- College Basketball - School ties: Jarvis still fighting for his kids at St. John's

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 Saturday, October 21
Jarvis' fight continues on campus, not NBA
 By Andy Katz

JAMAICA, N.Y. -- There's something about Mike Jarvis' St. John's office that looks academic, something that says this coach is meant for college, not the NBA.

Maybe it's the pictures with Jarvis and the Clintons. Perhaps, it's the books. It's just a feel, but these things and the overall aura of this place seems like it belongs on a college campus, not in an NBA practice facility.

Maybe it's just him. The professor-like beard adds to his academic portrait. His vocabulary is more for the classroom than the court.

Mike Jarvis
Mike Jarvis fights for his players on the sidelines, and if necessary, against NCAA rules he feels are unfair to those same players.

Maybe Jarvis got the same feeling that this is where he belonged, at least for the indefinite future when he couldn't agree on a multi-million contract to coach the Washington Wizards in June. Whatever the reason the deal fell through, Jarvis isn't regretting the courtship or his choice to ultimately remain in college at St. John's.

"When you're asked to be involved in something this big, at least the way I operate, you don't do it if you wouldn't serious consider it," said Jarvis during's preseason tour Friday.

"I wouldn't get involved just to get my name in the paper. You do something like this because you want to walk down the aisle. Now, you may or may not get to the alter and you may not say, 'I do.' But if you walk down the aisle, you've got to be prepared that you could say, 'I do.'

I was at a point where I was walking down the aisle. Someone asked me, 'Honestly, did you come close to going?' Yeah I came close."

The pull to Washington was obvious. Jarvis considers it one of his three homes --along with Boston (where he grew up and coached in high school and college) and now New York. Jarvis coached at George Washington prior to arriving at St. John's. His daughter and sister live in the D.C. area.

"The president is there, too," Jarvis said tongue-and-cheek.

"Washington was very unique," Jarvis said. "I consider it home and the franchise might be good again. And of course, the Michael Jordan factor. There aren't a lot of people who wouldn't be intrigued to work for him.

"So much of what you decide depends on where you work and where you live. I've coached in three of the best cities in the country and in the East Coast in New York, Boston and Washington."

Jarvis was so close to taking the job that he had talked to his mother about moving from Massachusetts to Washington D.C.

But money became a hangup. The Wizards weren't offering enough to make it worth Jarvis to gamble on the move. That door is closed, for now, after the Wizards signed Miami (Fla.) coach Leonard Hamilton to a four-year contract. But any openings with the Knicks and, or Nets, or the Boston Celtics would probably perk Jarvis' interest again.

"Like a lot of coaches, if I wanted to, I could have relocated to the West Coast, but I have no interest to do that," said Jarvis, who was pursued by the University of Washington when he was still at GW. The Huskies eventually hired then Illinois State coach Bob Bender.

Jarvis said he has filed away any thoughts about the NBA and has every intention to honor his job at St. John's.

But his players thought he was gone.

"I honestly thought he would take it," St. John's junior forward Donald Emanuel said. "I kept calling the assistants to see what he was going to do but they didn't know. I was nervous. But it's just like a college player looking at the NBA. It's lucrative and it's in the limelight and a coach shouldn't be knocked for the same thing."

Emanuel was hoping Jarvis would stay. But he said he wasn't going to fret. He came to St. John's under former coach Fran Fraschilla and chose the school, not the coach. He said he would do the same if Jarvis had left, refusing to transfer just because Jarvis changed jobs.

Washington was very unique. I consider it home and the franchise might be good again. And of course, the Michael Jordan factor. There aren't a lot of people who wouldn't be intrigued to work for him.
Mike Jarvis,
St. John's head coach

Reggie Jessie, a senior forward, said Jarvis' flirtation with the job caused a minor distraction in the offseason. But it was nothing like the unrest during the season when Jarvis challenged the NCAA to back off from investigating sophomore point Erick Barkley. The NCAA suspended Barkley twice and didn't leave the Red Storm alone as it pursued extra benefits by Barkley prior to college.

The same issue could come into play with a few other Red Storm players who went to private or Catholic schools. But Jarvis is back on campus and on course to challenge the NCAA's rules that look at extra benefits before a player enters a four-year school.

The NCAA's new rule dealing with amateurism calls for an incoming freshman to be given amnesty if he admits that he received funds for education within 30 days after signing a student-athlete statement on a college campus. Players can sign the statement up until the first game. The NCAA said it has so far received seven admissions, meaning those seven players would sit 30 percent (or three games) of the season.

"I can't believe they even had one," Jarvis said.

But if the NCAA doesn't receive notification, the organization said it would follow up on players and pursue harsher punishment, longer suspensions and force the student to repay the money.

"It's totally ridiculous," Jarvis said. "We're going to fight the fight and fight for what's right. The NABC (coaches association) is about that. Using the word amnesty is wrong. I don't agree with the rule. It's not amnesty when you still punish someone. This new rule was done to appease certain people, it's not what's best for the kids or the game."

Jarvis said if the intent of the new rule is to get players to come forward and give information then that's fine, but don't punish them.

"For someone to think it's only three games, well, that's ludicrous," Jarvis said. "These players shouldn't get one game, one minute away, for doing something that was not considered illegal and still isn't illegal. It's wrong."

Jarvis said having players sit at the beginning of the season, rather than disrupting the middle or late in the season is better but it's still wrong for the NCAA to pursue the issue.

"One of the reasons I stayed in college is to bring about positive change," said Jarvis, a past NABC president. "It's frustrating but it's worth every bit to make it work."

Listen to Jarvis and it's clear that to walk away for the money in the NBA would allow the NCAA to have won this battle. Jarvis isn't ready to give up the fight.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at

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