Tuesday, March 9, 2010

an open letter to the Rev Donald J. Harrington C.M...

note: Rev Harrington is the President of St John's University, Jamaica, Queens, NY.

Dear Reverend Harrington,

i apologize for my tardiness in writing you back. i have indeed received your bi-annual request for my money since my graduation from your fine institution in 1996. You might remember me, i gave you the gas face upon receiving my diploma. You even sent me a picture of it. Nothing? Maybe you remember shutting down the production of the student newspaper, in which i was part of, due to our refusal, as an Editorial Board (on which i sat), to run an add for a "student government" anti-choice group, called "Students For Life". Nothing still? Do you even remember the group, because they don't even exist anymore, and i'm not so sure they ever did...

Maybe you remember me when i used to attend basketball games. i purchased season tickets for several years and sat courtside at Alumni Hall and behind the home basket at Madison Square Garden, i don't attend anymore. i really don't expect you to remember me or any of the hundred of thousands of students you have glad-handed on the way out the door, our cash in your back pocket—but brother, you sure are an elephant when it comes to home addresses...

i know its been years since someone called you brother, the seminary i imagine, but since you know where i live, i figure we can talk as friends. And simply put, if you want my money, and anyone else's for that matter, you need start listening to alumni like myself. I know you have cash flow problems, even though you've raised tuition to ivy-like heights, you have done a lot of redecorating since i left. A cafeteria, a soccer field, a baseball field, a chapel, an athletic facility, a new student facility and you even gussied up Alumni Hall. That most have cost a mint. No wonder you have your hand out. I also hear you have some academic issues of late as well, in fact, your own students wrote it up...

So i have some advice. If you want your University's matriculation to improve both in numbers and quality of person, and your coffers to bulge there are two things you can do. You can either fix your basketball program, or you can resign...

Not going to resign? i understand, if i were you i'd keep my gig too, its pretty rough out there right now. So let's focus on your other choice, fixing a once storied program that celebrated the greatness of the City's game...

Due to personal issues, i was forced to stay local for my choice of institution. Ultimately, i chose between St. John's and Queens College, a school less than 2 miles away from SJU's Jamaica campus, and ultimately the choice came down to having access to a NCAA Division 1 basketball program. Finishing my freshman year i had just been christened sports editor of The TORCH, the Official Student Newspaper of your University, the evening that the legendary Lou Carnesseca retired from coaching the Redmen and you and your staff hired his long time assistant Brian Mahoney. i was there for the Felipe Lopez years and, though a graduate at the time, the absolute excitement of the Ron Artest/Erick Barkley years through a surprise NIT Championship with the remarkable Marcus Hatten, but this is not about the past. Most of us know by now why Fran Frischilla was dismissed, and we all know about that night in Pittsburgh and Mike Jarvis' disdain for the NYC PSAL and CHSAA leagues, all factors in the current downturn of the Johnnies' mens basketball program...

For the sake of protecting the social and ethical face of the University you hired Norm Roberts to clean up the program. A first step in healing the local wounds left wide open by the former regime. No one could argue with you for this decision and it has worked to this point. There are enough schools in Division 1 basketball that have no issue in turning a blind eye to shenanigans in return for a buck. You showed restraint in the Vincentian tradition and whether we like it or not, you did the right thing. Now the program is at a crossroads. Roberts, for all of his charm and can-do attitude, cannot coach the game of basketball. Its not that his style doesn't work or that his players do or do not like him, its that he is technically deficient. And it is time to relieve him of his duties as head coach of St. John's Basketball...

i don't want you to fire him, Roberts is a good soldier and a better man, and he deserves a job, and since he has three years left on his contract, you might as well keep him in the Athletic Department where i think he could be put to good use. But if you want my money in the form of an Alumni grant or if you are looking to increase the notoriety of the University, fostering a higher profile for admissions and earning potential then take my advice, and remove Roberts from head coach and hire someone who can facilitate the remaking of the University's basketball program...

i know, you don't want to spend a lot of money, that's understood, as i said before, times are rough, but is it much of a stretch to hire a guy like Mark Jackson? An alumnus of the University as well as an icon from the program's 1980's heyday, Jackson is currently being paid by Disney to analyze the game at the pro level. I'm sure he could be lured to coach at his old stomping grounds, especially if Carnesseca were to knock on his door. While i'm not completely sold on Jackson's ability to coach individuals to a team concept, he certainly would grab the front page of every New York City newspaper and certainly open some eyes, in city high schools, and more importantly New York City kitchen tables...

If you want to go cheaper, that's fine, there are any number of Division 1 benches to file through, Chris Collins or Steve Wojciechowski from the Duke bench bring scrap, basketball know-how and integrity to any job. How about a kid named Richard Pitino down on the Florida Gator bench. You might know his father, you turned him down when he reportedly came calling a few years back...

Cheaper still? How about Danny Hurley, son of the legendary Bob Hurley, coach of St. Anthony's in New Jersey. Danny is currently putting together a resume at St. Benedicts High School. He might be a little green but so was Roberts when you hired him, but in this case you know you are getting a basketball guy, a kid who knows the game, the city and the conference...

i'm a realist, i understand that in a conference that still fancies itself a football power, its difficult to maneuver through BCS propaganda and find your place amongst those schools who benefit from College Football money, maybe there is way to navigate your way through, say, by joining forces with perennial basketball powers with like minded ideals such Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova among others...

i know this; there is a lot of chatter coming down from I-95 that University of Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun may be stepping down from his position at the end of the year. There has been a contract extension on his desk for some time now, and he has yet to sign. Even if he does sign, the performance of his current Huskie squad is a strong indication that his days as a viable voice on the bench maybe be over. Either way this leaves an open door for this University to step through and take back the influence it once held over City basketball. It was Calhoun among others like Jamie Dixon in Pittsburgh and Jay Wright of Villanova that pilfered and in some cases plundered recruits from our backyard, when we folded up and licked our wounds...

Run a program with integrity, by all means, i have no issue with that. Just don't let it run itself into the ground, never to be heard of again...

If you want people like me back, that's how you get us, and that's how St. John's can be an integral part in the future of this City and beyond. We are St. John's, now give us a listen...

sincerely,
the constellation...

2 comments:

Jack Flynn said...

Put THAT in your newspaper!

Seriously, send an edited version to the Torch. I bet they'll run it, and you know damn well that Harrington will have it read to him.

Dylan said...

Well done, sir. While I don't agree wholeheartedly about your choice of future coaches -- and wouldn't it be a hoot if Danny Hurley and Jack Flynn were fellow employees -- that was an excellent commentary. I'll say this about that, none of those names you mention are the ones I'm hearing are on the wish list.