By Anthony Bosco
Over the past week, several articles said that St. John’s University head basketball coach Mike Jarvis had been contacted by the Washington Wizards about the possibility of his leaving the Jamaica campus and replacing the current coach of the NBA team, Doug Collins.
Jarvis has yet to confirm the reports, which said Wizards owner Abe Pollin phoned Jarvis or someone close to him to see if the coach still had an interest in pursuing coaching opportunities in the NBA.
It was three years ago that the Wizards entered negotiations with Jarvis to take over the team, then in the hands of Michael Jordan. Jordan’s departure from the Wizards earlier this month has reopened the door for Jarvis to return to our nation’s capital, where he previously spent time as the head coach of George Washington University.
Jarvis is in the fifth year of his contract with St. John’s, amassing a record of 108-59. In his time at the school, the Red Storm has advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, won the Big East Tournament and captured the National Invitation Tournament just last year, turning what had seemed a disastrous season into a championship one.
But everything has not been perfect during his tenure over the storied program. St. John’s missed postseason play just once — former Christ the King standout Omar Cook’s tumultuous one-year stay at the school — and there has also been a steady stream of criticism lobbed at the coach regarding everything from how he relates to players, his game-coaching ability and, everyone’s favorite, his recruiting or lack thereof.
It is no secret that Jarvis was close to signing with the Wizards three years ago before talks with Jordan broke down. The deal at that point would have more than doubled Jarvis’ current salary, estimated to be in the $860,000 range.
The rumors of a potential job opening with the Wizards truly could not have come at a better time for Jarvis, who is set to ask St. John’s to renegotiate his contract, something that has been bandied about long before these recent reports about the possible NBA opportunity.
There are plenty of questions still unanswered. Will Jarvis leave St. John’s? Is he ready for the NBA? Who will coach the Red Storm if he leaves? And tons more.
At 58, Jarvis is not over the hill, but also a little past the age most guys break into the NBA. At best, I would see Jarvis sticking around the league for 10 years or so if he can manage to turn an already struggling franchise around.
Three years ago when Jarvis seemed set to take the job, his fate could very well have been that of the man who eventually took the position, then Miami Hurricanes coach Leonard Hamilton. Hamilton did not last long with the Wizards, coaching just one season before being sent packing. Hamilton is now head coach at Florida State.
I can completely understand why the allure of coaching in the NBA might be too much for Jarvis to pass up, not to mention that the money isn’t exactly something to turn one’s nose up at. He has made no secret that it has been a lifelong dream to coach in the league.
But that kind of salary is foreign to me. When you are already making close to a million a year, what is a few more hundred thousand? Only someone who makes what I make can safely say something like that. Have pity, people.
Is it the right move for him, though? At this stage of the game, Jarvis has been very successful on the collegiate level, no matter what his detractors may say. And it is not like he is making chicken feed. I’d coach the Red Storm for a lot less than he’s making now. Of course, the team would stink, but you get what you pay for.
I think Jarvis is a tad long in the tooth to make the switch. He is a teacher, not a baby-sitter. I have seen him rip into upperclassmen at practice and put players in his dog house, never to see the light of day again.
But in the NBA, where the egos of the players are surpassed only by their salaries, it is hard to imagine Jarvis the disciplinarian putting up with some of the flak he would undoubtedly get from his players.
Still, if a man can coach, a man can coach, and given the right situation, Jarvis could certainly be a success on the next level.
As for what St. John’s would do if Jarvis left, there have been all kinds of names thrown into the mix, including former St. John’s star Chris Mullin, Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez and the most far-fetched of all, former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy.
I’d like to see all three on the SJU sidelines if Jarvis left, particularly Van Gundy, who I still hold in high regard. But I just don’t see either him or Mullin ever coming to Jamaica. Gonzalez is a possibility, but far from a lock at this point.
I think it is in everyone’s best interest to leave things as they are. St. John’s should step up and give Jarvis the kind of extension and raise he deserves. At least with him you know what you are getting, a solid college coach with a proven track record.
Of course, the decision is up to Jarvis. So we will have to wait and see.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.