record nine-year $324 million contract is the missing piece, so says the Yankees hierarchy. Though, as mentioned on  these pages,a pitcher with that long term deal is expected to deliver.

 The Yankees, as that holiday gift for their fans, got them Cole. It means the supposed best pitcher in baseball is expected to deliver, and at a risk in this long range plan to end their decade drought without a World Series championship.

Though, the appropriate gift of cheer for the Yankees is to get the timely hits in the postseason, which was more of the contributing factor of their failures to go deep in another postseason series loss to the Astros.

METS: The gift has been Michael Wacha and Rick Procello, two pitchers at low cost that add to their depth. If anything, rookie manager Carlos Beltran has been granted some flexibility. 

Seth Lugo, the Mets most reliable reliever, can stay in the bullpen as does Robert Gsellman. The need was to revamp a bullpen that was second worst in baseball to the Red Sox in 2019.

The gift this holiday season for the Mets, another bat in the lineup before Opening Day and possibly a healthy Yoenis Cespedes in his final year of a revamped contract.

Most of all, the best gift here? A turn-around 2020 out of the pen for Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz. Late inning outs and saves cost the Mets in 2019. Familia and Diaz could be a difference maker, along with Justin Wilson in the mix.

Giants: Yours truly will be the first to admit this is not an area of expertise. However, it is easy to comprehend that stability on the coaching end is important, why it is important to give another year to Pat Shurmur.

There are signs of progress. No more Eli Manning. Daniel Jones is improving, five touchdown passes Sunday against the Redskins.  The gift is acquiring a top draft choice, improve the defense. We haven’t seen Saquon Barkley at his best and healthy. 

Jets: Same situation with the Giants and that’s coaching stability.  Adam Gase? He needs another year. Disagree, of course Jets fans would. You see the continued development of a quarterback, Sam Darnold, and how he can control the ball out of the pocket. 

Again, a gift here for the Jets is patience. They are close. And the draft picks will be significant as the long and championship reign of the Patriots is on a decline, which makes the Jets a team to be enthused about in the AFC East.

Knicks: Sell the team. This is not a coaching situation. The answer is get rid of Dolan. A gift of joy for every Knicks’ fan is becoming that franchise champion again that takes the court in the “Mecca” of Madison Square Garden, and having the appropriate basketball personnel to run the show. 

NETS:  Did you say, can’t wait for Kevin Durant?  That 26.0 points per game is a void and a difference maker.

Rangers:   Sunday, Henrik Lundqvist made his first start in a week and stopped 19 of 20 shots that prevented the Rangers from losing their fourth straight. And that is the difference, because the veteran in goal can lead this team in his final years. 

You want to see a good old NY rivalry on ice with the Rangers and Islanders. It can get there again, of course it begins with the consistent play in goal from the veteran.

Islanders: All good in Nassau County and Brooklyn. The Islanders are leaving a gift this season and striving to become another dynasty before moving to their new digs in a few years over at Belmont Park.

NYRA:  Can we get another Triple Crown winner at Belmont Park?

NYCFC: Two years of semifinal and final conference elimination for an MLS CUP. The gift is go another step. The added gift is securing a stadium they can call home as the Yankees kick them out of the ballpark to avoid disrupting their sacred field during playoff time. 

Boxing: The sports deserves more championship fights in New York. Barclays Center in Brooklyn is in survival mode as a host for major fights and Madison Square Garden, well the “Mecca” always finds a place for the big fight.  Then again, the sport is healthy but no longer in that category of mainstream.and deserves a gift of returning to the heyday of Ali, Frazier, Holmes, Hagler, Hearns, and Leonard.

There you have it. Just some thoughts. From all of us at TheNYExtra.com a healthy and happy holiday season with the gift of joy and a championship. 

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

The Jimmy V Classic Reminds Us to Laugh, Think, and Cry

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

When I was in a very different place and time, I wrote a column about one of the most amazing speeches I’ve ever had a chance to witness:  It was when the late Jimmy Valvano accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award with his “Never Give Up,” speech at the 1993 ESPYs.

Less than two months later, Jimmy V was dead.

The cancer he so courageously and positively fought had prematurely claimed another life. Valvano, a Queens guy who played at Rutgers and coached at Iona, among other stops, before winning an NCAA Championship at N.C. State, was 47.

I was 33, pretty certain I had the world figured out.

The words from that speech that reverberated from heart to head, were, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Valvano said them with such promise, such belief, such sincerity, and such passion that the rest of his words faded – until December of 2018. That was a little more than one year after doctors removed the mass behind my right ear and cancer became an uninvited guest.

The Jimmy V Classic was being played at The Garden and for the first time in memory, I couldn’t go. Jimmy V’s speech was aired and this time it was another part of the speech that resonated:

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.

But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Laugh. Think. Cry. Seems pretty simple on the surface. And you know what? It is.

It’s really easy to laugh, think, cry when you’re in The Garden and college basketball is being played, as was the case Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

 Texas Tech upset No,1-ranked Louisville, 70-57. It marked the first time in Tech history it upset the nation’s No.1-ranked team. Indiana edged UConn, 57-54, in the second game. The Huskies return to The Garden (and to the Big East) reminded us how electric this sport can be – even in December.

ESPN did a noble job of remembering Valvano and anchor Stuart Scott, who succumbed to cancer in January of 2015. Talk about a couple of guys who could laugh, think and cry. Robin Roberts and Holly Rowe reminded us to never give up.

Look around you. Chances are someone is fighting the fight. All you have to do is follow the words of Valvano. Chances are, it will be a pretty good day.

The Fizdale Era Ends But the Dysfunction Continues

Robbins Nest

credit twitter

By Lenn Robbins

  So much for patience. So much for building from the ground up. So much for credibility.

The New York Knicks believability quotient ranks lower than a late-night ad for an anti-aging potion. There is no one – not the owner, not the president, not the GM – who can ever be given the benefit of the doubt. If their lips are moving, they are not telling the truth.

The most recent betrayal of the fans’ trust came Friday afternoon with the Knicks displaying their mastery of decades-long dysfunction. They fired coach David Fizdale after he ran practice. The team then jetted to Indianapolis although it might as well have flown to Planet Lovetron.

The Fizdale Era lasted a mere season and one quarter. When Mills and Perry hired Fizdale they stressed patience. The quick fix was done. They wanted assurances from Fizdale that understood the Knicks were building a new culture.

“I told them, ‘You don’t have to worry about me because I am in for the plan,’” Fizdale told Marc Stein last year. “The plan is we’re going after particular people who are trying to fit what we are trying to build. And if it doesn’t fall in line, then we don’t go down that road.”

That lasted 104 games.

The 4-17 Knicks are the NBA’s of version of 90 Day Fiancé’.

Certainly, Fizdale didn’t offer much cause for optimism that this marriage could turn. His record in New York was 21-83.

 After the team’s 44-point road loss to the Bucks on Monday night he said, “I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning.” And he described Thursday night’s 37-point home loss to the Nuggets as “sickening.”

 Which might be how Knicks fans might feel about the way Mills and Perry have run this franchise. They bragged about their ability to attract top-tier free agents but got rejected by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and never had a shot at trading for Anthony Davis.

With no shiny baubles interested in lighting up Broadway, they spent some $70 million in cap space on mid-tier players such as Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Julius Randle. What a waste.

It also completely torched the stated culture of developing young talent. Last year’s No.1 pick, Kevin Knox, has been anchored to the bench. Second-round pick Mitchell Robinson has been usurped by Gibson.

And this year’s top pick, small forward RJ Barrett, was played at shooting guard and occasionally at point guard, because hey, if that LeBron guy can go from power forward to point guard anyone can, right?

Barrett was hailed as the team’s new foundation leaving him to negotiate that awkward path while not alienating the Portises and Morrises of the world.

credit twitter

What’s most galling about all this is the way Fizdale’s firing went down. According to reports, Mills and Perry, knowing they were about to ax Fizdale, were seen kibitzing with their dead man walking coach after he addressed reporters following practice.

Let us repeat together: Keep your friends close and your smiling, back-stabbing enemies closer.

“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” read a statement from owner James Dolan when he hired Mills and Perry.

 “I’m confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.”

One problem. The man quoted is a nightmare of a communication and has created a culture of paranoia.

 Fans can’t heckle him. Reporters can be harassed for criticizing him. Former players can be banned for expressing their anti-Dolan sentiments. Decent employees are fired by Dolan for reasons only he can fathom.

This reign of odious ownership has resulted in 12 coaching changes but just one playoff series win. Forget patience and credibility. The Knicks are the most toxic organization in the NBA.

Anyone who enters this planet’s orbit does so at his own peril.

The Knicks Phenomenon: If You Don't Build It, They Will Come

Robbins Nest

credit twitter

By Lenn Robbins

  The wait has gone unrewarded.

  After Monday night’s utterly humiliating beat down at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, it seemed that Knicks management had to offer up some thoughts as to what has become of this season where this franchise headed.

  But as they say in a Grade B horror movie, “It’s quiet, too quiet,” on Seventh Avenue. We heard nothing from owner Charles Dolan, or team president Steve Mills, or GM Scott Perry in the wake of a 132-88 loss to Milwaukee.  The words that kept resounding where those of coach David Fizdale, who offered this soul less take.

“Personally, I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning,’’ said Fizdale, who threw himself under the bus with that statement. How did he allow a culture in which a professional basketball team went into a game not believing it can win?

 “That’s what was most disappointing,” continued Fizdale, who threw his veterans under the same bus. “They got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We never took a real stand.’’

So, there is no leader in the locker room that was able to implore his teammates to “Man Up!”  Not one veteran, Bobby Portis, who in fairness, has never known what consistent success looks like in the NBA having played for the Bulls, and not Marcus Morris, who has his MA in winning culture having spent the last three seasons in Boston, took a stand.

This 132-88 score looks like something you see in college basketball when the UConn women schedule Dayton and wins 75-37 as was the case earlier this season. This, however, is the NBA. The minimal expectation is that a team will come to compete.

“I felt the [lack of] morale at the beginning of the game,’’ Randle said about the Knicks pregame locker room. “A lack of energy. Our spirit has to be everything.’’

It wasn’t there from the opening tip. The Knicks fell behind 33-15 in the first quarter. They never challenged, which could be the story of the season. They’re 4-17, the worst 21-game start of any season.

   The Bucks are the more talented team, no doubt, led by the breathtaking Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Knicks have yet to find such a player. Kristaps Porzingis will forever be a benign unicorn, piling up impressive stats only to find camouflage when he’s muscled up.

The Bucks also hired a proven coach in Mike Budenholzer. Fizdale came with a lot of questions about his unsightly divorce in Memphis

 The failure of New York to bring these talents to the World’s Greatest Arena, falls on Mills and Perry, who a few weeks ago seemed ready to fire Fizdale. That would be the easy out. But there’s no guarantee the Knicks, over the long haul, would play and harder or better.

Which begs the question: Why would a Knicks fan watch one more game, buy one more overpriced beer in The Garden, gift an RJ Barrett jersey to a son or daughter over the holidays? I have friends around the country who are baffled by this Knicks Phenomenon.

 ‘Why does The Garden continue to sell out when the Knicks are awful?”  There is no sane explanation. Nor is there’s any motivation for the owner to demand excellence when, with the exception of some home playoff games, he wouldn’t make any more money.

If it’s broke and profitable, why fix it?

The Knicks have a coach that can’t impart confidence to his team. The team has no clear-cut leader. The president and GM lurk off stage, waiting for a scapegoat to come along. The owner plays a decent guitar but can’t put the pieces in place for a decent team.

Fisdale saved his most enlightening comment about the Knicks when as about Giannis.

“I watch and listen to him lead his guys,” Fizdale said. “He’s just impressive. The league is in good hands, I know that, when you’ve got a guy like that at the top.”

Can anyone honestly say that about the Knicks?

Heron Becoming That Impact Player on Court For St. John's

#0 Mustafa Heron Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Mustapha Heron scored 18 points Saturday at Carnesecca Arena. The St. John’s senior  guard was impressive as he scored a game-high in 16 minutes, 7-for-11 shooting, 3-for-6 from the line.

The Johnnies won their second straight and ran their early season record to 6-2 with their 86-63 win over Wagner. He also hit 3-for-6 from three-point range.

#0 Mustafa Heron blocks a shot in the Johnies last game against Wagner Neil Miller/The New York Extra

And if this type of effort continues, averaging 14.8 points per game, it could be something to anticipate before St, John’s begins Big East Conference play.  Heron is taking control and not bypassing a fact that St. John’s is playing good and winning basketball.  

Mike Anderson Neil miller/The New York Extra

“Those shots he was making, I thought it opened up the floor for our guys and we were able to attack early on and kind of set the stage,” said coach Mike Anderson. 

Point to this win, St John’s outscored Wagner, 29-3, in those important fast breaks on the court. You can get the idea here, Mustafa Heron is a major part of the scoring and  there are indications to be more double figure scoring in the box score. 

The  issues of staying on the court and avoiding foul trouble is a work in progress.   

“I thought I was just moving,” Heron said. “I thought I was moving a little better and took some good shots. It wasn’t anything spectacular. I just moved and took some good shots.”

But those good shots have been coming, even with the foul problems that kept him off the court in this latest win for St. John’s.  He scored a season-high 30 points last month as the Johnnies had an easy 87-57 win over Central Connecticut State.

So, when Heron gets the ball, and if Anderson has his team on the run, there could be more games of scoring 30 or more.  Of course, conference play opens up a different perspective as the opponents are that much tougher.

After that 30-point effort, Anderson said about his senior “He put the time in. He’s one of those guys who’s determined. I’m sure he’s got goals, and the best thing about it is that his major goal right now is St. John’s being the best team it can be.”

Heron watches the film and sees what can get better. That worked after not being satisfied with his previous game of scoring six points against UMASS and playing time of 16 minutes.

“I think every night it is important that I perform or the team is not going to be successful.” he said. “We pride ourselves on our depth and that we can go to the last guy on our bench and he can give just as much as a starter.”

St. John’s continues their five-game homestand with St. Peter’s Tuesday evening in another non-conference game. Heron will be on the court but he knows this is a team game and not just about him.

“Coach preaches that it could be anybody’s night on any given night,” he said. “That’s what we live by.”


Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

HomeComing Day Split At Rose Hill

credit Robert Cole/The New York Extra /2019

The schedule up at Rose Hill on the campus of Fordham University had that double-dip set for Saturday. It was Homecoming Day for football against Holy Cross in the afternoon at Jack Coffey Field. A few hours later in the Rose Hill Gym, Men’s basketball and tipoff against Marist College.

Joe DiBari, the longtime Fordham Sports Information Director may have had the hardest task of the day. He, and his staff prepared  game notes, made sure the football press box and media row at courtside were ready to go.

The Fordham University Athletics Department knew it could be done. The pep band, cheerleaders, dance team,  security, and the game staff were in game mode. They all worked the double-dip.

“They came to me and said, ” You want to do this we can do it,” said DiBari.” It’s not going to be easy and we do it,” 

It is that rare occurrence up at Rose Hill of  two major sports on the same day, and sometimes the double-dip is necessary, Homecoming for football draws the important alumni and the objective is those fans will take a few steps and head to the Rose Hill Gym, 

Except, the  oldest college basketball field House in the nation was not at capacity.

“Arthur Avenue.” said DiBari. Yes, in proximity are the finest Italian restaurants in New York and many chose that option. 

But business as usual for DiBari and his staff. They had no time for a break after the Rams on the gridiron lost a tough one to Holy Cross 49-27. The Fordham defense allowed five fourth quarter touchdowns to the Crusaders that ruined part one of the Homecoming Day at Rose Hill.

The combined crowds were an estimated 3,500, most there for football. Holy Cross and Fordham have a football history and met for the 58th time that started in 1902.  

But it wasn’t a total loss. Those who left Rose Hill listened to the basketball broadcast on WFUV 90.7 FM or streamed the game online. 

“Football didn’t win today but the environment on campus, it’s a special thing here in America that we take for granted about how cool campuses are, but also how athletics is interwind,” said head basketball coach Jeff Neubauer.

With their 58-41 win, the Rams opened their season 3-0 against Division 1 opponents for the first time since 1972.

“ We have this really cool thing, homecoming happens like all these people come back to their university,’ Neubauer said. “It’s just  a fun weekend.”

Chuba Obams scored 13 points and nailed nine rebounds for Fordham. Four players scored in double figures. Antwon Portley added 12 points and Jalen Cobb, 10 points, came off the bench and continued to make an impression.

It is early in the season for the Rams on the court as one more game remains on the schedule next Saturday at Rose Hill that will conclude another disappointing football season.

 But this was a great way to end the double-dip up at Rose Hill, even though very few remained to see the split. 

“A great weekend for Fordham,” Neubauer said. “Also happy we were able to get this done tonight.”

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Anderson The Entertainer In His St. John’s Debut

Robbins Nest

St Johns caoch Mike Anderson at Tuesdays game /Neil Miller/ The New York Extra 2019

By Lenn Robbins

If Hollywood ever decides to create a remake of the Oscar-winning epic, Gladiator, Mike Anderson should be the one standing in the middle of the colosseum bellowing, “Are You Not Entertained?!”

Anderson made his St. John’s coaching debut Wednesday and the Johnnies pressed, ran, passed and defended Mercer in a 109-79 blowout that wasn’t that close. The Johnnies forced 24 turnovers which led to 30 points.

“I hope our fans enjoyed it,” Anderson told reporters after the game. “It’s an entertaining style of basketball, but it’s winning basketball.”

That remains to be seen in the Big East, where some of the greatest guards that ever played the game took their city handle and carved up opposing defenses. Safe to say Villanova, Seton Hall, Marquette, et al will be better prepared and certainly more skilled to handle the Anderson’s style.

The flip side is that no team in the Big East plays this style. It’s similar to playing Army in football. That option is impossible to prepare for.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, almost as quickly as St. John’s got ahead of Mercer and really never let up. The Johnnies led 15-6 by the first media timeout and the Bears should have begun warming up the bus right there and then.

Anderson’s hire was a bit of a head-scratcher. He has used this swarm-of-wasps style to succeed at Tulsa, Missouri and Arkansas, but he couldn’t tell you where to get a good slice in the city no less the top games in the Grady and Lincoln history.

The Johnnies had one of their own – the best player in school history – on the bench these last four seasons. Chris Mullin left after the death of his brother and a feeling that the administration wasn’t sufficiently backing him and the program.

If there are spirits in Carnesecca Arena than Mullin and St. John’s will both find success.

Certainly, there was spirit in the bandbox on the corner of Union and Utopia. Anderson’s style is right out of the West 4th Street cage and every other proving ground in the city.  The Johnnies got right up in Mercer’s chest. Secondary defenders were eager to help. Mustapha Heron (25 points), LJ Figueroa (18) and Nick Rutherford (14) combined for 12 assists.

Defensive is a lot easier to sell when it turns into offense. The Johnnies  score 40 fastbreak points.

For one night, Anderson sold his vision better than Popeye’s is selling its chicken sandwich. The 109 points were the most for a St. John’s coach making his debut.

“For two hours every game, we are going to provide sheer entertainment,” Anderson told reporters earlier this week. You won’t even want to take a bathroom break.”