(Jim Crews – Photo by Jason Schott – NY Sports Day)
The Saint Louis Billikens lost to the George Washington Colonials, 73-65, on Thursday afternoon at the Atlantic 10 Championship at Barclays Center.
The result was not a surprise, but what happened afterwards certainly was a shock to everyone involved.
Saint Louis fired their Head Coach, Jim Crews, while the players were going through the handshake line immediately following the game. This was a classless move done to a true gentleman of the game.
Crews became an assistant coach on Rick Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis in 2011, and took over on an interim basis a year later due to health issues, and later death, of Majerus.
In Crews’ first season as head coach, 2012-13, Saint Louis won 28 games, including the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens won 27 games the following season and also reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The last couple of seasons have been rough for Saint Louis, as they won 11 games last season and the same number this year.
A emotional Jim Crews addressed the media after the game and his dismissal:
Both teams really played hard today. George Washington is a really good team. I thought the difference was McDonald. He really did a great job of getting the ball to the right guys at the right time for rhythm shots and isolate them. We turned it over too many times, but our kids kept fighting and did a good job with it.
I’d like to kind of change the pace a little bit from that. The University has decided to sever my relationship with them, so I will not be the coach of SLU next year, so we had a good group of guys — so that’s a hard situation. But nothing lasts forever. I can remember being a young guy, and my mom once told me — I don’t know if I listened to my mom all the time, but I do remember this, and I did the greatest job of all with this advice. She told me, just get lost in the middle of — I didn’t expect this — a lot of good people, and all those good people will take you places that you would never dream about going, but it’ll be a wonderful ride. And I took that advice. I took it.
That’s why I’ve had a very, very blessed career. I’ve had a blessed life. Hopefully it’s not over, but a blessed life and beyond, and it’s because of the people.
First person I’d like to thank in that journey at SLU was Rick. How many people get to spend a year with a dear, dear friend as his last year on earth? That was magical. We had a magic year, wonderful guys, won a ton of games. Historical. Historical year. So how many people get to do that? That is a blessing.
Rick liked to eat, and I like to eat, and so I was kind of commuting that year, so five or six nights a week, we ate. You know it was a thrill, and I’ve said this a lot. So you’re spending time with somebody who’s passing away, and I honestly think he knew it. He never verbalized it. But we never talked about basketball. So whatever we ate for five months, whatever five months times five nights a week, we never talked basketball. That’s pretty magical.
So that’s special.
So I mentioned my mom with great advice. But I think it’s really cool and it’s really helped me and will help me now. It’s always helped me. I have always had a great passion for sports. My parents really, really encouraged me in sports, but at the same time they taught me that my success or lack of success had nothing to do with my self-worth, absolutely zero. And that is a valuable, valuable lesson that I was able to learn from them, and I can’t thank them enough for that.
Then recruiting is really important. Recruiting is very, very important, and I recruited the best ever, and that’s my wife, Kim. I picked a good one there. I picked the best. I picked the best. And my two kids who are here now, Todd and Ab, and there’s only one reason why it’s good, and I picked her early. We were 16. Because they love me, period. They know what love is, too. We win games, I come home, she tells me take out the garbage or vacuum the floor. We lose games, and she makes me chocolate pudding. That’s pretty good love. She understands. She understands.
I’m wearing a sweater the last couple days because of my parents. My dad was a sweater wearer. He coached. I don’t know if he wore it during games, but he wore sweaters a lot. I kind of wore this color because this is the color of my mom’s eyes, blue, but also for a guy, Coach Knight.
He gave me an opportunity to coach. I never thought I’d want to coach. It never even crossed my mind to coach, and what’s amazing about it with Coach Knight is he asked me to coach and I turned him down. I turned him down. So the first year after I graduated I worked in business. Kim and I got married, we worked in business, boom, and he gave me another chance. So just think of all the tremendous things.
But Coach Knight was a very, very important person in my life, and he gave me a second opportunity. Some people that would really irritate if you turned them down. That would really irritate people, and he gave me another chance, and he was off the chart.
So it’s kind of interesting. Rick finished his career and he was a legend, and I got to know Coach and work with Coach and play for Coach, and he was a legend when he was 30 years old, so I got one at the start of their career and one at the end of their career, so how blessed is that?
And then my first head coaching job, Coach Byers, was the athletic director of the University of Evansville, and I’ve been blessed and beyond with a lot of great leaders in my life, but none more courageous than Coach Byers. Coach Byers was a courageous leader, and I can’t thank him enough. He was a dear friend of mine, and he was off the chart.
Rick Greenspan, the AD at West Point, gave me an opportunity to coach at West Point. In my mind, Jim Platt and I were just talking about this, Jim was at West Point with me. I don’t think there’s a more significant, significant basketball coaching position than at West Point, for the people that you’re dealing with who are fighting, putting their lives on the line so we can screw around and write or coach or whatever we do, we choose to do, that is a significant coaching position, and the memories of being around those type of people that give their life for people they don’t know, that’s an amazing experience. That is an amazing experience.
And I’d like to thank Rick. He gave me an opportunity to coach here at SLU. He’s been off-the-chart good, off the chart. I always use his line: How are you; how can I help. That’s a pretty good mantra to have no matter who you’re talking about, your wife, your kids, whoever you’re talking to. How are you, and how can I help. And it all starts with an attitude with that.
So SLU, we’ve had some historical years to start with. Obviously we didn’t win, and I’d like to apologize. I’d like to apologize for some things because when you don’t win, you make other people’s jobs harder, and that’s the last thing that I or — that I would want is to make someone else’s jobs harder, but when you don’t win it does make other people’s jobs harder, Joe the ticket guy, Margo, Matt, fundraising, Chris, the AD. It makes other people’s jobs harder, and I understand that. And that’s the last thing that we wanted to do is make someone’s job harder with it.
And obviously the players over the years, I’ve been so — one good thing now is, shoot, I’ll get to spend some more time with former players because everyone gets busy and so forth, and you kind of lose things, but the players over the years, wherever I’ve coached, have been really excellent ambassadors. They’ve been top-notch ambassadors. They’ve graduated. They’ve followed the rules. They’ve been tremendous. But more important than any of that, they have gone out in the world and they are good husbands and they are good fathers and they do good in the community. I’ve got players in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and unfortunately I’ve got a couple that are in their 50s. That’s a little depressing. (Laughter.)
And then I’ve also done a good job recruiting in terms of coaches over the years. I couldn’t have been more honored to have coaches that have been unbelievably high character, that have been completely dedicated to the kids, been loyal to me, and a rock to me because coaching will test your spirit. It will test your spirit. And I’ve always had a staff that when I get a little wobbly at the knees, they prop me up real quick and do a great job with that.
You know, one thing I will say, and I just kind of mentioned it yesterday, and we didn’t talk about it because we don’t believe in excuses, and we’re not going to make excuses, but I will give you reasons because I’m not the coach anymore. Marcus Bartley, he’s a good player, and he’s played hurt for a year, and he’s got all kinds of foot problems. Mike Crawford played at 60 percent the last two and a half months. Elliott Welmer, we had him penciled in for a starter after summer workouts and our Bahamas trip, and he busted his foot.
Those aren’t excuses. I’m just saying, our kids didn’t give excuses; they kept fighting. And to the SLU fans, hey, believe in these kids. They’re going to do well. They’re going to do well. Believe in these kids.
So I’ve been incredibly blessed. I’d like to thank everybody, and there’s so many people that I can’t thank, but I’ll get to spend more time taking walks with my wife, and it kind of always reminds me of something. We walk, and some days we’ll walk in the shadows or on the sidewalk because the houses, the trees or the buildings, or some days the clouds, on the day we’re walking it’s cloudy. But on the other side of the street it’s sunny, and she always says, let’s go walk on the sunny side of the street, and that’s what we tend to do.
Thank you. Appreciate it.