Sports Beat: Lavin Leaves St. John’s

Two weeks ago I titled my column, “Is  Lavin’s job in jeopardy?” Last Friday afternoon, which is always a preferred time for companies to publicly reveal bad news, we got the answer as St. John’s announced that it had dismissed Steve Lavin as its basketball head coach.
It’s somewhat ironic that Lavin was terminated after the Red Storm made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in four years. It would be easy to point to their propensity for being one and done in post-season play (four straight quick exits in the Big East Tournament and the equally quick disappearance in the first-round of the NCAA two weeks ago) but that would not tell the whole story as to why he got the boot.
Too many of Lavin’s recruits have either been suspended at one time or another or have been academically ineligible to play. Center Chris Obepka’s suspension for marijuana use at the worst possible time, just days before  the NCAA Tournament was about to begin, was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as St. John’s president Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw was concerned.
At a fund-raising dinner last year, Gempesaw praised the SJU women’s basketball program which has had just as much, if not more ,success than the men’s. There have not been any embarrassing off-the-court issues for the women’s hoops players and the vast majority take their studies very seriously. Many are in nursing and pre-med programs. Center Amber Thompson told me at last fall’s Big East Media Day that she was an accounting major.
On a personal note, I like Steve Lavin. He has always been very generous with his time when I have needed to talk with him even when it appeared that the St. John’s sports information directors during his tenure preferred that he interact only with the sportswriters from the dailies, particularly during postgame press conferences.
The Knicks held their annual celebration of Queens last Monday night. A video featuring former Knicks star Larry Johnson and current Knick Quincy Acy holding a clinic for kids at Rego Park’s Lost Battalion Hall was shown on the scoreboard during the first quarter. Later on the Knicks honored the late Anthony Mason and his Springfield Gardens High School coach Ken Fiedler with a ceremony on the court.
The fun at the Garden continued on Friday as the team honored one of its greatest players in franchise history, Walt “Clyde” Frazier on his 70th birthday. Clyde’s former teammates Phil Jackson, Earl Monroe and Dick Barnett were on hand to extend their best wishes. The Four Tops, who sadly are down to one living original member, Duke Fakir, serenaded Clyde with “Happy Birthday” and performed a couple of their ‘60s Motown hits during the halftime intermission.
It was coincidental that former Archbishop Molloy point guard Russ Smith was in attendance at the Garden on Queens Night as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He was grateful that a number of his teammates pulled strings to come up with tickets for all of his friends and family who wanted to watch the game. Unfortunately Russ only got two minutes of playing time.
Another Molly alum named Smith who was also a hoops star, Kenny Smith, has garnered a lot of attention as a member of the CBS/Turner NCAA Tournament studio panel this month. Kenny is also a member of TBS’s NBA studio team. Although he had a solid ten-year NBA career, he is far better known as a TV personality than for his accomplishments on the hardwood.
This Saturday evening will mark the final game of the season for the Knicks NBA Development League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, who play their home games at the Westchester County Center. The team’s marketing coordinator, John Cielepak, is a lifetime Middle Village resident, and an alum of both Christ the King High School and St. John’s University.
I wonder if the NBA will launch an investigation into “Whammy-gate.” Last Friday night LeBron James apparently complained to NBA security about 79 year-old Bruce Reznick, who is better known as Brooklyn Nets’ superfan, Mr. Whammy. Reznick’s act is to come to the edge of the basketball court flailing his hands and arms in a hexing motion in the hopes of causing opposing players to miss their free throws.
It’s doubtful that any NBA players have had their concentration negatively impacted by Reznick’s actions. James, however, may be worried about Reznick creating an opportunity for other fans to approach the court during a game when they should be sitting in their seats. While it would be easy to brand LeBron as churlish for picking on a harmless senior citizen, he is not wrong here.
My guess is that any Nets fans who might try to imitate Whammy’s act would be escorted out of the Barclays Center by security and possibly spend some time in a Brooklyn police precinct.
The poor man’s Final Four, the NIT Finals, takes place this Tuesday andThursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Professional soccer in our area is getting more attention than ever before. Major League Soccer commissioner and Bayside High School alum Don Garber has to be thrilled with the attendance for the New York City Football Club at Yankee Stadium so far as well as for the more established New York Red Bulls who play at Red Bulls Arena near Newark.
MLS will be getting competition once again from the North American Soccer League which begins its season this week. The NASL’s local team, the New York Cosmos, arguably the most famous American soccer brand of all time, will once again be playing their home games at Hofstra University. It will be worth the short drive to Hempstead to cheer for a pair of Queens guys. David Diosa grew up in Jackson Heights while Sebastian Guenzatti is from College Point and graduated from Francis Lewis High School.
As further proof that New York City is the center of the sports television universe, MP & Silva, a European company that buys and sells the TV rights of American professional sports abroad has just opened an office here.
Nets forward Earl Clark, who just a signed a ten-day contract with the team, is the quintessential NBA journeyman. Before coming back to the NBA, he spent a few months playing professionally in China.
He was amazed at how iconic Stephon Marbury is in that country. Clark chuckled when I mentioned that it’s one of those inscrutable international things such as why the French have always lionized Jerry Lewis and the Germans have always gone gaga for David Hasselhoff.
LA Lakers forward Ed Clark remembered me from when he was selected in the first round by the Toronto Raptors four years ago. He remembered that I asked him questions about having a greater tax burden than most of his peers because he would be playing in Canada and that he should keep every sales receipt that he incurred while working north of the border. “The funny thing is that I pay more taxes now that I am working in LA than I did when I was in Toronto,” he told me before Sunday’s Lakers-Nets game that was won by Brooklyn, 107-99.
If you still haven’t done your taxes or if you want to do better financial planning for the coming year, I highly recommend picking up a copy of“The EY Tax Guide 2015” (John Wiley & Sons). Accounting professionals use it of course but it is written in plain language for the general public.
If you are looking for a very low-calorie beverage that has some natural sweetness, give Vertical maple water a try.

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