- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Few people, if any, questioned the ability or integrity of Mike Jarvis when he left his job as coach at George Washington to take over at St. John’s in 1998.

But much has changed since then.

In December, Jarvis became the first Big East coach to be fired during the season after the Red Storm’s 2-4 start. And a sex scandal that broke a month later, reverberating throughout college basketball, has called into question his reputation and ability to judge character.

It likely did not help when the St. John’s president, Rev. Donald Harrington, told reporters after the incident, “I’m president of the university, but I don’t go out and recruit the players.” He added that because of other incidents that occurred while Jarvis was coach, “I have grown increasingly concerned about the culture of the men’s basketball program.”

To many, these remarks represented an indictment of Jarvis, or at least the type of athlete he recruited. He was booed by fans and criticized by observers for the program’s on-court performance, which included a failure to sign top New York City players. This clearly didn’t help.

Now Jarvis, who gave GW credibility where little existed and was successful at Boston University and as a high school coach before that, faces an uncertain future.

Jarvis has many supporters in the business. Among them is Dick Vitale, the ubiquitous and boisterous commentator on ESPN. Vitale strongly criticized Jarvis’ firing and is just as adamant he eventually will land a top coaching job.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Vitale said. “I think his reputation is too good. When you check what he’s done over the years, I think he’s a man of discipline, a man who understands the game. Mike Jarvis has a very strong resume.”

Asked about the behavior of Jarvis’ players, Vitale said, “Every player has to look in the mirror and be accountable and responsible. You can’t blame the coaches.”

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, a Jarvis friend, agreed Jarvis will get another job, and a good one, “because Mike is respected,” he said. “He’s respected in this profession. He’s a former coaches association president, he’s involved in the game, he’s extremely knowledgeable. The [St. John’s] situation for some reason didn’t go well, but [he] is highly respected, and there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Other coaches left programs where their conduct or the conduct of their players proved embarrassing. Those coaches later resurfaced at other Division I programs. Jerry Tarkanian and Bob Knight are two high-profile examples. But with Jarvis, the other issue might be his job performance.

His first St. John’s team advanced to the Elite Eight of the 1999 NCAA tournament, and his second won the program’s first Big East Conference tournament championship since 1986. But Jarvis, who led GW to successive NCAA tournament appearances (1993-94) for the first time, did not receive a lot of credit at St. John’s because most of the players on his first two teams were recruited by his predecessor, Fran Fraschilla. Jarvis’ record since then was 57-44. Attendance had markedly declined, and there was open hostility among some fans, boosters and alumni.

“He’s a good coach,” said ESPN commentator Jay Bilas, who played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. “They said he won with Fran’s players, but you can overdo that part of it. It’s a fair statement, but Mike can coach.”

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