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Carroll’s Column: Rick Pitino and The Red Storm

Image Credit: St. Johns University/NCAA

NEW YORK– As we await March Madness of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four to be played between Florida Atlantic-San Diego State and University of Miami-UCONN this weekend in Houston, Texas, the coaching carousel for programs across the country has already begun…

In one of the worst-kept secrets in recent sports history, last Tuesday St. John’s University hired Rick Pitino to be the head coach of the Red Storm Men’s Basketball team. 

The 70-year-old Pitino, who looks at least 15 years younger, has had countless ups and downs and controversies as a head coach in both the college ranks and the NBA. The St. John’s Men’s Basketball program has been an afterthought for far too long. It is not surprising St. John’s would want to hire someone who has always been successful when it comes to wins and losses. Under his aegis, Iona College, not exactly a big-time athletic powerhouse, had become a regular in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. 

I have no doubt Rick Pitino will restore SJU to the high echelon it regularly enjoyed in the 20th century. He is both a master recruiter and a superb in-game strategist. The question is “At what cost will success come?”

Rick Pitino to St. Johns – Image Credit: St. Johns University/NCAA

Every St. John’s coach has always promoted the quality education players would receive if they chose to matriculate there, and they made sure they went to class. I realize times have changed, and even colleges with stellar academic reputations such as Duke and Stanford, are happy to recruit high school players who are only interested in spending a year (two at most) at a “school of higher learning” before jumping to the professional ranks. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Pitino will take kindly to a St. John’s player who worries about academic success.

A key reason the public was captivated by the surprising success of the Ivy League’s Princeton Tigers in the NCAA Tournament is because their student-athletes actually attend classes and graduate on time in the vast majority of cases. 

One story which did not get the attention it should have is St. John’s perplexing decision to fire Pitino’s predecessor, Mike Anderson, with cause. By doing so, they are attempting to avoid paying him the remainder of his contract. Anderson immediately filed suit against the school. 

Mike Anderson – Image Credit: NCAA

Considering he was coaching the team in the Big East Tournament just two days earlier, it would appear the St. John’s administration is trying to save costs. Rick Pitino signed a six-year contract and is not coming to Union Turnpike cheaply.

Tribute to Knicks and NBA Legend Willis Reed 

Baby boomer Knicks fans were saddened last week to learn of the passing of the greatest player in the team’s history, the likable and unassuming Willis Reed. I remember chatting with Reed about his days living in Park City Estates in Rego Park. He enjoyed living there because he liked his neighbors and it didn’t have the hustle-bustle of Manhattan. It was also a short walk to Lost Battalion Hall where the Knicks practiced then.

Willis Reed, Knicks and NBA Legend – Image Credit: NBA/New York Knicks

Willis Reed also served as a head coach and general manager for the New Jersey Nets who were a rudderless team playing in the  nondescript Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford. In 1991, Reed drafted Kenny Anderson who played at Archbishop Molloy High School, and grew up just across the Long Island Expressway, from where he once resided, in Lefrak City. 

NCAA East Regional of March Madness at MSG

The NCAA East Regional Men’s Basketball Tournament took place at Madison Square Garden last Thursday and Saturday. It was a terrific event for New York City’s tourism economy as students and alumni from Kansas State, Michigan State, Florida Atlantic, and Tennessee descended upon the Big Apple  to cheer their respective teams. Some Kansas State University students I spoke with were thrilled to be making their first visit to “the other Manhattan” as their campus is located in Manhattan, Kansas.

Madison Square Garden – Image Credit: NCAA/MSG

On Thursday night, the media learned the NCAA considers “losing” to be a politically incorrect term. An NCAA spokesperson informed the press room select players and the head coach from the winning team would speak at the podium first, followed by players and the coach from the “non-advancing” team. Howls of laughter ensued. 

Mets and Yankees hold Food Tasting Events for Media

Both the Mets and the Yankees held food tasting events for the press to promote their food concession stands for the upcoming season.

The Mets announced the creation of a “taste of Queens” area to be located near Shake Shack on the main concourse of Citi Field. Among the Queens restaurants who will be selling their dishes this season are Tang, a Korean restaurant in Flushing, and Fresco’s Cantina, a Mexican restaurant located in Astoria. 

The 99 Burger will be launched this season at Yankee Stadium. Yes, it is named that in honor of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge – Image Credit: Latino Sports

It will consist of two patties made from Wagyu beef, which is top of the line. Marc Lobel, whose Lobel Prime Meats will be providing the patties, claims only 99 hamburgers will be sold at any given game. 

“New York Yankees Firsts” by Howie Karpin – Longtime Sports Journalist and Famed Official Scorer

Longtime sports journalist, and famed official scorer, Howie Karpin has just released his latest book, “New York Yankees Firsts” (Lyons Press). Any Yankees fan who has even a mild interest in trivia will enjoy this book. 

New York Yankees Firsts by Howie Karpin – Image Credit: Lyons Press

Karpin informs us Red Ruffing was the first Yankees pitcher to ever hit a grand slam, while Mel Stottlemyre was the first Bronx Bombers pitcher to hit an inside the park grand slam. A second baseman named Aaron Ward got the first base hit in the original Yankee Stadium when it opened 100 years ago. Pitcher Bob Shawkey got the first win and scored the first-ever run. I have barely scratched the surface of the fascinating tidbits in Karpin’s book.

Legalweek – Largest Technology Trade Show 

Legalweek, the largest technology trade show in the legal profession, took place last week at the New York Hilton. There were numerous electronic discovery software vendors. Attorneys involved in lawsuits use them to seek out data from text messages, meeting minutes, financial statements, and other documents which are part of a court filing. Expect former Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson’s lawyers to use these services if a settlement is not reached with the St. John’s University administration.

Forensic accounting software vendors were also plentiful at Legalweek. Diamond Sports, which has the broadcasting rights to numerous professional sports teams around the country, has defaulted on payments. It is safe to say these teams will use these firms to see if there were accounting shenanigans of which they should be aware. 

Cyber security is crucial for all businesses, and frankly, for individuals. A Long Island company, Sourcepass, advises clients on how to avoid being a victim of ransomware, and phishing schemes. 

On a lighter note, actor LeVar Burton gave the opening keynote address at Legalweek.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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